Notes From Story Time

Even though I am mostly an adult services librarian, I was lucky enough to be sit in on a few days of story time training led by Gay Ducey. Il Ducey has been a children’s librarian for 30 years, folks, and in between that has traveled the nation telling stories on stages large and small.


Here’s the kind of experience she’s got: In addition to being someone who’s provided library service to Eldridge Cleaver, the blurb on her bio is:

“Everyone should tell stories like Gay Ducey tells stories” – Mr. Rogers.

Here’s the kind of librarian she is: People show up at the library asking,

“Is Gay Ducey here? I used to go to her story time. I just wanted to let her know that I just got my first job as a librarian (sometimes they say teacher), and it’s because of her.”

Here’s the kind of person she is:  She says

“Children are my natural peer group.”

Kids light up like a Christmas tree when they see her behind the desk.

She’s got a lot of library knowledge, to say the least.

The training is for a program called Books for Wider Horizons. This program trains community members to visit preschools as volunteer story readers.  It is provided through the Oakland Public Library as part of Oakland’s Head Start program.  It started in 1994!  If you’re interested in reading to kids, and live in the East Bay, you should consider donating your time.

Here are some of my notes from the training.

Day One

Story time is not for teaching children; children spend so much of their lives being taught, that they don’t need that from us.  During story time, we don’t teach children, but they still learn. Learning is what children do naturally.

Story time is to induct children into the private joy of reading. Our primary job is to model the pleasure of reading.

Some education is ok, but avoid leading kids to listen for the right answer, rather than enjoying the story. Don’t create pressure to identify vocabulary words, or right or wrong choices.

When reading is no longer an assignment, when they someday leave school and no longer “have to” read, they will not pick up a book, if they have not already, discovered the private pleasure of reading.  Story time creates positive memories of reading that last into adulthood.  You remember having a good time reading.

Everyone has trashy reading – a juicy mystery, a gossip magazine – its ok for kids to have trashy reading too.  Not everything needs to be a high quality classic.

If you’re interested in rhymes and meaning, Iona and Peter Opie have a good book on it.

Our society is big on levels of competence.  If you ask a five year old “can you sing?” she will say “yes of course.” If you ask a ten year old, she may say yes.  A fifteen year old will often say “no way!”  And by the time we are adults, many of us “can’t sing.”  But you can sing.  Everyone can sing.  Singing is our birthright.  All five year olds can do art.  Art is everyone’s birthright.

SONG: “I Have a Dog and His Name is Rags

*Note: there were multiple requests by participants to do this one again, at the end of the class and on day two.

Songs implant memories -> singing is also literacy. Songs are another way to implant literature.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before age 2.

beware of the frog

BOOK: Beware of the Frog by William Bee.  Illustrations = primary colors.  3rd grade is about the youngest that “gets” this book.

Test the waters.  Not all your favorites will be kids’ favorites.

Kids that want repeated readings are taking something new each time the book is read to them, and its none of our business what that is.

bark george

BOOK: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer.  Notice colors -> muted.  Just a few words on the page.  2-5 is an ok age range, but 4 is best age.  Understanding the sounds are wrong takes the sophistication of a four year old.

little black crow

BOOK: Little Black Crow by Chris Raschka. Natural colors, 4-6 years. Even though it ends “are you a boy like me?” girls can identify with the story as well.

Don’t point out small secrets in the illustrations, let kids discover them.

Kids do have an appetite for quiet. Although, kids don’t necessarily like this book.

Repetition is a tool for learning and kids like it.


BOOK: Froggie Plays Soccer by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz. Visually complicated.  Age 6 or even later.  Tough to read -difficult choice for story time.

If there are several images on a page, you can point to them as you read to help children see the progression.

come along daisy

BOOK: Come Along, Daisy by Jane Simmons.  Ages 2-5.  Beautiful book, good story, excellent story time.

Doesn’t use paper clips, turns every page.  My theory: Gay’s not afraid to go slowly and take time, she knows the children will come along with her.  It gives them room to think and process.  Children need more time for this than adults do.

