Okapi Robot Tree

Posts: 34

A Note About 'Okapi Robot Tree'

Screenshot of old Okapi Robot Tree Site

Okapi Robot Tree was a blog I maintained from time to time for a couple of years that centered primarily on children's literature, with occasional library and social media quandaries. So, not all that different from this blog. It began at the URL http://okapi.me and then for some time could be found at http://kidlit.froztfreez.com. It is now archived on this site via the Okapi Robot Tree tag, since I think some of the posts are decent and I wanted to preserve them.

Text of the Original "About" Page of Okapi Robot Tree

My name is Josh Whiting. I like children’s literature, and I am exploring and writing about it here. I may start writing it myself, too, but I’ll probably keep the specifics of that a secret. I am a digital resources manager and cataloging librarian for a public school district. I am a husband and a father of two little people. I run a school district library web site here. I try to keep my tweets slightly more professional and rational here. I write and tweet totally random stuff here, but mostly about music, art, culture, food, etc., and it’s probably not nearly as weird as I wish or hope it would be.

This is a work in progress, and I don’t just mean this blog.

Here are some foundational posts that explain a little more about my goals for this blog, and my experience and perspective:

About the Okapi

Three Tales of

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon

This is the first chapter book (technically 3 books in one) I read out loud to my son. We just finished it the other night. He liked it.

I read portions of it to my daughter, too, but she mostly rolled on the floor, climbed around on her bed, interjected random statements about My Little Pony, and otherwise didn’t pay attention to it. That’s okay.

mad stacks

Here is the stack of chapter books I gave him from which to choose the second chapter book we would read together.

Rainbow Magic Special Edition | Kylie the Carnival Fairy

Here is the book he chose from that stack.

My Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2014 (So Far)

[First posted on 2015.01.07 – Most recently bumped with updates on 2015.01.25]

2014 may be over, but I’m not over reading books from it. I may even continue to update this list from time to time as I read more books I didn’t get to in 2014 or that I discovered from everyone else’s great “Best of 2014” lists, in which case I’ll likely bump it to the top.

Feel free to read a littlbe bit into the order. They are roughly in descending order according to just how much I liked them.


The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

(The Riverman is my secret, dark-horse pick for the 2015 Newbery. I have to mention that in case it actually happens.)


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

(Brown Girl Dreaming is my official prediction for the 2015 Newbery.)


A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

(I wish there was a cool debut middle grade author award.  I would give it to Natalie Lloyd for this book for sure.)


The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


Revolution by Deborah Wiles


The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier


The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson


Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson


The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm


The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson


The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen


The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel


The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

2015 State of the Robotic Okapi Toy Forest Preserve Address

After some deliberation and second-guessing, I have decided that I will continue this semi-derelict blog into 2015.

I’m not going to go so far as to resolve to maintain it on a regular basis. I’m still not quite sure what it will be, but at the very least I want to reserve myself a personal place to publish thoughts on children’s literature and library work, if/when I have such thoughts and write/type them down.

My book reviews will continue to be housed primarily on my school district’s library media web page, Granitemedia.org (which by coincidence I just so happen to maintain.)  Here’s a quick link to a growing list of book reviews tagged with my name.

I will continue to tweet primarily library/education/reading/kidlit-related tweets using my account @jdwhiting.  I find myself rethinking and revising how I can and should or should not use twitter on an almost daily basis.  Too much thinking, not enough action, punctuated by spurts of oversharing.

I intend to continue to work through my epic Newbery+Authors+Classics Reading Challenge.  It will probably take me the rest of my life. I also intend to try to keep up with new 2015 books as they are released this year.  But my number one concern will be to read whatever strikes me, even if it doesn’t fall into one of these projects.  Maybe 2015 will be my year to finally read Moby Dick, too?

That is all at this time.  I will take your questions and concerns in the comment section.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming - Cover

This book inspires me to become a better, more authentic writer, and a better person in general. It also inspired me to overcome my hang-ups with book reviews and just start writing them again; my need to share this with other people felt more important than any of my other lame concerns and over-thinks.  It is also my lead-out pick for the 2015 Newbery, so there.  Check out my book review of Brown Girl Dreaming over at Granitemedia.org.

Why Am I Using Social Media?

Social media is on my mind a lot lately.  The district educational technology department where I work is currently initiating a huge push into social media, and I’m heavily involved with it.  We are using it first to promote the good things our teachers, tech. specialists, and librarians are doing for students in our district.  We are also hoping to inspire all of those educators to engage in social media themselves to share their own good things and to learn from what other educators out in the world are sharing, and know how to help students connect to all of these many social resources as well.

While thinking about this push and how to do it, yesterday I happened upon this little article called “10 Twitter Hacks To Help You Rethink Your Social Voice” from TeachThought, which I liked because it wasn’t the typical list of social marketing tricks to get more followers and be more influential that you usually see in articles with titles like this. Rather, it presented a number of real questions and ideas directed towards educators to cause reflection as to just why we are connecting on social media in the first place, and some subtle cautions against getting caught up in the gamification of social media.  The number one “hack” they list is to define your social media goals and purposes, so that you can then determine how to proceed so as to meet them and be “successful.”  An educator’s social media goals and therefore processes should probably be somewhat different from a marketer’s goals and processes.

So I know pretty well why we are trying to do this social media push professionally, but it leaves me with the question of why I am attempting to involve myself in social media personally.  I happened upon another helpful article today from teacher librarian Travis Jonker at School Library Journal in which he documents the ways he has tried using social media as a school librarian, some of his specific successes in social media, and the successes of others.  Conversely informative and eye opening on this topic of how and why to use social media was the article “The Downside to Being a Connected Educator” by teacher-blogger Pernille Ripp.  She warns about the comparative dangers of the game and the effect it can have on other aspects of your professional and personal life. (I should give due credit that I found both the Ripp article and the TeachThought article via blogger Elisabeth Ellington’s excellent Sunday Salon Online Reading Round-up.)

All of this percolating has combined to inspire me to attempt to answer for myself this question, “Why am I using social media?”  I want to answer it authentically and transparently, right here and right now, because that’s just how I want to do things.  So, here are my goals and purposes in personally participating in social media, particularly via Twitter (@jdwhiting) and this blog:

Why Am I Using Social Media?

  1. To practice writing for an audience and become a better writer.
  2. To find some friends, esp. to find people who are interested in things I am interested in and attempt to engage in conversations with them. (I think this is something friends do, but I’m not really sure.)
  3. To find good ideas and resources, esp. for libraries and education.
  4. To share things I have and do that may end up being good ideas and resources for others.
  5. To practice and model a way to be personally active in social media to my work colleagues, particularly for reasons 3 + 4 above, which are most relevant to our work.
  6. To get unwarranted attention for random obnoxious behavior.
  7. To become famous and rich, in that order.
  8. To help everyone become a Mormon.

So I believe this is a nice refinement of my goals for this blog and my twitter use. I still have a long way to go at being “successful” with some of these,  but listing them helps me clarify what to do and where to go now.  Thanks, TeachThought!  In the coming weeks I think I’m really going to focus on increasing my levels of random obnoxiousness.

Consider this a new, improved update to the Pretend Librarian’s Guide to Socially Awkward Media. Thanks for reading.