Monday, October 20, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Tracks Count: A guide to Counting Animal Prints by Steve Engel, illustrated by Alexander Petersen

Small press Craigmore Creations focuses on geology and other nature-themed titles. This is part of their "Little Naturalists" series.

An introduction "for the grown-ups" by David R. Shapiro opens the book with an explanation of how to read tracks and how they are arranged for the book.

Each spread introduces a number and corresponding tracks with a little interactive counting. For example, on the page for three, there is a large numeral 3, then "Rhinoceros" then a rhinoceros footprint. Under that, the text reads "On the hot savannah, three rhinoceros rest under a tree. Count the toes on the track - one, two, three! The page of text and the illustration of the track is paired with a picture on the right in brown hues featuring the animals in their habitat.

A final spread shows the numbers from 1-10 with tracks for each (three rhino tracks under the three, etc.). Another spread lists the animals' scientific names and a short paragraph of information about each.

The art is not the usual colorful, bright pictures of a children's book, but there is something attractive about the simple, natural sketches and soft charcoal shading. The tracks are clearly drawn and make it easy to count the toes, which make up the counting exercises.

The big problem I usually have with this type of unique concept book is that it's developmentally way above the age of children who need concept books. This one works pretty well though. Very young children can count the toes on the tracks and identify the animals, and older kids who are beyond the counting part can enjoy identifying the tracks.

Verdict: There are a lot of animal track books out there, but this is a fun combination of animals tracks and counting. If you have fans of either, this would make a good addition to your library.

ISBN: 9781940052076; Published 2014 by Craigmore Creations; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This week at the library; or, clinging to calm with the tips of my fingers

What's Happening: At the library and in my head
  • Crazy week! Luckily a bunch of outreach got pushed forward to next week, so I had a week to try and catch up on things. I am trying to maintain my zen and not get stressed out. Sort of working.
  • Outside projects - my class with Marge, Cybils, getting the garden ready for the fall, catching up on reviewing
  • Library projects - Neighborhoods, putting together a tentative departmental mission/goals/objectives. I figure it doesn't have to be perfect, just enough to get us started and I'll refine it as we test it out. Also found out that RFID is definitely happening - I had mixed feelings about this until I realized it would mean security gates (coming in December) which would mean....I can have an anime collection in the teen area!!!
  • Monday - Meetings! First with some other consortium youth librarians, then an insurance meeting with the city, then a staff meeting, then it was time to go on the information desk for the evening.
  • Tuesday - dealing with incidents from last Friday evening, tackling program planning and catching up to everything that didn't get done, like filling displays and putting out a new Take Home Storytime: We are the dinosaurs!
  • And then I was just busy.
What the kids are reading
  • Yes, the Minecraft books are coming.
  • More Lexiles woe - we made up the points needed at a very high lexile for a 4th grader with Nurk, Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon, and also took Ruins of Gorlan for later.
  • Read-alikes for Cupcake Diaries for a ten year old. What she really, really wants is more surfing books but neither her mom nor I can find anything. I suggested Sew Zoey, My life in pink and green, and Cupcake Cousins (should have suggested Cupcake Club, but I don't have it here and didn't think of it until after they had gone)
  • Fred 3. This is why we have a consortium, so we can get movies from other libraries.
  • Family who absolutely loves Lindgren's Skinnyjack - I am the only library who has it! I helped her find a used version online.
  • Easy readers for the very beginner - Biscuit and Elephant and Piggie
  • Goosebumps - should put some on display with the Halloween books
  • Bubble Guppies - couldn't find anywhere
  • Press Here - one copy should have been in but couldn't find it. I put Press Here and Mix it up on hold for them and then remembered I had just gotten Tap to Play so gave her that and she was very excited to be the first to check it out. Press Here seems to be one of those picture books that grabs a wide range of ages - this girl was probably 7.
  • Small child very sad that the tub of Lego books was empty. I pulled some easy readers for him.
  • Lengthy discussion starting with read-alikes for My Louisiana Sky and Penny from Heaven and ending with Adventure Time and Doodlebug.
  • Teacher wanting books on "kindness" for kindergarten to 1st grade - gave her Trudy Ludwig's oevre.
  • Parent wanting books to read with a reluctant 10 year old reader (this is the "reluctant reader b/c he only reads Big Nate" variety). I tactfully suggested that Where the Red Fern Grows was maybe not going to really interest him and gave her Hatchet, Gregor the Overlander, and Nerds instead.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Read Scary: My Boyfriend is a Monster: I love him to pieces by Evonne Tsang, illustrated by Janina Gorrissen

This is the book that started it all...back when it came out, Twilight was in full swing and it was a hilarious anti-romantic paranormal romance (at least, I thought it was). Graphic Universe went on to produce a whole series of these books, of varying quality both in art and plot, but this remains both my personal favorite and what most people seem to agree is the best story.