How scared do you let kids get during a story?  Not very.

an egg is quiet

BOOK: An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. Pretty illustrations, long paragraphs of text, a little complicated but maybe still ok.

Kids like to know.

Skipping some text is ok.

Put some room for socializing after the story time. Give kids a chance to talk to you after story time, but otherwise don’t really respond to interrupters.  This is not an interactive program.  The rules are different during story time.

Day Two

SONGS: “My Rhinoceros” and “Down in the Valley Two by Two

Songs get us excited, involved and happy.

a snowy day

BOOK: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Spare, abstract illustrations. 3-5 year olds, even twos.  Book for children – they understand it, adults don’t.  A solitary adventure.  No hint of violence.

Gay says the author’s name at the beginning (e.g. This book is called Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats). Sometimes she will say the illustrator’s name at the end.

Just a little bit

BOOK: Just a Little Bit by Ann Tompert. Action packed, voices. Up to 2nd grade. Bug detail on the cover Gay never mentions – it would spoil the story.  Children have come up to her weeks later and pointed it out.

You can stop reading and look at a picture.

Pan slowly occasionally.  Not every page, just once in a while.  Good when there’s a double page illustration.

Hold the book so it doesn’t go anywhere.  Two fingers on the spine.  Gay rests the corner on her should to anchor it (my note: this also puts the book on the same level as her face).

Read slowly.  Children need you to go about three times as slowly as you think you should.

The story can do the work.  No need to tart it up with voices, etc.  You can a little bit, but you don’t need to.  The story is the focus.

Gay sits on a low chair.

Know what distance you need between you and the children and keep that space.

Soft cover books are generally too much trouble.  Giant books are cool but hard to handle. Caveat Emptor.

The order of presentation can help a book succeed.

Songs can be used to focus or quieten.

Themed story times are nice but not necessary.

Transitional activity first, in between each book and at the end.  Gay only reads three books.  Middle can be quiet, or can be a song, or song with props.  Flannel Board.

Religion teaches us how to put things into the head.  Ritual prepares you for a certain type of experience.  Story teller should create a safe, quiet space where grown-ups don’t interfere. **STORY TIME IS DIFFERENT THAN ALL THE OTHER TIMES** You have to help kids understand how it is different and what it is like. Becomes an enchanted space. **Create a beginning and an ending that is the same each time. ** Knowing how something begins is reassuring, understanding how something works.

SONG “Good Morning, Dear Earth” (Gay’s opening)

Take control of the end.  Never go “that’s it good bye!” Ease them out. Take time. End song could be anything.  Have seen: Splish Splash, KISS, Phil Collins, Na Na Na Na…

Childhood is Revealed Secrets.

Took a pledge never to use a book we haven’t read first.

Day Three

Missed it because I had a program at my other job (Easy Peasy Super Easy Seeds to Save). Got a summary from Gay the day after.  Participants chose books and read to each other. They also learned some fingerplays, which grown-ups think are weird and dorky, and kids really enjoy.

Assignments for next week: attend one story time.  Work out what your opening and closing will be (use same ones every story time, to create the story time ritual).

Gay also told me this story, when we were talking about introducing the pleasure of reading.

One day a child she knew and liked a lot came in to find a book.

Gay noticed that the child was looking at Tuck Everlasting, one of Gay’s favorites.

Gay said, “Ohhhh, do you like that one?”

The child said, “We read it in school. I hate it. I hate that book.”

Crestfallen, Gay asked, “What do you hate about it?”

The child responded, “The worksheets.”

School ruined a perfectly wonderful book for this kid.  Worksheets after every chapter aren’t the way to create lifelong readers.  The value of story time is in creating positive experiences.

The Library is for Trying New Things.

Last week I wrote about Asanti’s Pick, a display gimmick where kid patrons can check out a wrapped book. They know from a sign that it is one of two titles, but not which of the two it is. These books circ! People take a chance on an unknown read. In the debate about whether or not to take the book, a lot of kids say something like “but what if I don’t like it?”

