Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thrive Thursday

Still time to leave links! I'll continue adding to the round-up through the end of the week

Awesome School-Age Programs for All Libraries!


And, from myself, we've had quite a few family and school-age programs at my library this month, including...Fall Festival - this introduced my after school clubs as well as some fun games and prizes

Our gracious founder, Lisa at Thrive after Three, offers a fun Halloween scavenger hunt and the fun continues with Room on the Broom Bingo!

If you're looking for some dress-up ideas, why not try Meg's Pirate Party at Miss Meg's Storytime? Ahoy me hearties, here be books!

Carol Simon Levin has a great program on early Egyptian art and civilization. Mummies anyone?

We Explore programs - I'm doing these currently with preschool and toddlers, but little do they know they are merely the testing ground - these are going to become my outreach offerings and I already have a whole school of first graders signed up to come for We Explore Favorite Artists in October!
We Explore Favorite Artist Lois Ehlert


Mad Scientists Club at my library started back up again with Mad Scientists Club: Cardboard Engineering

I've also started a new We Explore series - Nature! (my colleague does science for the toddlers) We Explore Nature: Birds

Angie at Fat Girl Reading has not one science program, not two, but an ENTIRE WEEK of ScienceFest programming!

Dana at Jbrary has a plethora of games for International Game Day. It's a bonanza!

Ms. Kelly has their latest American Girl Club meeting - Kaya!

Tweenbrarian has a lunch book club with, appropriately, Lunch Lady! Pizza and justice is served!

Tweenbrarian also has some great ideas for Star Wars Read Day

What do you do when things don't turn out as you expect? Check out The Neighborhood Librarian's Family Day trials and how she coped.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Greetings from somewhere: The mystery of the gold coin by Harper Paris, illustrated by Marcos Calo

This is a new beginning chapter series from Little Simon. They've done some really popular series, especially Critter Club. I wasn't as impressed with this series.

Twins Ethan and Ella are shocked and dismayed when their parents tell them they're moving away from their hometown next week to travel the world with their mother's new job. Their archaeologist grandfather gives Ethan a gold coin and Ella a journal as goodbye presents. But right before they're about to leave, the gold coin disappears! The twins work together to solve the mystery and decide they really are excited about traveling after all.

This is the opening of the series, so it's mainly set-up of the characters and their identifying quirks. I'm guessing that future titles will feature different cities with interesting travel information, as well as the mysteries. However, I really wasn't into this as an opening. The mystery and the methods the kids use to solve it isn't bad, but the traveling plot was so completely unbelievable and unrealistic. Telling the kids a week in advance that they will be traveling the globe, being homeschooled, and who knows if they're ever coming back? In fact, I can't believe they'd be going on this trip at all. It's hard to really develop characters in a beginning chapter book, but this felt like a very random premise, trying to set apart yet another simple beginning chapter mystery series.

The black and white pen illustrations on most pages are attractive and the text is simple and in a large font, so the layout of the book is very attractive. I'm just not convinced that the plot is any good.

Verdict: If you need more beginning chapter book series and don't have to be too picky, it's fine to add this one - some kids might like the mystery/travel aspect. But if you only have the budget for a few series, I'd pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781442497184; Published 2014 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Pretty Princess Pig by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Sam Williams

This review was previously published. I have edited it.

In simple rhymes, we learn about Princess Pig who likes to dress up - and play in the dirt. She is getting ready for her big tea party and dusts, paints, cooks and decorates with obvious enjoyment. Her polite friends show up to enjoy the goodies; and despite some shocked looks, no one comments on the mess Princess Pig has made of the house - and herself!

Sam Williams, who also illustrated a previous board book with Jane Yolen, Good Night Little Bunny, shows a rotund little pig who attacks her tasks with vim and vigor and is gaily unaware of the truly spectacular mess she is creating. The cover is strongly pink with spots of glitter, but the interior has an equal amount of yellow and orange blending with the pink.

