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Library Blog -- Raucous Clubhouse

Raucous Clubhouse is a forum created and moderated by Barnesville's librarian to share information and excitement about books and other reading materials and experiences.

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What I did on my summer vacation, and more book reviews to share!

Happy August, everyone!

On the heels of our trip to Kentucky, Ziva and I ventured west to spend two whole weeks in California. I grew up in Los Angeles, and this trip was all about old traditions and new adventures.

During the first week, I took part in Costume College for the first time. This is an event that has grown throughout the years to over 700 participants, all of whom do some sort of costuming, but it's a very wide range. The spectrum runs the gamut from completely authentic historic ensembles to cosplay with 3D-printed horns and flashing lights. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle, since I've been making costumes and clothes for about twenty years, but I only recently began really focusing on making 18th century garments entirely by hand. Costume College offers classes, workshops, lectures and symposia on all aspects of costuming, as well as several special dress-up events throughout the weekend where attendees can show off their work. Here's what I wore to the Saturday Gala:

It's based on this gown that is held in the Costume and Textile Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:

I had a lot of help figuring out how to make it - and a lot of help actually getting it finished in time for the Gala!! I'm really proud of the final result. I'm even percolating plans to teach a class all about it at Costume College next year!

The second week was spent as far away from civilization as possible, in a cabin at a tiny lake up in the Sierra Nevadas. There was running water and electricity, but no phone service and no wifi! It's been my family's treasured tradition since I was about Ziva's age, and it was exactly what I needed after the marathon of sewing and preparation for Costume College. It's one of those places that just feeds my soul. We loafed and swam and just enjoyed being in nature.

And when I got back, I found an inbox fairly overflowing with book reviews waiting for me!!

Here's a review of Kwame Alexander's Rebound, written by Daniil E., rising 8th grader:

"Recently I read and enjoyed a book called “Rebound” by Kwame Alexander. It had a very unique writing style, not just boring paragraphs filling pages, but disorganized little strips of words all over the place. I liked how Alexander used different font sizes to enhance the communication between characters at certain times. The use of the 1980’s slang added a nice touch to the characters and feeling of the book. The book ends with a good moral and happy ending. Be happy with what you have, and always stay positive."

Doesn't that make you want to just run out and get a copy?? I love how much detail he included!

There are lots more reviews to share, so I will post them all over the next few days. There's still plenty of time to send in reviews to win prizes at the beginning of the school year!

I hope you are all enjoying the last weeks of summer! I can't wait to see how much the returning students have grown, and I'm looking forward to welcoming our newcomers!

Happy reading,


Posted by sarahw on Thursday August 15
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An audiobook review

Hi everyone,

I hope you're all beating the heat and enjoying summer!

I have a review to share, and full disclosure - it's from my daughter, Ziva! She's been at Barnesville as long as I have ;-) and she's going to start kindergarten in the fall.

This past weekend, we drove to Louisville, Kentucky for the annual Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove, so before we left, we stopped in at our local public library branch and loaded up on audiobooks for those long hours in the car. Along with Dr. Seuss and Fancy Nancy, I also borrowed "Matilda." It had been a while since I had read it myself, and I wanted to experiment with whether Ziva would give her full attention to such a long book, and whether she would actually enjoy it! After all, the protagonist is the same age as she is. She perked up when she heard that "Pride and Prejudice" was on the list of books Matilda read; that's a story she's very familiar with, since the 1995 adaptation is in my rotation of videos to "watch" while I sew!

When "Matilda" ended, I asked Ziva whether she liked it. Here's what she had to say:

"Yeah, I liked it! Actually, I loved it. My favorite part was at the end when [spoiler alert!] Matilda got to stay with Miss Honey."

Something else that she mentioned remembering was the description of the "power" coming out of Matilda's eyes as thousands of little arms with hands on the ends of them, pushing over the cup with the newt in it onto the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull.

So if you're wondering whether audiobooks "count" as reading - they absolutely do! The reader still has to keep track of the plot points and characters, and it allows them to build vocabulary by hearing unfamiliar words out loud in context. You can pair the audiobook with a hard copy for the child to read along, or just allow them to use their imagination to create the pictures in their own minds. You might follow up with asking them to draw a picture from the story, or to describe something that happened using their own words to reinforce comprehension skills.

Please continue sending in your children's reviews as the summer progresses!

Posted by sarahw on Tuesday July 16
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Book reviews are rolling in!

Happy summer, everyone!

This is so exciting - students have begun reading from the library book lists that went out with summer work packets, and are already reviewing what they've read!!