We then point to the fine print on the sign which says, “If you don’t like the book, you don’t have to finish it.”

This is often a revelation to an eight year old. “You mean I don’t have to read the whole thing?!” Nope. My boss says to kids, while recommending all kinds of books (not just wrapped up ones) “Take it home. Read the first chapter and the back cover, and if you’re not interested, bring it back. I don’t mind.” A long term co-worker of hers, another excellent children’s librarian, once finished a discussion with a child patron on the relative merits of two audiobooks by saying, “Take both. Test them out and just bring back the one you don’t like.”

Children’s librarians often talk about how libraries are often one of the first places that young people begin to practice autonomy. When they get their first card, they begin a process where they learn to choose, for themselves, what to read. They start to direct their own intellectual development. They can create an internal life that belongs solely to them. Due to privacy laws, here in California at least, their library records are their own – parents have no right to look at what their children are checking out, or when it is due. Their relationship with the library, and with reading, is their own private affair.

Trinidad and Tobago. 'A science master demonstartes primary distillation in the laboratory of the co-educational school for senior staff children at Pointe-a-Pierre'

In companionship to this self-direction, is the fact that the library makes it possible to conduct low-risk, low-commitment experiments in reading. If you don’t like a book, you’ve made no financial sacrifice (or no parent has made a financial sacrifice on your behalf), and you can just bring it back and try again.

You’ve got the freedom to experiment.

This is such an important library function, both to the development of children, and to the development of the kind of world I want to live in. In that world, people are open-minded. They are free to explore new interests, and to easily set them aside if they are not captivating. They are able to listen to different kinds of thinkers, without needing to invest in one particular school. They have choice.

They have intellectual options.

So there’s another reason why libraries are awesome; Libraries give you the freedom to try new things.

Mr Tulk and dog "Sausage" going fishing using flying fox he built onto other island - Solitary Island, c. 1935 / by Winifred Tulk

The Mystery of the Mystery Mystery

I as said in my last post about pushing books, I hate to be told what to read. This is not just due to my own obstinance, its also on account of, I’m fussy. I get in the mood for a certain kind of book, or a certain author, and that is the only thing I want to read. I accept no substitutes. I particularly like to discover an author that suits my tastes, greedily devour their whole catalog, and then mopily do research until I find a new writer and can feed my gluttony for reading all over again.

Which is why I don’t get why people would ever want to check out a surprise book.

Blind date with a hot read

Back around Valentine’s Day, libraries were doing this display gimmick called “Blind Date with a Hot Read.” This is a photo of one I did for one of the libraries where I work. Someone actually requested, via Twitter, that we do this! (Ours was a little unusual in that we made it easy on patrons and put the books in bags, so if you wanted to cheat and check out what your date looked like before taking it home, you could.) I can’t believe these displays worked! All over the country, people were checking out and taking home books, with no idea what they were.

So when I started at another library in late February, a library where the branch manager and I were heavily concentrating on devising ways to get the kids to at least browse the chapter books, I decided to see if this principle could be expanded, and created the Mystery Mystery. It’s just as it sounds. I wrapped a mystery in brown paper, drew a few question marks on the front, and waited to see if patrons would take home a book that they knew nothing about, other than the fact that it was a mystery. And they did! There was often much debate, but kids took a chance on the book. The one for adults met a similar reception (I did put a little note on the cover which said something like “best for ages 8-12” or “best for adults”).

mystery mystery

One of our 12 year old patrons saw the display and came up to me with his own suggestions. He said “why don’t you take two books and package them together, and then people don’t know which one they’ll get.” So I made it for him.

Asanti's Lucky Pick

In Asanti’s Lucky Pick, patrons can see a sign with the covers of each book. They know they will get one of the two, but the books are wrapped so they don’t know which one. This one seems to move even faster than the Mystery Mystery or the Blind Date books.