The story is light and humorous and would be enjoyed by kids who will giggle over the mess and enjoy the contrast between Princess Pig's crown and flowery dress and her natural pig behavior. The format of the book is the main problem for me. It has the padded cover sometimes seen on board books and stiffened, thick pages; however, it's not quite a board book while still being smaller than the average picture book. The final page has a die cut fold out that says "I will fall apart" to me. Our processor could reinforce the fold, but not the shaped edges.

Verdict: This is a cute if unsubstantial book. I would go for Karen Kats' Princess Baby series if you're looking for princess board books or Jane Yolen's Not all princesses dress in pink if you're looking for active princess picture books. The format on this makes it a better present for a friend or child than circulating library book.

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0833-3; Published May 2011 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates; Donated to the library's prize box

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: You can't ride a bicycle to the moon! by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Amanda Haley

I really liked the swirly blue endpapers. Ok, now that is out of the way...

The book opens with an introduction, featuring "Hey Diddle Diddle" and a discussion of how people have seen the moon through history. It talks a little about different facts - "What's the moon made of?" and "How old is the moon?" and ends with a funny poem, "Biking to the Moon". Chapter one talks about the space race and various firsts, including the first women (both Russian and American) to go to space. It ends with a poem by J. Patrick Lewis, "First Men on the Moon" and a brief section on the Apollo 13 mission. Chapter 2 talks about how spaceships are built. Chapter 3 discusses how astronauts live in space, with lots of quotes from and references to Sally Ride. The last chapter discusses the future of space tourism and then has a list of questions for kids to think about space and inventions.

The illustrations are quirky cartoons, a little in the style of Roz Chast, although kids are more likely to associate them with the art of the Magic School Bus. It's a picture book in format and length, but the pages are packed with text, illustrations, poems, and cartoons.

Verdict: This would be a fun introduction to space for younger kids, kindergarten through third grade. It does not address any of the darker aspects of space travel (the death of the animals sent to space, or the deaths of any astronauts) although it does talk about the issues of space trash several times. It could work in story time as a selective read-aloud, picking sections to talk about as well.

ISBN: 9781609054199; Published 2014 by Blue Apple; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library wishlist

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cybils Nominations!

Cybils nominations will be opening soon - on Wednesday in fact! and in case you need a little jogging of your memory, here are the titles I've been collecting all year. As always, you must double-check eligibility for yourself, this is just a list of suggestions!

