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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Melodramatic Book Care

If you were to ask the students to describe their librarian, you might be shocked at their responses:

"My librarian is the person like an actor that takes this real stuff and uses so much drama, it’s like a story and you can’t wait to get to the ending and then you find out you’re in the story.." 

I loved that comment from a 4th grader recently. Acting ability may be the #1 criteria to look for in a candidate for our profession. If we weren’t capable of drama and melodrama, how could we make the 7th time through the same lesson as exciting as the first for our students? Take reading the book "What Happened to Marion’s Book?" by Brook Berg and Nathan Alberg and this fun image from the website which Brook gave me permission to include.

When I read the part about Marion even taking her books into the bathtub, I stagger as if I’m going to faint. I’ve had some classes jump up and promise to NEVER DO THAT to their books. One little boy patted my hand and said, "Please don’t faint, it will be okay in the end of the story." Their horror over book pages covered with peanut butter is so dramatic, I have to hide a smile. 

Then we share the Shelf Elf and I confess to them that I try SOOOO hard to take very good care of THEIR library, but sometimes I just don’t have enough eyes and arms. I confess that when they aren’t in the room and I find the books upside down and backwards (my pet peeve), I sometimes throw a temper tantrum and stomp my feet. One child always nods and whispers, "I’ve seen her." 

The first graders are the perfect class to then stand one before each column of books to help me be a good shelf elf and look for books that are out of place. I keep a handkerchief handy in case I need to be distressed. Someone carries in the towel we’ll use as a mini stretcher so we can take the books to the book hospital to get well. If I find a book that simply cannot make it through one more check out and needs to be deleted, I usually find a passionate volunteer to take it home and love it one more time – maybe even to keep it safe. 

Our students need some passion and drama in their life. In elementary school, it feels much safer to talk about book care than the big issues in some of their homes. I’ll work with the classroom teacher and guidance counselors to help with those issues, but let’s allow a little melodramatic fun in our daily life.

Don’t forget to check out the Be a Book Care Critter webquest and remember to have fun. Your students may forget that dogs are near 636 but they’ll always remember you putting up a doghouse sign warning children that the dog books like to get out to play. The experiences you create in your library and their emotional responses will stay with them. Have a great new year.


  1. I love the way you encourage play in the library. So many teachers make books dull, boring, and you hafta pick them apart and do reports on them. It’s nice when they can find someone who thinks Reading is simply FUN.

    -wendie old, librarian and writer