As foreign as it is to me, people actually seem to enjoy a little intrigue at the library. They like a little risk with their reading.

I Used To Be a Teen Library Patron, Too

A week or so ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to this:

Lines from Shakespeare Mistaken for 1990s Hip Hop Lyrics

(It’s pretty funny, you should take a look).

Here’s what it made me think of:

I, myself, lived through the 1990s.  I was a teenager then, in fact.

In the suburbs in the early 90s, rap was still considered kind of a teen fad.  A lot of adults thought it wouldn’t last. Many adults also thought that it was “noisy” and “offensive.”

At that time, some librarian at my local public library put up a poster of Shakespeare, wearing those old school sunglasses (you know, the squarish Blues Brothers kind), with the caption “Shakespeare was the original rapper.”

As a young person, I was actually pretty into Shakespeare.  I did theater and had taken a few intensive summer classes at a local Shakespeare festival.  I knew and appreciated that he was brilliant, and his use of rhythm to signal meaning kinda blew my mind.

I thought that poster was the lamest thing I’d ever seen.

Today, as a librarian myself, I can appreciate where that poster-hanging librarian was coming from.  Teens can be inscrutable patrons, and the urge to find some way, any way, of relating to them is very strong.  Shakespeare may not have been the original rapper, but there are definitely some awesome connections between rap and his writing.

I always think of that poster when I work with, or for, teens at the library.

I think maybe the thing to remember, is to meet teens where they are, instead of where you want them to be. As patrons, teens deserve the library service they want, not the service we think they should have.  That means we should ask what they are interested in first, and let that drive purchasing and programming, rather than trying to pull them somewhere.

We don’t need to try to make Shakespeare cool.  Shakespeare is already cool.

We don’t need to try to be cool.  We can just be ourselves.  We’re already cool too.


YA Lit: Reflections

So after cramming all three core courses into my first semester at library school, I decided to take it easy on myself and just take two “fun” classes the following semester.  I took YA lit and Web 2.0 (which was definitely a fun class but also extremely useful…I recommend it).

YA Books on a Bookshelf

I took YA lit because it’s one of my preferred genres.  I thought to myself, “just read books all summer, easy-peasy!”  What I didn’t think about was that I wouldn’t just get to read the books…I would have to report on them too.  What a lot of work!  It is one thing to tell someone “read the book, it’s good” and quite another to actually try to tell them why it’s good and to try to match books and interests.

But it was still enjoyable, just in a more “hard work and learning” sense.  We did an in-depth genre study on 15 titles, and a survey of 30 books (and media).  Doing the research for these projects really honed my search methods and made me look closer at how and why I choose titles. I’m still analyzing some of the books I read in the format we used in that class, because I think it helps me have a more comprehensive understanding of how to communicate about books.  I think I will always be a reading gourmand, rather than a reading gourmet, but I think I can learn to be an intelligible glutton.

We read about studies of the dynamism of teen brains, which gave me another way to look at things.  I still feel like science still has a lot to uncover about the way any brain works, but I think that considering teens from a developmental perspective might allow for a bit more understanding by the older, firmer brained people.

I was also pleased to think a lot more about book challenges.  Before the course began, my view of book challenges was pretty simplistic; I felt people should be free to read whatever they wanted and people who had problems with that should just be quiet.  The course taught me to take more of a professional, sympathetic approach.  I still believe people should be able to read what they want, but I think understanding and addressing concerns is a much better way to deal with challenges.  It seems like a lot of problems parents have with books may have to do with misunderstanding the details.

Emerging adults at the library – I read what I want!