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • Bugged by Sarah Albee
  • Behold the beautiful dung beetle by Cheryl Bardoe
  • How they choked by Georgia Bragg
  • Handle with care by Loree Griffin Burns
  • Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree by Jane Kohuth
  • Grizzly bears of Alaska by Debbie Miller
  • Brilliant! by Michelle Mulder
  • Plastic ahoy! by Patricia Newman
  • A baby elephant in the wild by Caitlin O'Connell
  • World War I for kids by R. Kent Rasmussen
  • Eat like a bear by April Sayre
  • About Habitats: Forests by Cathryn Sill
  • About Parrots by Cathryn Sill
  • Beneath the sun by Melissa Stewart
  • Feathers by Melissa Stewart
*Picture Books
  • Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi
  • Oliver's tree by Kit Chase
  • The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs
  • Crafty Chloe: Dress-up, Mess-up by Kelly DiPucchio
  • Some bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi
  • Henry's Map by David Elliot
  • I hatched! by Jill Esbaum
  • Love you more than anything by Anna Harber Freeman
  • Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett
  • Have you heard the nesting bird? by Rita Gray
  • Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
  • Cat Napped by Leeza Hernandez
  • Duck to the rescue by John Himmelman
  • Yellow is my color star by Judy Horacek
  • Nest by Jorey Hurley
  • Weeds find a way by Cindy Jensen-Elliott
  • Flight school by Lita Judge
  • Caterina and the lemonade stand by Erin Eitter Kono
  • Paul meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb
  • Sophie Scott goes south by Alison Lester
  • Following papa's song by Gianna Marino
  • Crocodile who didn't like water by Gemma Merino
  • You make me smile by Layn Marlow
  • A book of babies by Il Sung Na
  • Maple by Lori Nichols
  • Froodle by Antoinette Portis
  • Big bad bubble by Adam Rubin
  • Lost for words by Natalie Russell
  • Sophie sleeps over by Marisabina Russo
  • Hannah's night by Komako Sakai
  • The adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
  • Three bears in a boat by David Soman
  • Peek-a-boo Bunny by Holly Surplice
  • Green is a chile pepper by Roseanne Thong
  • Peggy by Anna Walker
  • Mama built a little nest by Jennifer Ward
  • Please bring balloons by Lindsay Ward
  • The big book of slumber by Giovanna Zoboli
*Easy Readers
  • Woodward and McTwee by Jonathan Fenske
  • Flare by Kallie George
*Early Chapters
  • The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin
  • Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
  • Space Taxi: Archie takes flight by Wendy Mass
  • Annika Riz, math whiz by Claudia Mills
  • Pigsticks and Harold and the incredible journey by Alex Milway
  • Hooey Higgins and the tremendous trousers by Steve Voake
Middle Grade Fiction
  • The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando
  • Gold medal winter by Donna Freitas
  • Cupcake cousins by Kate Hannigan
  • The summer I saved the 65 days by Michele Weber Hurwitz
  • A hundred horses by Sarah Lean
  • Saving the team by Alex Morgan
  • Nick and Tesla's Robot army rampage by Bob Plugfelder
  • Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan
*Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
  • I know, I can't believe I have no suggestions here! I have read very little in this category this past year and most of what I've purchased for the library has been sequels.
*Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
  • Comics Squad: Recess!
  • Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young
  • Cleopatra in space by Mike Maihack
  • Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson
  • Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
  • Sound of Thunder by J. Torres
*Teen Graphic Novels
  • Shadow hero by Gene Luen Yang
  • Andre the Giant by Box Brown
  • Shackleton by Nick Bertozzi
*Teen Fiction
  • I have a bad feeling about this by Jeff Strand
*Teen Nonfiction
  • Pure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell
  • The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
  • Poem-mobiles by J. Patrick Lewis

Saturday, September 27, 2014

This Week at the library; or, You blinked and missed it!

Making a dollhouse at Mad Scientists Club: Cardboard Engineering
What's going on, in my head and at the library
  • After I came back from the ALSC Institute last week, I took three days off. I cannot actually claim brilliant forethought for this, since I was originally going to continue on to visit family at home in Austin, and only ended up canceling the trip because of a mess up with the plane tickets and my family all having major life changes that meant they wouldn't actually be there. Anyways, I spent three days with a beautifully blank mind, cataloging and blogging my personal book collection and cleaning out my apartment. I finished! All 1,911 books! Woo!
  • I went back to work on Thursday and it was....busy. I planned the afternoon program and Friday morning program, removed the obscene drawing from the teen area (how did nobody was big and....whatever), checked to see if the surviving hamster was still alive (he was) tackled the stacks of new stuff on my desk, chatted with staff to find out how things went while I was gone, then Mad Scientists Club, then the grocery store to get snacks for Friday morning. Phew!
  • I was a little tense about MSC because I found out only 16 people came to Lego Club while I was gone - I have NEVER had that small a group. However, there was a scheduling snafu and the staff had to cram Lego Club into our small storytime room - I get a lot of my club attendance from people walking by and being invited in, so now I know how important that is - I had a good turnout for MSC, so it wasn't a OMG MY AFTER SCHOOL CLUBS ARE DYING WHYYYY situation.
  • I did my first We Explore Nature program Friday morning. I didn't expect a huge turnout - I'm really using this as a test ground for these programs and planning to move them to the afternoon and use them for outreach next year. 13 people came for the bulk of the program but I refuse to feel bad about it - they were an amazing audience. The three year old who knew a ridiculous amount of birds (there is nothing cuter than a three year old shouting "kamingos!") the 2 year old who had to come up and look carefully at every picture - it was awesome. Another group of about 7 people came in at the end to do the final part of the craft.
  • I made myself leave at 1, despite the mounting pile of stuff, because I am working really hard on not working extra hours. and because I worked Saturday!
  • My Saturday goal was to return all the phone calls accumulated in my absence, deal with urgent scheduling/staff issues, and get out the new books that were hoarded on my desk. HA!
  • I'm taking vacation next week, which feels weird - I almost never take more than a day here or there, but I'm going to actually take real vacation! Which I will use to clean my apartment, work on Cybils, review books....but I'm not going to check work email!