Zander Q, a student new to Barnesville entering 3rd grade in the fall, has these reviews of the books he's read so far.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall:

"The book was not bad. The good parts were when the old keeper left the lighthouse [and] the new keeper came to the lighthouse. The bad parts are when the fog came. And when there was a disaster, the keeper needed to help the people in the ocean."

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld:

"The book was okay. The good parts were when the kid was sad, the rabbit came over and made the kid happy. The bad parts were when the birds knocked down the tower. I think anybody can read the book"

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña:

"I liked the book because when Carmela made a wish it came true. In the back of the book Carmela made a wish; it was an ocean nearby and seagulls flying. Another wish was wishing for her father to come back to work. You should read this book because when a wish doesn't come true it will make you feel better."

Logan R, who will be entering the Pre-K class, gave this review.

Girl Running by Annette Bay Pimentel:

"The girl was running. She was running fast. She was running with the boys."

I love these so much! Please, keep the reviews coming!

Happy reading,


Posted by sarahw on Sunday June 30
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End of year wrap-up

Hello families!

It has been a busy couple of months!! I can't believe the last time I posted was in February. A lot has happened, and I certainly had every intention of posting monthly, but I guess that was too ambitious!

In any case, let me just say how much I have enjoyed my first year here at Barnesville. Your children are delightful to be with, and I love all of the conversations I've shared with them about books and reading. We are planning big things for next year, and I look forward to getting better acquainted with the students and their reading interests and preferences, in order to be able to continue building the perfect library collection for them!

One thing that I had intended to set up earlier, which got away from me with everything else going on, was the Naturebrary! With all of the generous donations we received on Family Fun Night, we were able to put together 6 backpack kits for students to check out and take with them outside on the school property, or even on field trips if they wish! The kits all have books and a few handheld tools for exploring different aspects of nature: Rocks; Insects; Flowers; Trees; Birds; and Sky (that one even has a small telescope!) Even better, the rest of the donated books and overflow items that wouldn't fit in the backpacks are all going to the Friends Meeting School to help them start their own Naturebrary!

I'm sure you have heard by now about our new Blue-Tongue Skink. His name is Bartholomew Tennyson. He is quite the character - he's such a prince that he prefers eating from my hand to using his food bowl - and the students have really enjoyed observing and learning about him. I realized when I got him that I didn't actually have any books about skinks in our library collection, so I had the ECs through 3rd grade make observations and tell me the questions they had about him, and then the 4th, 5th and 6th graders did research online to find the answers to those questions! I will be putting it all together in a booklet that will be part of the library collection, so that anyone who wants information about our pet can easily find it!

Look at that blue tongue!!

The other big announcement is that the library's Summer Reading recommendations come with a challenge! The students are being invited to write reviews of the books they read over the summer, and send their reviews to me to be posted here on the blog! For the rising Pre-K through 1st graders, the guideline is a sentence or two saying what they liked or didn't like about a book they liked or didn't like. For the older students, a paragraph will be ideal. I'll keep track of how many reviews the kids send in, and there will prizes in the fall for the students who send in the most reviews!!

I hope you all have a wonderful, adventurous (and maybe also restful?) summer, and I am looking forward to starting another great school year in September!

Posted by sarahw on Wednesday June 5
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Black-Eyed Susan Awards 2019

Hello families,

I am delighted to announce that Barnesville School students are once again voting for the Black-Eyed Susan Awards! If you are not familiar with these awards and how voting works, allow me to provide a brief background and how they are different from other awards for youth literature.

The Newbery and Caldecott winners, among many others, are announced annually at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference. For each of these awards, a long list of nominees is drawn up by a committee of librarians and educators, and the books are voted on by a different committee of librarians and educators. What's so neat about the Black-Eyed Susan Awards is that while the list of nominees is decided by librarians and educators, the books are voted on by KIDS! I think it's so terrific that this opportunity exists for students to read a whole slew of new books and have their voices heard in the selection of the award winners. It really empowers kids and lets them know that grown-ups are listening and taking their opinions into account. School libraries and public libraries all around Maryland will be taking part, so our school is just one piece of a bigger picture when it comes to the best books of 2018-2019!

Here the website with all the information about the Black-Eyed Susan Awards, and here's the list of nominees in each category!

In the EC through 4th grade, the teachers chose two-week slots to read aloud all 15 titles in the "Picture Books" category, and they are collecting their students' votes and submitting them to me. The kindergarten students have already voted! I have been delivering the picture books to the classrooms in the "Black-Eyed Susan Book Bag" which Ellen Landriau decorated several years ago.