Dicey Bell is a stereotypical jock - if jocks were star baseball players, blond and bouncy and enthusiastic. Jack Chen is the stereotypical science nerd with a side of RPG, his parents are scientists and he pretty much has free run of the school labs. Nobody would have expected them to get together, but when they're assigned as lab partners they find they actually get along pretty well and are just started a little romance when ZOMBIE ATTACK. From there on out it's beating off zombies with baseball bats (Dicey) analyzing what the heck is going on (Jack) and trying their best to find a happy ending together.

Gorrissen's black and white art is serviceable, if not particularly unique. The characters are easily distinguishable (yes, this is a think I look for in art) the story is easy to follow, and there's lots of humorous details and gross zombies.

The real draw for this is the story. It's both a really funny, romantic, sweet story but also flips stereotypes. Dicey is a jock - she lives for baseball and is an enthusiastic extrovert. Jack is a nerd - he doesn't do anything but science and he's a complete introvert. They're both wary of each other at first, and Jack is especially prejudiced against what he thinks of as stupid jocks, but then Jack realizes that not only is Dicey really fun to be around - she's also in the honor society and super smart. Dicey, at first thinks Jack is a prejudiced geek, but is surprised when he apologizes after their initial tiff and realizes that he's, well, pretty cute! Once she breaks him out of his shell (heh, pun if you read the story) she finds out he's really fun to talk to and he takes the time to share her interests and respects her skills both on and off the baseball field. Also, although it's never pointed out, Jack is one of the very few (I think possibly the only, but I haven't read enough YA to be sure) male love interests who's actually Asian. Girls yes, boys not so much.

Verdict: Even if you don't buy the whole series, you should definitely own at least the first few titles. They're funny, sweet, and gently flip stereotypes without being didactic or overshadowing the actual story. They're also mostly appropriate for middle school as well as high school. Hand these to kids who like paranormal romance, and this one in particular to girls who are desperate for books about girls playing sports.

ISBN: 9780761370796; Published 2011 by Lerner/Graphic Universe; Purchased for the library and my personal library

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Read Scary: Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend

I looked at the first Bramble and Maggie waaaaay back in 2012. Many changes have happened - I moved Bramble and Maggie to the chapter books, as I felt they fit better as a beginning chapter book than an easy reader. Several more books have been published.

But their essentially fun, practical friendship remains. This latest book is just perfect for the crisp fall weather (well, if you live in the Midwest). Bramble and Maggie, like an easy reader, is divided into three simple chapters, each a separate story. However, the chapters are all connected, similar to a chapter book. In this spooky fall installment, Bramble is feeling her oats and enjoying the fall weather, so she gets jumpy and pretending to be spooked. But then she sees something really scary - a scarecrow! In the second chapter, the following day, Bramble is still enjoying her pretend-spooks, which makes Maggie nervous. When Bramble gets a real scare, something bad happens - Maggie falls off! Fortunately, Bramble helps her best friend get back in the saddle, even though now Maggie is the one who's spooked. Finally, the two try out trick-or-treating, first choosing a costume and then enjoying the spooky delights of the neighborhood at night. Bramble is scared, but determined to take care of Maggie, who's still feeling a little shaky. There are plenty of treats for everyone and no tricks!

The text and illustrations are smoothly integrated, with Alison Friend's cheerful colors and round-faced people fleshing out the simple story. The pictures not only assist in decoding the text, but add a humorous element to the plot, especially in the last story, where Bramble, pop-eyed with fear but determined to protect Maggie faces off against a "ghost".

The book has a slightly larger format, closer to an easy reader, than a chapter book. Although it has the shorter sentences and simpler language of an easy reader, there are some more advanced vocabulary words and paragraph structure. A great choice for intermediate readers and a step up for fans of Kate and Cocoa, another horse and girl series.

Verdict: This is a fun addition to a great series. If you don't already have the whole series, consider adding it to your beginning chapter books for kids just starting to pick up longer books. If you already have the series, don't miss out on this latest title!