What the kids are reading
  • Nobody ever remembers who wrote the Boxcar Children
  • 2nd grader who likes princess stories but isn't quite ready for harder chapters - gave her Princess Posey

Friday, September 26, 2014

Frank! by Connah Brecon

Frank is always late and school is no exception. It's not that he doesn't want to go to school, he just can't resist helping the creatures he meets along the way. What's a guy to do when faced with a bullying ogre, charity dance-off, or runaway tree? When his class needs help though, will Frank be able to save the day?

This story is definitely quirky. Frank rescues a cat from a tree, then "the tree had become angry with Frank for climbing all over it and ran off." The final emergency involves a "giant zombie lizard king" and Frank's expert dancing skills. It's a funny, imaginative, light-hearted romp.

Brecon's art is unique and colorful. It reminds me a little of Leonie Lord's illustrations for Martin Waddell's The Great Hungry Dinosaur perhaps crossed with Sophie Blackall. It's as quirky as the story, with bright splotches of color, scribbly accents, and little touches of cartoon humor, such as the popping eyes on the pigeons. There's a slightly cock-eyed perspective to the leaning buildings, bulging hills, and bursts of clouds. The best part of the art is the many little details in the pictures including the opposing newsboys "Cranky King" vs "Reptile Rampage" and the humorous antics of the pigeons.

I think some people would like the quirky plot and wild events that Frank runs into, but most of the more subtle details of the art will be lost on a younger audience which is what I primarily have. Also, a couple things give me pause - the typeface, which has an old-time typewritten look to it, may not be the easiest thing to read aloud in storytime. The speech bubbles that include extra dialogue are brightly colored and difficult to decipher as well. The endpapers have a naturally water-damaged look to them (I'm envisioning having to write a note in the back of the book that it's NOT water-damaged, it's supposed to look like that). Finally, one of signs an onlooker at the dance-off is holding says "two left feet suck!" As someone who once got in trouble at the middle school for saying suck (It was a book title!) that gives me pause. Most of my parents probably won't even notice, but it's something a few might definitely complain about.

Verdict: I can see an audience for this and it does have a fun, quirky feeling to it, but I think it might be a better choice for a larger library than my own; my patrons aren't much interested in fresh or new art styles or picture books for older readers. I'd say it's probably an additional purchase for most collections.

ISBN: 9780762454235; Published September 30, 2014 by Running Press; Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

I've been building up a huge backlog of middle grade fiction and fantasy while I worked on other projects, but now I'm finally tackling the stack, beginning with this debut title, the first in a series, released last May.

Rye O'Chanter is an oddity in her quasi-medieval town of Village Drowning. She knows how to read, sort of, in direct opposition to Earl Longchance's orders. Her mother runs a small shop, selling magic trinkets and her father has been gone for a long time. She's not even sure where her baby sister came from. Her best friends Folly and Quinn don't fit in either, but they have their families and their friendship.

But now more exciting things than her own mysterious past are happening - the monstrous Bog Noblins are returning, the village is frightened and on the alert, and the mysterious Luck Uglies may be returning as well. Rye doesn't have time to think about her past - unless her past is part of her future as well.

Events move fast in this fantasy and monstrous creatures, terrifying people out of legends, a cruel overlord, and his complex and sometimes frightening children, pour through the story as Rye discovers the secrets her mother has been finding and that stories are more complicated than just right or wrong, black or white.