For the middle schoolers, I booktalked a selection of books from both the 4th-6th grade category and the 6th-9th grade category, and explained that in order to vote, the students have to read a minimum of three books per category - and of course, they're welcome to read more! The students all listed the books they were interested in reading, and there were one or two books from each category that came up in lots of students' lists.

Of the 4th-6th and 6th-9th categories, here are the books I presented:


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy King

Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres


Posted by John David Anderson

Restart by Gordon Korman

Up from the Sea by Leza Lowitz

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

If your child has forgotten the books they chose to read, I will be happy to remind them.

We already own several of the nominated books in our collection here at the school, and I have purchased a few others, but there are not enough copies to go around - which is a great problem to have! I will buy a few extra copies of the most requested titles for our library, and I also highly encourage you all to visit your favorite bookstore, or better yet, your local public library, so that your student(s) can read the books they have chosen and submit their vote(s) to me. Thank you for your help and support with this undertaking!

The deadline to have all votes submitted is April 25, 2019.

Happy reading and voting!

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Peace Week 2019

Hello families,

Even though we missed Monday and a bit of Tuesday because of the snow, we are still on for the Peace Week Assembly and Candle Lighting on Friday! The theme this year is "Upstanders," which is a term coming into use to differentiate from the "Bystanders" in bullying situations. We are expanding the meaning to include people who "stand up" to fight oppression, marginalization and/or underrepresentation. The students are working hard to collect information about their chosen Upstander, and creating posters, role-plays, and multimedia presentations highlighting their accomplishments and efforts.

During Buddy Time last week, students chose from a display of library books I had set up to read with their buddies. From picture books all the way up to detailed biographies and chapter books, our collection contains a terrific variety of inspiring and empowering stories that share a common message: one person can make a big difference!

If you can, please take the opportunity offered by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday to keep the dialogue open and reflect with your children. I hope that Peace Week and the Assembly are meaningful for the students, and that they feel compelled to keep the flame of justice burning throughout the year.

In solidarity,


Posted by sarahw on Wednesday January 16
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A great big THANK YOU!

Hello families!

Having wrapped up my first big event as the Barnesville School Librarian, I am pleased to say that Grandparents'/Grandfriends' Day was a success all around! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting your extended families and friends, and the kids clearly loved showing off their school and their library.

It was so gratifying to see the kids excitedly choosing books that really piqued their interest. I also appreciated everyone's flexibility in being willing to dedicate titles that had been ordered for the library, but simply hadn't arrived yet. Lesson learned for next year: place those orders way further in advance!

I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity of our students' visitors. All told, the dedications came to $1905, which is really quite astonishing! That's close to 100 books! I guess we just have a bunch of terrific readers at this school whose families are proud of them, y'know?? And along with expressing my gratitude here, I have given the students the task of writing their own thank you notes (or in the case of the little ones, dictating and drawing pictures). As a child of the '80s, I still appreciate the value of a personal, hand-written acknowledgement, and I know for a fact that grandparents do as well.

One of my big projects for the year that these funds will help support is a standalone Spanish Collection within the library. Previously, Spanish language and bilingual titles were interfiled with the rest of the books according to genre, topic, and section, but I believe that bringing them together in one location will make them more visible and more accessible. I am working with Señor Gonzalez and Señora Campos, taking their suggestions and ideas, to round out the titles we already own so that the library can fully support the PreK-8 Spanish curriculum and the Exchange Program in Peru. The collection will be situated on the set-in shelves just to the right of the main library entrance.

Yep, that's the Harry Potter series en español!

I spy Where the Wild Things Are, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Charlotte's Web.

Stay tuned for announcements about artwork(s) that will grace the space directly above the shelves, and information about the official unveiling and launch of the collection next fall, to coincide with Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month!

This will probably be my last blog post before the break, so Happy New Year and catch you on the flip side!


Posted by sarahw on Wednesday December 12, 2018 at 02:35PM
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Gearing up for Grandparents' Day!

Hello families!

It's hard to believe, but Grandparents'/Grandfriends' Day is almost here! The students have been eyeing all the new books as I've been processing and cataloging them with the help of my amazing parent volunteers. The students are most excited when they spot books that I purchased as a direct result of a suggestion they submitted - and as you will see below, their recommendations continue to pour in! I love getting ideas from the kids for titles to add to our collection. Don't get me wrong, publications like School Library Journal and Horn Book are great for learning about new books, and finding out what the reviewers like, but kids are the best critics of literature written for them!

Here's the cart with all the shiny new books, just waiting to be dedicated on Tuesday! Godzilla the Guard Dragon is keeping a close watch on them ;-)

See any titles your child would be especially interested in??

More! More ! More!