ISBN: 9780763664503; Published 2014 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publicist; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: My Book of Counting by Britta Teckentrup

I previously reviewed My Book of Opposites and now I have the companion, which features counting.

Each spread is divided into two halves. The first page shows an animal with a label in large, bold letters "Four tall giraffes" then the sentence is finished in smaller type "are racing through the town." Still in the smaller type, there is a question "How many yaks are hanging around?" which refers to the facing page. The first page shows the animals in a vehicle with the numeral on the side. The facing page is sprinkled with the number (four in this case) and sets of four animals, each prefaced with the number 4.

The final page of ten shows one of each previously featured animal riding the bus. The back of the book lists uses for the book "Develops numeracy/Aids language development/Encourages active recall" and the book itself is a sturdy cardboard construction, and a nice rectangle shape. It's big enough for an average storytime, but not oversized.

I love Britta Teckentrup's colorful and easily recognizable illustrations. They're a great match for this book which manages to pack a lot of information in without being cluttered. I especially like the way the text (no author for which is given) is organized so you can use it in different ways with different ages. You can use the simple counting and animal identification, read the whole sentence for more story, and interact with the question and various counting opportunities.

Verdict: I highly recommend both this and My book of Opposites and I look forward to more books in this style being published.

ISBN: 9781589255852; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Monday, October 13, 2014

Read Scary: Nonfiction Monday: Secrets of the Ancient Gods: Hades Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter, illustrated by J. E. Larson

I was a huge fan of Anubis Speaks! and so was very excited when Ms. Shecter sent me a review copy of the next addition to the series.

The story of Greek beliefs about religion, the afterlife, and selected myths and bits of culture, is narrated in a darkly cynical fashion by Hades, who feels a bit neglected amongst his fellow gods.

Hades introduces himself and conducts the reader into his world: the underworld. There we meet monsters and ghosts, hear myths, and learn about strange rituals. You'll learn the story of Persephone and the creation of the gods, the functions of Cerberus the guard dog, and the different rules for the land of the dead and for Elysium. The reader will learn about how Greek culture evolved through their religious rites and beliefs and the reasons for some of those beliefs, all narrated by the grim humor of Hades.

This felt more mythic and less historical than Anubis Speaks! for some reason. Maybe because I was more familiar with the Greek myths and culture than Egyptian, maybe because it felt like it focused more on myths and less on the history and culture that the myths came from. That's not a criticism, by the way, just an observation. There were more reference to pop culture (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc.) but most of them are things that should stay fairly current and not date the story.

The book is a manageable 104 pages, including the illustrations. Larson's stark black and white pictures are the perfect accompaniment to this grim but fascinating book. The book also includes a guide to Greek gods and heroes, glossary, a bibliography with both primary sources, secondary sources, articles and websites, and an index. At the back is a teaser for Anubis Speaks! which should draw in even the most hard-core Greek myth fan.

Verdict: Greek mythology is hugely popular right now, due to the Percy Jackson series, and this should check out briskly. Middle grade readers will be delighted by the familiar myths, new twists and monsters, and the bits of Greek culture and history may inspire them to go looking for the real history behind the myths. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781620915981; Published 2014 by Boyds Mills Press; Review copy provided by the author; Purchased for the library; Review copy saved as a prize

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Only a few days left to nominate for Cybils!

Cybils nominations close on October 15! and in case you need a little jogging of your memory, here are the titles I've been collecting all year.

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • Handle with care by Loree Griffin Burns
  • Grizzly bears of Alaska by Debbie Miller (9781570619328)
  • Plastic ahoy! by Patricia Newman
  • A baby elephant in the wild by Caitlin O'Connell
  • About Habitats: Forests by Cathryn Sill
  • About Parrots by Cathryn Sill
  • Beneath the sun by Melissa Stewart
*Picture Books
  • Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi
  • Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
  • Nest by Jorey Hurley
  • Caterina and the lemonade stand by Erin Eitter Kono
  • Sophie Scott goes south by Alison Lester
  • Following papa's song by Gianna Marino
  • Crocodile who didn't like water by Gemma Merino
  • Lost for words by Natalie Russell
  • Hannah's night by Komako Sakai
Middle Grade Fiction
  • The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando (9780762449484)
  • Gold medal winter by Donna Freitas (9780545643771)
  • A hundred horses by Sarah Lean (9780062122292)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