At nearly 400 pages, this is a lengthy tome and it's packed with weird words (a glossary is provided), maps, strange creatures, and a wild assortment of ideas. It's difficult to summarize because there's so much going on. It definitely draws the reader in and makes you want to know what happens next, but it's also somewhat confused and, in my opinion, could have been edited down quite a bit. I felt that Rye and especially her friends, Folly and Quinn, were set up to be important elements of the story development but there was so much going on that I never really got to know them. Some plot points wandered in and out again, like the Earl's children, and will presumably be followed up in another volume, but I would have preferred a more tightly-plotted story as a series starter.

There are some truly terrifying moments, although several instances of violence are only threatened, they're described in enough detail to move this to the upper end of middle grade in my opinion. However, some of the moralistic bits, especially the rather sententious bestowing of symbolic gifts at the end, reads much younger. The story is definitely a little different, giving a quirky, unique feel to the classic medieval adventure fantasy.

Verdict: If you have a really strong audience for fantasies, especially kids who will devour thick books and lengthy series, this would make a good addition to your fantasy selections. If, however, you just want (or can only afford) the basics, this is an additional purchase and I'd stick with the tried and true fantasy favorites.

ISBN: 9780062271501; Published April 2014 by HarperCollins; ARC provided by publisher for review

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Hush little horsie by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

This review was previously published. I have rewritten and edited it.

This is a board book edition of a picture book published in 2010. The text is a repetitive lullaby:

"Hush little horsie,
Asleep on the farm.
Your mama is near
And will keep you from harm."

Each stanza changes to a different place and rhyme, and is followed by a refrain:
"She'll watch when you play
and she'll watch when you sleep
and when you are tired
she'll watch as you sleep."

Which is, from an adult perspective, a little freaky, but of course kids won't notice that. You can easily sing the text to the tune of "Hush little baby".

Ruth Sanderson's lush paintings show gorgeous horses of different breeds in different places outdoors and in their cozy stable. The story ends showing a child clutching a stuffed horse and dreaming of horses.

Verdict: I'm not sure how successfully this would work as a board book - it would depend on the child, I think, and whether they will sit still and listen to the story, but there are lots of realistic looking horses to point out. I think it probably works better as a picture book overall.

ISBN: 9780375851391; Published 2013 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: What's new? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Marcellus Hall

Every year, I get requests from teachers for books about zoos (and circuses, but that's a different discussion). It's really hard to find factual books about zoos for younger children and I was really excited when I started seeing reviews of this title.

It starts with a brief introduction to the concept of zoos and then jumps right into a trek through history, looking at zoos across the world from ancient times to the present. Readers will learn about an Aztec zoo in the 1500s which included "poisonous snakes with bells attached to their tails" and "a staff of nurses." Then there's the revolutionary zoo design introduced by Carl Hagenbeck in 1907, the classification system of Carl Linnaeus, the journey of a giraffe across 1827 Paris, the Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata, India, that was one of the first to breed rare animals in 1875, and many more interesting facts. The book ends with a cheerful list of the many reasons people have created zoos throughout history and finishes "Whatever your reason, visit a zoo today. Listen to the lions roar!" There is a list of sources appended.

There isn't a real narrative thread to this - it's interesting little historical blips about zoos. Although in some the author touches on more sensitive issues, like mistreatment of animals or changing attitudes about zoos, it's very age-appropriate and focuses on interesting animal anecdotes.

Sometimes I enjoy Hall's illustrations, sometimes I just can't take them. I have no idea what tips me either way or why, but I these tipped me towards the "enjoy" side. The bold colors and curvy lines give a humorous touch to the anecdotes and the animals have a friendly, human look while the humans are more background, their historical clothing outshining the bland expressions on their faces. There isn't a lot of detail in the pictures, but enough to interest a child while listening to the stories. I am disappointed that the belled snakes weren't pictured though...

Verdict: If you need more zoo books for younger kids, this is a good choice and it's definitely a unique look at zoos. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545135719; Published 2014 by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order wishlist