Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bloom by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by David Small

Once upon a time, in a fabulous glass kingdom, there lives a fairy. But she's not an ordinary fairy, she's got big boots and messy hands and is awfully noisy. So the king and all the people ask her to please go away. And she does. But without the fairy, the kingdom begins to fall into disrepair and the most powerful people in the land set out to find the magical being of their legends. One by one they fail, until they send perfectly ordinary Genevieve, cleaner of the queen's silver spoon. Can an ordinary girl succeed where all others have failed?

David Small's illustration style, all messy lines and splashes of color, is perfect for the messy, splashy world of the fairy Bloom where dirty is never bad and nothing is perfect.

I skimmed through this once and thought "too long, to didactic, meh" but then I read it again. And again. And the more I read it, the more I liked it.

Bloom celebrates the power of making, doing, and getting your hands dirty. In Bloom's world there is no such thing as an ordinary girl and hard work and willingness to try, fail, and try again is better than any magical power.

Verdict: This feels like it should be very didactic, a book about the power within us all, etc. etc. and yet....Cronin and Small are such experienced creators that together they have made something wonderful and inspirational, a book that will encourage readers to get out and get dirty, try new things, and never let anyone tell them they're "just" anything. This is too long for a storytime, but it would make a great read-aloud for a class or one-on-one with a child.

ISBN: 9781442406209; Published 2016 by Atheneum; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Glow by W. H. Beck

This is a gorgeous book. I've been looking at several books about nocturnal and bioluminescent animals and this is exactly what I've been looking for.

The deep black pages are illuminated by glowing animals and bright, white text. After a few simple sentences of introduction, explaining bioluminescence, each page features a single sentence explaining why animals glow - to hide, to find food, to attract a mate. Smaller type identifies the animals and offers a fact about each one. Back matter explains the difficulty of photographing bioluminescent creatures, especially those deep in the ocean, and offers thumbnail sketches of each animal along with their common and scientific name, size, and habitat. There is also a brief bibliography.

I did feel that some of the larger sentences were pushing or repeating the different functions somewhat - there were multiple pictures featuring animals hunting with different words including hunt, trick, and invite although really they're all the same thing. However, this is a minor quibble - this is a great book to introduce kids of many ages to the fascinating world of bioluminescent animals and get them interested in learning more about these strange, wonderful creatures.

Verdict: Some of the pictures are a little creepy, so I would be careful about using this in storytime if you have sensitive toddlers or preschoolers (or parents!) but it's a perfect choice for an outreach storytime with preschool or kindergarten, especially if you can tie it in with some glow in the dark activities!

ISBN: 9780544416666; Published 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, June 26, 2016

RA, RA, Read: Rick Riordan

This week I'm revisiting Rick Riordan's series and read-alikes

An author with enduring popularity for both tweens and teens, Riordan continues to turn out new series and additions to his original series. Every summer we get renewed interest in his books and I have to buy additional copies! Here's how the series work:
  • There are 5 books each in the first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the following series, Heroes of Olympus.
  • There are 3 books in the Kane Chronicles, based on Egyptian mythology and featuring younger characters.
  • Two new series, Magnus Chase and Trials of Apollo, are currently being written. Both are directed to a more teen audience; Magnus features Scandinavian mythology and Apollo features the god as a human teen.
  • There are a number of companion volumes - collections of short stories, guides to mythology, etc. and some titles have been adapted to graphic novels. There are also two movies, which generally met with poor reviews but kids are quite enthusiastic about them.
Riordan draws kids in with an emphasis on Greek mythology reinterpreted with lots of fantasy, adventure, and strong characters.

Kane Chronicles is Riordan's second series, based on Egyptian mythology. There are currently three titles in this series and the first has been adapted to a graphic novel. These aren't quite as popular as Percy Jackson - they're longer, but have slightly younger characters - but have the same mix of mythology-based fantasy, adventure, and humor.

More Mythological Fantasy

  • Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
    • Indian mythology - more violent than Percy Jackson and includes demons, which makes some parents uncomfortable. First in a series.
  • Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong
    • Norse mythology. First in a series.
  • Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    • Celtic mythology. This is the first book in an older series, a classic, but the new editions I've bought have been circulating very well.
  • Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu
    • Greek mythology, but a heavier emphasis on fantasy than the mythic aspects.
  • Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
    • Egyptian magic and myth. Theodosia is a snarky young Victorian girl who finds she can use ancient Egyptian magic.
  • Flame of Olympus by Kate O'Hearn
    • Greek/Roman mythology. First in a series.
  • Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
    • The first book is technically Over Sea, Under Stone but it's a more old-fashioned fantasy quest. You can start with Dark is Rising. Tell kids to ignore the awful movie; this series brings together aspects of Celtic and Arthurian legend with some truly chilling moments and lovely language.
Mythological Titles for Further Research

  • Anubis Speaks; Hades Speaks; Thor Speaks by Vicky Alvear Schecter
    • Funny and informative, told in first-person by the god and discussing culture, religion, and mythology
  • Olympians by George O'Connor
    • Series of graphic novels; each features a different Greek god. O'Connor does an excellent job of retaining the sense of the myth while giving readers points to think about and not emphasizing the more inappropriate aspects.