Here's that recommendation jar I mentioned - it's full again! The sign on the front says "Plant a book suggestion...and watch our collection GROW!"

Our bookmark design this year is courtesy of Ariana W. in the 4th grade. She drew a beautiful scene and composed a very profound and succinct statement: "Books are a gateway to imagination and wonder." Isn't it lovely??

We are so looking forward to welcoming your child(ren)'s grandparents or grandfriends on Tuesday!

Posted by sarahw on Friday November 16, 2018
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Digital Citizenship Week - recap and looking ahead

Hello families,

I'm happy to report that Digital Citizenship Week went really well! I had great discussions with the students and they worked hard to put their ideas about Digital Citizenship into words.

I was really impressed with the follow-up I did with them this week. With most of the classes, I had them work independently to come up with a Pledge that encapsulated everything we had been talking about. Here are some examples:

"We will not cyberbully anyone, or bully anyone in any way. We will also do no damage in any way, the community's property or the feelings of any members of the community." ~Ian, 6th grade

"We will try our best to help classmates and work friends, complete any tasks we are assigned to do on the computer, log out properly and not hack for any reason. We will also not copy off documents or reports, and be kind online and go on websites other than learning ones with school's permission. Also treat tech kindly!" ~Ariana, 4th grade

"I pledge to not troll, hack, cyberbully, to be a responsible worker, safe, and hard worker and not say words that break people down." ~Anonymous, 3rd grade? (unfortunately this student left off their name!)

"We will be respectful, responsible and safe. Be kind to others. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Type nice things online." ~Tristan, 4th grade

"We will be nice to others and safe. Help others. Be responsible. Stand up for others. Clean up. Be respectful." ~Maya, 6th grade

"We will not share personal information of others. We will not cyberbully others. We will not say anything negative or hurtful to others. If we have an opinion, we will state it respectfully and nicely." ~Asher, 6th grade

As you can see, they all took to heart the things we talked about! What I noticed was that a lot of them incorporated the words that the school uses to describe the Barnesville student - respectful, responsible and safe. It makes a lot of sense to them that how they conduct themselves as they go about their day would translate to their online activities.

Two of my 7th grade Language Focus students, Liam and Grace, wrote down their ideas and then decided to make a video demonstrating good Digital Citizenship! Here's a picture of them working on it!

I'm looking forward to reading some fun Halloween books with your kids next week! Can you believe it's almost November?

Posted by sarahw on Friday October 26, 2018
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Digital Citizenship for the little ones

Hi families,

As I touched on briefly in my last post, we're kicking off Digital Citizenship Week! It's a conversation and movement in which lots of schools and libraries across the country are participating, so you might see the hashtags #digcitweek, #digitalcitizenshipweek and #digcitcommit on social media. If you find anything interesting to share, I would love to see it!

My goal for this week and beyond is to work with the students across grades 1-8 to write a Digital Citizenship Pledge. With the students' input and ideas, I think we could create a lasting part of the school's ethos, which we will re-commit to every year at this time as a community. The conversations I've had with the kids so far have been really productive and exciting.

For the older kids, the notion of Digital Citizenship is pretty easy to grasp. The central tenet of Digital Citizenship is that how we conduct ourselves online is just as important as how we conduct ourselves in the real world. With everything from commerce to communication to entertainment being online, our digital persona is now part of what we present to the world.

Today I met with Pre-K and 5th grade for their usual library time, and I also had 1st grade visit, since they will miss their regular Friday time because of conferences. Now, you might be wondering, did the younger kids really "get it"? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" As the mom of one of those Pre-K kids, believe me, I know that comes with an internal struggle. We worry about how much screentime they're getting, and we worry that their tech savvy does not come with the tools for tech safety. But allow me to reassure you! Their suggestions and ideas demonstrated that they understand the importance of asking permission before using devices, being careful about who they send messages to, and of setting limits so they can enjoy all the other fun stuff in their lives.

As a child of the pre-Internet, pre-cellphone age, it shocked me how quickly my daughter became familiar with digital interfaces. But her world is a digital one, and she will need those skills as she gets older. I don't want her watching screens all day, but then again, as much as it warms my librarian heart for her to love books and reading, I'm not sure I'd want her doing *that* all day either! Balance is key.

Here are the latest guidelines on screentime for children:

And here's some information on creating a family media plan:

Thanks for reading, and happy #digcitweek!

Posted by sarahw on Monday October 15, 2018
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Choose groups to clone to:

An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076


We offer a vigorous academic program for students as well as engaging, hands-on learning experiences.


Our positive, supportive learning environment promotes imagination, exploration, personal growth, and achievement.

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