This week at the library; or, Good-bye vacation, I barely knew ye

At the zoo with my new hood and mitts. And bear.
What's happening; in my head and at the library
  • I was on vacation Monday - Wednesday, although I did go in to work on Wednesday for a farewell party for (yet another) staff member who is leaving us. 
  • I also started an online class on youth services management with Marge Loch-Wouters. I have already got a whole page of ideas of how I need to fix my planning and goal-setting process for the department. I mean, not that I have one to fix, but to start one!
  • Thursday - I came back to 68 (make that 77) holds on my desk, approximately 100 new books, and a grim determination to Make it Through. I wore my turtle earrings. I made calls. I arranged community tours, rescheduled a daycare, called all the schools to see if they'd help me promote the programs I'm doing on an upcoming no school day, called more schools to discuss/schedule outreach, updated my main calendar with all the changes and the staff calendar, since I'll be needed to fill in at the front desk due to the staff member leaving, and planning enough of Friday's program to be able to wing it. Then Messy Art Club.
  • THERE WERE BIRDS AT THE BIRDWATCHING STATION!!! and half the seed was gone - I am so thrilled! After a whole summer of nothing (since I *cough* neglected to realize there were little doors that needed to be opened), and then weeks after I opened them still nothing, this was absolutely wonderful!
  • Friday - program, then I was on the main information desk for most of the afternoon and continued to deal with the holds, new books, and started up work on the Neighborhoods project again.
  • Saturday I went back to the zoo for an early childhood education class on big cats. It's funny because someone (I don't remember who) at ALSC Institute jokingly said something about their zoo advertising early literacy classes, but our zoo does these classes and they're actually really good! Primarily for daycare staff, they were really surprised when a couple librarians showed up, but I got a lot out of the last one and who doesn't like big cats?
  • Our town's battle of the books doesn't start until December, but quite a few other towns are showing up. Parents would really like if we had ALL the lists, but I don't see a way to make that happen!
What kids are reading and talking about
  • Yes, I have ordered all the Minecraft books. Well, all the handbooks anyways. 
  • Parent asked for easy readers with just text on one side of the page and illustrations on the other. My hands were covered in grease and I was starting a program in five minutes so I really blanked. Maybe some of Holiday House's I Like To Read series?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Read Scary: Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks

I can't believe I've never reviewed this. It's the first Faith Erin Hicks book I encountered; in fact, I believe it's her first full-length graphic novel. I still love it.

So the story is pretty simple. Joss is worried about her exams, student loan debt and where her life is going. Really, she'd prefer just to watch her favorite zombie films and indulge her obsession for all things British. But when zombies really DO attack, it takes all Joss's knowledge to keep herself and her roommates, Sonnet and Robyn, alive.

When I booktalk this at schools (which I haven't done in a while) I always give it the tagline "armed only with a spork, Joss must defeat the forces of the undead!" heh. It actually has quite a few serious moments; when Joss talks with her friends about where her life is going (or isn't), when they survive the zombie attacks but realize how many people didn't, etc. There are also lots of hilarious, if inappropriate, moments; when Joss and Robyn discuss whether or not, as virgins, they'll survive the zombie apocalypse, and plenty of gore-spattered inappropriate laughs.

Fans of Hicks will easily see how far her art has come in the past years, but in the simple black and white sketches that make up the art of this book you can still see her distinctive style - wide eyes, expressive faces, realistic body shapes, and lots of wavy lines and gross zombies.

I probably shouldn't have, but I've booktalked this to sixth grade *guilty look*. Nobody has ever complained - either the kids never actually read it, or, far more likely, anything inappropriate just completely passed over their heads. Nevertheless, I don't advise you to tempt fate like I did and I suggest keeping your recommendations for this one at a high school level.

Verdict: I'm not entirely sure this is actually available. Baker and Taylor lists it as available for backorder, but that usually means "you order it and we will laugh and laugh and laugh and then six months later send you a cancellation notice". It is available on Amazon though. There are a lot of zombie books out there and Faith Erin Hicks has come a long way and her later books are more likely to be popular library choices. However, if you want a funny, quick read, I suggest this for your personal collection or as a gift for the zombie-lover in your life (and if you don't have one, congratulations! You have just raised your chances of surviving the upcoming zombie apocalypse)

ISBN: 9781593620790; Published 2009 by Slave Labor Graphics; Purchased for the library and my personal collection