The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights details the professional responsibility of the library to provide “resources … for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves” (2009). The Bill of Rights makes clear that materials are not to be censored due to content and that the patron’s “right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views” (ALA, 2009). Interpretations of the bill of rights argue that this responsibility is not only professional but legal. Libraries must not only provide unfettered access to information, but this access is part of a constitutional “First Amendment right to receive information in a publicly funded library” (ALA, 2009).
For teens, whose “reading experience … mirrors the stuff of everyday teen life: the struggle for independence,” (Anderson, 2004, p.106) the access to controversial literature can be an important ingredient in finding autonomy. There are two elements I see in a teenager coming into independence: the power to make choices, and a sense of identity- both in the teen figuring out who s/he is and in finding the self as distinct from others.
Making our own choices is one of the ways life changes as we grow to adulthood. When we are children, we are scheduled, fed, and advised on every matter under the sun. As adults we gain more power to make our own choices; to decide if we want to eat nothing but cheese and pears for dinner, or if we want to stay in our pajamas all day, or if we actually prefer a messy room to a clean one. Helping teens transition into these choices by providing access to books which may not be on any approved list, is one way the library can function supportively. Teens do not have to read the library’s controversial books, they may make the choice to not expose themselves to something that may not be in line with their beliefs, or they may decide to challenge the boundaries of their experience through literature.

For teens, especially those who may be marginalized in some way, literature depicting aspects of his or her own life may be key in self-acceptance. Bodart suggests defending controversial literature by “looking at the lessons it teaches, the problems or situations it reveals, and the information it contains about how to resolve them.” For librarians, this is valuable advice. For people who want teenagers to grow up to be healthy adults, this is a good reason to defend controversial literature. Teens should be given every tool available to learn how to deal with life, and literature is an even more valuable tool when there are not understanding adults or peers around.

But even for teens who are not marginalized, for teens who feel loved and accepted in their identity, who have not dealt with vicious treatment, and who happily fit in with the things that are expected of them, controversial literature may fulfill a purpose. As we grow we see the differences in others.  Our parents, for example, are no longer extensions of our own being.  No matter whether or not we embrace lifestyles that differ from our own, we begin to recognize that they exist. I think this is a very important stage of growth, and one that controversial literature can help teens arrive at, through realizing the breadth of the human experience.

American Library Association. 2009. Privacy: An interpretation of the bill of rights. Retrieved July 14th, 2009 from
American Library Association. 2009. Library bill of rights. Retrieved July 14th, 2009 from
Anderson, S. (2004). Serving older teens. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Bodart, J. R. (2006, Fall). Books that help, books that heal: Dealing with controversy in YA Literature. Young Adult
Library Services v. 5 no. 1 (Fall 2006) p. 31-4.

On Walden Cassette Tape. For teens.

One of the big things that reading about non-print materials has got me thinking about is the level of transience of resources being purchased.  With audiovisual items, not only does the library have to deal with the transience of the content, but also with the ever more swiftly outdated nature of the format.  In my textbook for my class on Materials for Young Adults, written in 2004, Anderson advises to “purchase on tape or compact disc” (p.191).  I cringed a little.

Books seem to me more constant.  One of my favorites is Alan Mendelsohn the Boy from Mars.  It was written in 1978, which was the year I was born, and by the time I found it, was the ripe old age of 13.  And I still loved it, and found it relevant, and I could see people who are teenagers now still reading it.  Granted, it is not an extremely popular book (and wasn’t even back when I was 13) but it has an Amazon sales rank of #144,605, so someone is buying it.  In contrast, the main musical act that was popular when I was 13 was New Kids on the Block.  They do have a reunion tour this year, and people are attending, but I don’t think they are being overrun with screaming teenage fans.  In fact I think their initial popularity lasted about four years, and they went swiftly downhill after that.  If a library is “plac[ing] more emphasis on popularity” for its non-print collection, it may be stuck with a lot of obsolete material quite quickly (Anderson, p.192, 2004).

So the challenge then, is to find materials which teens will like, which will not blow through the budget.  I think the increasingly digitized nature of information will bring up some interesting solutions.  One which has already been implemented is to use Netflix , which “supplements the collection and also can be used to screen potential library purchases”  (Blumenstein, 2008).  If Netflix works for libraries, there is also a business called Gamefly which offers a similar service for video games.  Granted this is not necessarily using the service exactly as intended, but “no one has seen any kind of ‘reminder’ from Netflix the corporate entity banning libraries from using this service” (Burchfield, 2009).