More Fantasy Adventure Titles (featuring contemporary protagonists)

  • Revenge of the Shadow King by Derek Benz
    • Grey Griffins trilogy. Monster-fighting.
  • Lightning Catcher by Anne Cameron
    • More a Harry Potter read-alike; a group of children discover the ability to control the weather. First in a series.
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
    • Yes, the author of Hunger Games. This is her series for younger readers. Gregory travels underground to save his sister and encounters a strange and sometimes frightening world.
  • Ingo by Helen Dunmore
    • Harry Potter with Mermaids. First in a series.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
    • This is a longer, more dense series. It features book characters and worlds come to life.
  • Secret of the sirens by Julia Golding
    • The Companions' Quartet is a gentler read, featuring protectors of magical/mythical creatures.
  • Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis
    • The Seven Wonders series. A bit like a cross between 39 Clues and Percy Jackson.
  • Keeper of the lost cities by Shannon Messenger
    • This massive series is a bit of a hard sell, but my high-level readers are crazy about it. The protagonists find themselves in an adventure that involves protecting lost cities (Atlantis, Shangri-La, etc.)
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
    • This series is of a fairly hefty size, but is a quick read. It features a reservation for magical creatures and keepers protecting them.
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer
    • There is some Celtic mythology and a lot of humor in this duo of books about a girl whose parents are ghosts and who goes on a quest.
  • City of Fire by Laurence Yep
    • This trilogy features various aspects of Asian and Hawai'ian mythology. If I remember correctly, it's been a while since I read it! Very exciting.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This week at the library; or, Week 2

What's going on, in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Read with Pearl
    • Autism Support Group
    • How did I ever manage without an assistant? We had a long staff meeting and she met with and trained my volunteer, put together the publicity for summer school, and covered the desk, among other things. I managed to write a lot of supervisor-ey emails, planned most of Friday's field trip, washed out the sponges I need to cut up for Wednesday's program, refilled the summer reading materials, wrote up the copious minutes of the staff meeting, cleaned a few stacks off my desk, and covered the desk in the evening. The copier did not cooperate with the rest of my to do list.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Storywagon: Chris Fascione
    • Busy. Lovely weather outside, lots of people inside.
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Messy Art Club: The Big Splat
    • I went to Walmart to pick up some things, then tried to get the burgeoning mess in my office and workspace under control. Between summer reading, a massive donation of Legos, and half-built furniture everywhere, it's going as well as can be expected. My teen aides had a ton of fun supervising splatter paint and we got a lot of gorgeous pics up on the windows. 
  • Friday
  • This week has been really overwhelming. Is the rest of summer going to be like this? I hope not! I am going to sleep for the next two days.
Happy Things; or, I haven't decided what to call this section
  • One of the families at my maker workshop last Friday told me that the kids had gotten super into sewing and have been making fun creatures all weekend! I brought them some of my mini buttons from home to make eyes.
  • Pudgy, bare little toddler feet
  • Colorful sidewalk from splatter paint.
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • Blood of Olympus - several requests
  • Picture books with math - neighborhoods to the rescue!
  • Fukufuku kitten
  • Lego Ninjago
  • Island by Korman - can't find Shipwreck
  • Mermaids - fantasy books. Dissuaded a 7 year old from checking out Fables and found her some better books!
  • Found Shipwreck! It was on my own display.
  • Scary tales and Dino-Mike from my school visits
  • I Survived

Friday, June 24, 2016

Small Readers: Ellis Island by Elizabeth Carney

I'm a bit of two minds about National Geographic's historical and biographical easy readers. On the one hand, some of them have been really excellent like Rosa Parks. On the other hand, I still find it difficult to find readers for these more complex nonfiction titles and am skeptical about many of them having an audience that will understand the context.

This is a level 3 National Geographic Kids easy reader, so it's fairly difficult. They recommend them for "fluent" readers. The book is 48 pages long and has chunky paragraphs of text on each page, as well as black and white photos. The author takes the reader through the reasons people came to America, how they were processed through Ellis Island, and what happened to many immigrants afterwards. It also talks about famous immigrants and how Ellis Island became a museum. There are many quick facts mixed into the book, a quiz at the back, picture glossary, and index.

I'm torn about this one and I'm not sure I should have bought it. I like having more diversity in subject and National Geographic does a good job with these, but I am really doubtful that it will find an audience.

Verdict: I'll have to see if it actually checks out.

ISBN: 9781426323423; Published 2016 by National Geographic Kids; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Brixton Brothers: The case of the case of mistaken identity by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

Digging through the archives...

I am in love and laughing hysterically.

Some authors switch to new genres or reading levels and you wonder why. Why didn't they stick to what they knew best? But some authors are amazing Renaissance people of writing and can do everything. Authors like Mac Barnett, who has proven total mastery of the picture book in Billy Twitters and Guess Again! and now has taken hold of the middle grade mystery, kicked it across the room, grabbed it in a stranglehold, and forced it to release its secrets.

Steve Brixton idolizes his favorite mystery heroes, the Brixton Brothers. He hopes someday to be a detective just like them. But when a school assignment goes horribly wrong, Steve discovers that maybe being a detective isn't as easy as it looks. The entire book is a fascinating and hilarious spoof of the Hardy Boys, of course, but it also incorporates jokes on ALA READ posters, how-to books, and more!

Action, adventure, and constant hilarity along with Mac Barnett's trademark insane humor are perfectly matched to Adam Rex's slyly wicked illustrations. I nearly laughed myself sick when I saw the endpapers.

I am off to laugh some more and complete my New Year's Eve ritual of re-reading all the original Hardy Boys (and maybe parachute into Argentina, because I am a librarian and you know us - tougher than the FBI and far more impressive than the CIA)

I can't wait to get this book back to my library (it's another one I sneaked off the new shelf) and wave it in the faces of jaded reluctant readers.

Verdict: Recommended. So very recommended.

Revisited: While these did not take off as vigorously as I could have hoped, they are a strong staple of the mystery genre and an easy recommend to kids looking for a fun and mysterious read. Regularly read and recommended and still in print.

ISBN: 9781416978152; Published October 2009 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Animal Babies by Julia Groves

Each of these books is a collection of colorful prints, featuring pairs of animals. Animal babies in the meadow! includes a hare and leverets, butterfly and caterpillars, horse and foal, sheep and lambs, spider and spiderlings, goose and goslings.

Animal babies on the mountain! includes alpaca and cria, lynx and kittens, eagle and eaglets, panda and cub, goat and kids, wolf and cubs. Animal babies in the forest! pairs deer and fawn, raccoon and kits, woodpecker and chicks, orangutan and infant, snake and neonates, owl and owlets. The last title in this quartet, Animal babies in the river! includes swan and cygnets, crocodile and hatchlings, otter and pups, frog and tadpoles, salmon and fry, duck and ducklings.

Each spread contrasts an adult animal on the left with its baby on the right. The text is limited to one word titles for each illustration. Most of the baby names are very specific and accurate - leveret, cria, kit, etc. However, a few are very odd choices. While a baby snake can be called a neonate, it's not a word I've ever heard commonly used. The text is the same font as on the covers, a looping modified cursive. Each illustration is a stamped print on a bold colored background. Detail varies greatly in the stamped print; Some of my favorites were the duck, frog, salmon, and raccoon kits. The goat kids had some excellent detail as well. However, some of the parent animals, especially the deer, horse, and swan, felt smeared and did not have enough detail for easy identification.

Verdict: Although this didn't strike me as a must-have, mainstream board book series, the pictures are overall attractive and some parents and kids will enjoy the extra vocabulary words. A fun additional purchase.

Published 2016 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Animal babies in the meadow
ISBN: 9781846438790

Animal babies on the mountain
ISBN: 9781846438813

Animal babies in the forest
ISBN: 9781846438783

Animal babies in the river
ISBN: 9781846438806

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis

I am really getting into Jarvis' books, as are my colleagues! This one everyone is waiting for their turn to read it to their kids...

Alan, a handsome blue and green alligator, is proudly carrying on his family legacy of being scary. And, of course, the scariest thing about him is his teeth - large, white, and razor-sharp.

Also *ahem* false. WHAT? Yep. Nobody knows Alan's secret, that every night he puts away his teeth, whispering "Thweet dweams, my thcary thnappers." But one day, Barry the beaver makes an interesting discovery...and suddenly Alan isn't so scary anymore. Alan is devastated until he and all the small animals come to a compromise - and Alan learns that there's a time to be scary and a time to be useful!

The pictures are delightfully creepy and silly, with crazy colors, swathes of vibrant paint, and, of course, Alan's brilliant teeth. Jarvis' art has a simple, scribbly quality that nevertheless conveys plenty of broad humor and emotions. Kids will giggle their way through this story and then possibly try their hand at their own silly animal art, from alligator to hat-wearing blue beavers.

Verdict: If you must have a lesson with your picture books, this is a great one for being considerate of others and learning about being appropriate. Otherwise, you can just laugh yourself silly through the book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680203; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Atlas by James Buckley Jr., maps by Aaron Meshon

I'm generally wary of oversize books but this is a really delightful and unique look at biomes that kids will pore over for a long time.

From the beginning, it is explained that this is not your average atlas. Instead of dividing the continents into countries, they are separated into biomes. The introduction also explains the different types of biomes, the travel guides (animals from each continent) and the special information sections - "Surprisingly human" which talks about how animal behavior and "Roar" which addresses ecological concerns.

Asia includes the most variety; rainforest, alpine, desert, grasslands, temperate forest, taiga, and tundra. Each oversized spread talks about unique elements of the biome and features a selection of animals from the area. The continent's chapter ends with a full spread profiling a well-known animal that symbolizes the entire continent, a Sumatran tiger for Asia. Familiar and strange animals are included; African biomes cover dung beetles, lizards, gorillas, and features the Nile crocodile. Europe acknowledges that many people don't think of it as an area for wildlife, but shows that there are still areas with a lot of wildlife, as well as those that have adapted to living with people. Its featured animal is an Old World swallowtail. North America has the most familiar animals, but depending on where readers live they will find something new; especially in the tropical rainforest of Central America. North America's featured animal is a bald eagle. South America is fascinating; it's easy to forget this area is more than rainforest and the book covers the desert, alpine, and grasslands as well and features an anaconda. Of course Australia is always interesting, and, not surprisingly, features a kangaroo. Antarctica has a short section, leaving space for one last biome - marine - which covers both major oceans.

There is a glossary, index, and photo credits included. Meshon's fun cartoons add interest to the photographs and information included and may inspire readers to create their own biome maps. The over-sized book is 16x14 inches but only 96 pages so while it's large, it's not massive.

Verdict: A great addition to your animal section, whether kids gather round it in the library or haul it home. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781618931658; Published May 2016 by Animal Planet; Review copy provided by the publisher

Sunday, June 19, 2016

RA RA Read: Is there a book about...

I have mixed feelings about bibliotherapy. On the one hand, picture books on difficult topics can give parents a helping hand in dealing with said topics. On the other, I am personally skeptical of them really have an effect on the kids themselves. Be that as it may, I do get asked a lot for books on specific "issues" and this is the list I have so far. This is very brief and I have a lot of titles to add!

Bedtime Issues
  • Your own big bed by Rita Bergstein
    • Moving from a crib to a regular bed
  • Back to bed, Ed! By Sebastien Braun
    • Staying in bed
  • Llama Llama red pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • I don’t want to go to bed by Tony Ross
  • Jake stays awake by Michael Wright
Being Sick
  • Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker
  • Llama Llama home with mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Bear feels sick by Karma Wilson
Dealing with Emotions
  • When Sophie gets angry by Molly Bang
  • Llama llama mad at mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Monsters eat whiny children by Bruce Kaplan
  • Taming of Lola by Ellen Weiss
Family situations (adoption, fostering, etc.)
  • Adoption
    • Orange Peel’s Pocket by Rose Lewis
    • Best family in the world by Susana Lopez
  • Biracial
    • Spork by Kyo Maclear
  • New Baby/Sibling Rivalry
    • Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall
Grief and Death
  • Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castelluci
    • Death of a grandparent
  • City dog, country frog by Mo Willems
    • Death of an animal/cycle of life
Healthy Eating (Picky Eaters)
  • Monsters don’t eat broccoli by Barbara Hicks (out of print)
  • Bread and jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
  • Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
Other Issues and Subjects
  • Allergies and food issues
    • Peanut-free cafĂ© by Gloria Koster
    • Jake goes peanuts by Michael Wright
  • Vision
    • Pirate of kindergarten by George Lyon
  • Biting
    • No more biting for Billy Goat by Bernadette Ford
    • Teeth are not for biting by Elizabeth Verdick
Potty training
  • Dinosaur vs. the potty by Bob Shea
Separation Anxiety
  • Llama Llama misses mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney
  • No more blanket for Lambkin by Bernette Ford
  • I want my pacifier by Tony Ross
  • No babysitters allowed by Amber Stewart
Sharing and Playing Together
  • I’m the best by Lucy Cousins
  • Llama Llama time to share by Anna Dewdney
  • Albert Whitman
  • Free Spirit Press
  • Magination Press