I’m not sure of all the parameters with adding digital music to the collection, I have a feeling there may be copyright issues, and I’m not sure lending would work.  The SFPL has databases which allow music to be streamed over the internet, but it seems as though most of its easily findable music is on CD.  Perhaps highlighting the digital music the library does have might be a good way to get teens to notice it.  I also think that providing MP3s (integrated into the collection) might be a draw to get teens to look at the other electronic resources the library offers (like the journals).

The other non-print format that I think is a great idea: board games.  Although how you would keep the pieces all in one place, I have no idea.

Anderson, S.  (2004). Serving older teens.  Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Blumenstein, L. (2008).  Small libraries start using Netflix.  Library Journal.  Retrieved July, 9, 2009 from

Burchfield, N. (2009, April 15).  Netflix has a long tail. It’s true, I saw it in the library.  Librarian, Interrupted.   Retrieved July, 9, 2009 from

The teen librarian and the cyberbully

I’ve posted regularly on a local music message board for the past few years.  Most people who post know each other by sight at least from attending shows, although they may not be real life friends.  For the most part posts are friendly, supporting, or funny, but there are occasions where things get really nasty- humor on the board is very edgy and sometimes someone will cross someone else’s line.   A major point in most of these fights is that the internet is not to be taken seriously.  People behave differently and accept different behavior online than IRL.

It is if, by creating an avatar and sitting in front of a keyboard you can become someone totally different, even to people who know who you really are.

For teens, who may not be totally adept at parsing what someone’s expression means, gauging and reacting to an online persona may be even more difficult.

What is appropriate, what the consequences of one’s actions are, and empathy for others are given a new dimension online-“it has a disembodied, anonymous nature” (Goodstein, 2007, p. 82).  This is why I think cyberbullying is a totally different issue than regular bullying.

I’m not sure what this means for teen librarians.  While certainly a librarian should not sit by if a teen started hitting another teen in the library, I think online behavior is a little outside the purview (for public librarians, I think school librarians have a different range of authority).  Perhaps programs for teens at the public library using digital resources or exploring social networking could incorporate bullying as part of the discussion – as they certainly should include a discussion of the public nature of online info.  Certainly the library’s own online teen pages should have a contract which mentions respectful behavior.

I think it’s also very important that librarians understand and become familiar with online culture.  As Goodstein (2003) discusses, “the tone of today’s most popular entertainment has gotten a lot meaner” (p. 80).  This is not to say that bullying or meanness should be acceptable, but I think there is often a disconnect between what young people think of as a joke and what adults see as one.  Kids should be given the tools to find their own way of being safe and happy online, which may be different than what an adult would want.

And just as an aside, I’m taking Web 2.0 this summer as well in which we talk a lot about the democratization/democratizing aspects of the online world.  I had never thought of this in terms of how “anyone can cyberbully…democratized bullying for any kid, big or small, male or female” (Goodstein, 2007, p. 82).  I always though equality was a positive force!

Goodstein, A.  (2007).   Totally wired: What teens and tweens are really doing online. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Brains! And teens.

The thing that strikes me the most about our brains is how little we know about how they actually work.  And we know even less about teenage brains.  Jay Giedd is a scientist who is studying teen brains using MRIs- he’s changed a lot of how we think about teen brains.  As Strauch (2003) explains, Giedd’s study of MRI images of 150 brains is “the first long term-look at a large number of teenagers.”   (p.16) (I would argue that one study, performed by one scientist, of only 150 brains, is not conclusive, although it may bring up interesting possibilities.)

Research seems to point out that “the brain continues to change-it is plastic-throughout life” (Strauch, 2003, p.140).  If the adolescent brain is in a state of flux, it may be even more difficult to pinpoint cause and effect from imaging.  Additionally, the brain is shaped by “synapse growth that depends more on the kind of experiences an individual has.”  (Strauch, 2003, p. 40)

Studies seem to produce conflicting answers about what sorts of experience may be helpful to the adolescent brain.  While studies of rats by Rosenzweig, Krech, and Bennett indicate that a “complex environments make rat brain synapses and dendrites increase,” (Strauch, 2003, p.39), Ruder “highlights a recent study showing how sensory overload can hinder undergraduates’ ability to recall words” (2008).

These uncertainties make it difficult to create a fool-proof strategy for helping, serving, and parenting teens.  Many techniques adults have already been using, (listening, patience, and clear boundaries), are recommended by people such as Pressed (2004) on his Avoiding Evil blog, generating a sense of scientific basis for generally accepted wisdom such as “teens may not understand the implications and consequences of their own decisions.”

Teenagers, like adults, are shaped by a myriad of factors.  Although studies such as Giedd’s can help us develop a richer understanding of the factors at play in the developing mind, teenagers and their behavior are too complex to be definitively analyzed.

Strauch, B.  (2003).   The primal teen: What the new discoveries about the teenage brain tell us about our kids. New York: Random House.

Pressed. (2004, January 13).  Blame it on the brain!  The mind of a teen… Retrieved June, 17 2009 from

Ruder, D. (2008, September –October).  A work in progress: The teen brain.  Harvard Magazine. Retrieved June 17, 2009 from

The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature

HV 7959 .J33 2000.  H is Social Sciences, HV is Social pathology, social and public welfare, and HV 7959 is Social pathology. Social and public welfare. CriminologyCriminal justice administrationPolice. Detectives. ConstabularyAdministration and organizationNational police. Constabulary. Gendarmes–Organization–Game and forest police.  J33 2000 is a code which helps the library organize alphabetically by author within this subject.  This code (known as a cutter) may vary slightly in different libraries.  The Wildlife Detectives is a National Science Teachers Association Children’s Book Council Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children (2001).

Series Title: Scientists in Action
Author: Donna M. Jackson
ISBN-10: 0395869765 ISBN-13: 978-0395869765
City and Publisher: Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2000
Author’s Website:

Reader’s Annotation: Who steps in when endangered animals are killed?  Who works to solve mysteries on behalf of the animal kingdom?  The Wildlife Detectives!

Plot Summary: The Wildlife Detectives begins with an overview of the history of the forensic science used by people who fight crimes against wildlife.  It also introduces, in a “Wild File” sidebar, the  basics of what it means to be a threatened or endangered species.  The book than follows the mystery of the murder of Charger, one of Yellowstone National  Park’s most famous bull elks. Descriptions of how scientists and law enforcement agents work to solve the crime are punctuated by information about poaching, wildlife protection laws, and other aspects of wildlife protection.

Critical Evaluation: The Wildlife Detectives provides a very comprehensive view of how animals are protected – by laws, by science, and by all kinds of people.It describes how many factors interact towards one goal, using simple but engaging language.  This book is a little less engaging than some of the others I’ve read in this series, perhaps because the topic is a little dour and so much information is packed in the pages.  However, it is still a very well written and informative book.

Illustrations: The Wildlife Detectives is illustrated with full color photos.  Some photos are fascinating, but some do feel a little dated.  The images could be better placed in order to fully express the emotional content; some of the images have the potential to be very powerful, but are muted by the book design.

Reading Level/Interest: 8 & up
Curriculum Ties:
Animals, environmental studies, laws, taxonomy, DNA
Booktalking Ideas: Ask kids what their favorite animal is and then segue into a discussion about Endangered and threatened species.

Challenge Issues: Some parents may have issues with the Endangered Species act, or may feel this book is anti-hunting.  While The Wildlife Detectives does have a pro-conservation message, ultimately it is a book about science and the law.

About the Author: Although her original intention was to become a child psychologist, the wonderful feeling of writing a well-received article lured Jackson away to pursue a degree in journalism.  She has written approximately ten books for children, in mostly science or animal related non-fiction.  More at: