Saturday, September 20, 2014

This Week at the library; or, Conference Time!

What's happening in my head and at the library
  • I left on Wednesday for the ALSC Institute, so I only had a few days at work! I left various people in charge of programs - the Ice Age Trail visit and Lego Club. I will post a run-down of my conference adventures tomorrow!
  • Moms with Multiples
  • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • September Outreach: Meet the Librarian (3 classes)
  • Ice Age Trail Alliance: Mammoth Hunt
  • Books 'n' Babies
  • Lego Club
  • We Explore Science: Seeds
What Kids are Reading:
  • Coming down from summer's high of Reader's Advisory is a little sad. I wish I could get more classes to visit, to booktalk, but realistically I have no time (or place) for them.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pigsticks and Harold and the incredible journey by Alex Milway

Pigsticks comes from a long line of noble and illustrious pigs. But what has he done to earn his place in the family history? Nothing....YET. After some deliberation, he decides to follow the example of his ancestor, Colonel Pigslet, and explore the world! But, unlike the Colonel, he's going to make it back alive. But exploring the world is a messy and difficult business and Pigsticks knows just what he needs - an assistant! After many trials, he decides upon Harold the hamster. Harold isn't quite sure how he became Pigsticks' assistant, but he's willing to go along with the journey as long as there's plenty of cake at the end! They travel through deep jungles, hot deserts, and climb a mountain, finally reaching the Ends of the Earth. Unfortunately, someone else got here first....quite a lot of someones...and they don't appear to be friendly...

The illustrations are gently humorous with colorful, rounded animals and broad swathes of color in the various backgrounds of their explorations - a steamy green jungle, sandy desert, etc. The illustrations range from spots between the text to full page spreads.

The book falls into that little area between easy readers and beginning chapter books. It has the larger, rectangular shape of an easy reader, but includes chapters, a smaller font, and more complex vocabulary. It's more a blended graphic novel or illustrated chapter book with some panel-like illustrations (progressive action in the illustrations) and a few speech bubbles. Think of Kate DiCamillo's Bink and Gollie series, but funnier!

Verdict: I was at first a little doubtful about this, as it seemed a little overly British for my audience, but the tongue-in-cheek humor, the cute illustrations, and friendly text - simple for beginning readers, but not too simple for those capable of picking up subtle humor - won me over. If you're looking for more beginning chapter books and/or graphic novels for younger readers, this is a must-have title!

ISBN: 9780763666156; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed via inter-library loan; Added to my library's wishlist

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman

This is one of those odd stories that, for reasons it's difficult to explain, strikes a chord with the reader. On the surface, it's not something that would work in storytime, or that I would personally even like. It's fairly text-heavy, the story is nonsensical in an almost adult way, the text has an odd cadence, but...somehow it really works for me.

Banjo is sitting down to eat his regular dinner in his regular chair at the regular time, when suddenly, something new happens! His dinner jumps right off his plate and runs out the door. As he chases down his food and furniture, we each different item has their own adventures and we learn their names. Eventually, Banjo catches up with Melvin the sausage - is it the end of Melvin? A funny surprise ending will make you giggle and promises that dinner will live to run away another day.

The text has an unique lilt to it. Once you get into the pattern, it's fun to read aloud. For example, "So that's it, the absolute truth, the complete picture--see? Here they are, the whole lot of them, not forgetting Mildred the cat and Mr. and Mrs., and Bruce, the next-door neighbor's dog--nearly did forget him, though he was chasing Mildred, actually--all racing down the road."

When I read this aloud in storytime, sometimes I do shorten it a little, especially with younger kids who get restless easily. However, I find that if I read it very fast in a rollicking voice, emphasizing the asides, the kids will stay spellbound throughout the whole story, giggling over the silly food, even if they don't completely grasp the more subtle adult humor in parts.

The mixed media illustrations feel as though they were sort of dabbed in. This is one of those books where the pictures are very much secondary to the text of the story itself. Banjo and the various dinner characters don't really stand out, but the random scattering of items across the open backgrounds of the park and streets fits the oddball nature of the story.

Verdict: I probably wouldn't have purchased this on my own, but it was a serendipitous discovery in my collection, especially when I found that it worked so well in storytime and how much I personally liked it. It appears to be out of stock, but there is still a paperback version available. Try it and see if it grabs you and your audience!

ISBN: 0763631426; Published 2006 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Going to the zoo with Lily and Milo by Pauline Oud

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

The text of this book is a simple narration of Lily and Milo's trip to the zoo, with questions to spark discussion. The page will have a description of the animal and a sound, then an opportunity to guess what they will see next.

I liked the art style; very cute and child-friendly, with bulgy animals and light colors with a kind of white wash. I like the interactive aspect of the "story" as well. The book is 8x8 and, while not exactly a board book, has thick, slick pages and is closer in length to a board book than a picture book.

However, the text and art are badly designed. The first picture asks who is hiding behind the gate. You see two giraffes peeking over it, but the answer is actually a parrot - all of which you can see is the tips of three feathers. It asks who lives in the sand and the answer is elephants (do elephants live in sand? I don't think so?). Polar bears on the icebergs, yes, but I've never seen an actual iceberg in the zoo. The giraffes live "between the tall trees" which is also kind of confusing.

Verdict: For the potential audience, it's too complicated and confusing. This might be due at least partially to poor translation, but overall the book doesn't combine art and text well.

ISBN: 9781605370934; Published 2010 by Clavis; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Whiskers, Tails and Wings: Animal folktales from Mexico by Judy Goldman, illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck

I should really stop checking out folktales, especially collections, since I have completed my reorganization of the Tales neighborhood and vowed to purchase no more fairy tales or folktales for, well, probably a couple years at least. But I just can't resist them.

This is a collection of five animal folktales from Mexico, but it's much, much more than just a folktale collection. It opens with a brief introduction to Mexico, mainly an explanation of its indigenous peoples and its history of folklore. There is also a map, showing where the five stories come from. The first story, "When Senor Grillo met Senor Puma" pits a clever grillo (cricket) against a hot-tempered Puma. The story has a full-page illustration of a puma and a cricket and the story itself is three pages long. It's followed by several pages explaining the culture of the Tarahumara, the indigenous group the folktale comes from, as well as the geography of where they live and how the folktale fits into their lives. The final pages include a glossary for the story and the nonfiction portion.

Each of the folktales follows this pattern. The stories include a Seri tale, "Mosni's Search" a creation myth about a determined turtle, and the following information includes how sea turtles are a part of Seri culture. A Huichol Tale, "Tlacuache's Tail" about the coming of fire, while the cultural information focuses on the significance of opossums and some of the rituals of the Huichol people. The Triqui Tale, "Ouch!" is probably the funniest - it's about how fleas were invented to keep people from being lazy. The following information has a lot of fascinating discussions of the importance of weaving and cloth to the Triqui culture. The last story, "Pokok up high" is a Tseltal tale, and has a familiar ring - it's about a frog who wants to fly, convinces a bird to give him a ride, but it doesn't end so well. The information about the Tseltals covers many different aspects of their culture, from their fiestas to their connection with the land.

There is a brief conclusion celebrating the importance of folktales. Further information for the book includes a detailed bibliography, web resources, multiple sources for each of the tales, and an index.

Verdict: This is an amazing resource. It has to be the best-researched folktale collection I've seen in years, not to mention the stories are retold beautifully, the art is brilliant, and it offers unique stories that are accessible (yes, weird fairy tales are fun, but they're not very easy to circulate). It would be an amazing resource for any kind of cultural of folktale study and a great selection for older kids who like folktales. Unfortunately, I just don't have an audience for it in my library - longer collections like this are almost impossible to circulate and I don't get asked for Mexican folktales at all. I'm happy that it's available in my consortium though!

ISBN: 9781580893725; Published 2013 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, September 14, 2014

RA RA READ: Girls with Powers

I started this list because the Twilight read-alikes list was getting too long. Plus, these are girls with REAL powers, not just the power to turn ancient vampires into whiny teenage boys and cause every living thing within twenty feet to experience psychic tinglies. It is, sadly, a short list and most of them are psychic.

  • Darkest Powers (series) by Kelley Armstrong
  • Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray
  • Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare
  • Daughters of the Moon (series) by Lynne Ewing
  • Wake (trilogy) by Lisa McMann
  • Touch (series) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Saturday, September 13, 2014

This week at the library; or, Programs begin in earnest

Finally finished making this and deliver it!
What's happening in my head and at the library:
  • After our little fall festival last Saturday, this is our first week back to programs. We had a slow but steady attendance and I ran a lot of errands.
  • I restarted Middle School Madness as just a drop-in in the Storyroom. A small group of middle schoolers (6) dropped in, had a snack and left. Then, later, I had a group of high schoolers (5). I'm kind of frustrated with them as they grabbed most of the candy off my desk when I was distracted (after I'd told them they could only have one piece - I purchase the candy myself), then went into the room for middle school madness even though the sign clearly said middle schoolers only, ate everything left and complained there wasn't more food, then one of them WENT INTO MY DESK DRAWERS to get more candy. I was busy and didn't have time to deal with them, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I am - the next time they do this, they're out, whether I'm busy or not. This is the younger of our two problems groups - the older one seems to have wandered away, but these guys are ready and willing to fill their spot. It's easy to fall into a "I don't want them to feel unwelcome in the library/they should be able to use the library" mindset, but forget that, because these yahoos are here, other teens aren't.
  • The struggle to redefine the teen/children's/adult spaces continues. We are really pushing the teens to not go upstairs, unless they're going to study alone, since that's now officially a quiet area. So we tell them to go downstairs to the teen area, they arrive there, and all the computers are in use by adults, and adults are sitting all over the teen seating. The teens don't really like the new area anyways, because it's too open, so they are now congregating in the actual children's area on the tables where the elementary kids usually do their homework. I put up a sign saying "welcome to the teen/children's area. Adults, please note there are more computers and quiet study areas upstairs" but it has had absolutely no effect that I can see. Most adults just walk past it without looking at it - the few who stop and read it just ignore it. I have had better success loudly welcoming adults to the children's area and asking how I can help them in the children's area. I am going to work on getting more stuff in the teen area for them to do - put up something on the wall, add a pet to the table, and possibly word the sign more strongly. I'm also hoping that eventually people will start realizing that the upstairs computers are closer to the printer. At this point, I'd consider getting rid of the computer lab (since all the kids have chromebooks through school) and having tables and seating, but I don't know where we'd put the public computers and I know that idea won't get approved.
What the kids are reading:
  • Know-it-all series - didn't own, a patron offered to donate it
  • Boxcar children
  • Eyewitness/Eyewonder books
  • Request for more book+cd bags
  • Loved Ellie McDoodle that I recommended at their last visit - took the rest of the series
  • Magic trick books
  • S.W.I.T.C.H. series (which for some reason I totally blanked out on until she showed me the one she just read!)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Huff and Puff by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Gill Guile

I never seem to be able to get enough easy readers to satisfy my patrons, especially in the summer. The books just fly off the shelves, leaving behind only the worn and ancient titles that should really be weeded and/or replaced. Most popular are the very beginning, just a few words per page, titles - which, of course, are the most difficult to find. Anyhow, I am on several publisher newsletters and will pretty much try anything new that comes out. This is a new series from the ever-growing I Can Read line.

Huff is an engine, Puff is the caboose. They work together well until one day they each decide the other train has it easier and they want to try switching. Of course, they both discover that they're better suited to their own jobs and the other train really does work hard. If you want to get really picky, you could dissect the socioeconomic implications of the cliched plot, which basically says that everyone has one specific thing they're good at and you can't deviate from that role. It's a pretty common plot in children's books and I think it stems from folktales - there are quite a few about sticking to your own role in life, not surprising since most of them sprang from feudal societies. It would have been more interesting, to me at least, if Huff and Puff had discovered that, with a little hard work, they could both enjoy doing a different job now and then and been able to switch off in the future. I mean, come on, has the train never heard of cross-training?

However, for a beginning reader the plot isn't really the point - the combination of text and art and how well it does its job of giving kids a simple plot that they can follow while still decoding the words is paramount. How well does it do this? Not very well, to be honest. The pages are full-color, with cute, rounded illustrations of the anthropomorphic trains and their cargo, a collection of brightly-colored animals. The illustrations are certainly cute, but they overshadow the words and make it difficult to pick them out from the pages. On one page the sentence is placed against a railroad tie, on another it's buried in the grass, etc. When the trains switch places, it gets even more confusing as they fill the page, bulging around the words, and making it difficult to keep track of which is Huff, which is Puff, and where they are on the train. The refrain "Click-ity clack, click-ity clack" or "Click-ity, click-ity clack" is repeated multiple times, and I can't help but wonder if there weren't better words to reinforce through repetition.

Verdict: If you are in urgent need of easy readers it's a decent filler series, especially for a library like mine where I'm having to look for easy readers to appeal to younger and younger kids, but if you're watching your budget or looking for high-quality easy readers this isn't a necessary purchase.

ISBN: 9780062305022; Published 2012 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Magic Shop: The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane, illustrated by Eric Wight

I will admit that I rather had to push myself through this book, but I think it's one of those that will definitely appeal to children, and not so much to an adult reader, which is no bad thing for a children's book.

Mike has just started fourth grade and he's already in trouble. It's not that he's a bad kid, he just can't focus or sit still in school. His parents won't let him join the soccer team because they want him to concentrate on his homework, and he has to spend half his afternoons at Nora's house. She's not bad, for a girl, but what if someone finds out? Like Jackson, who has bullied him all through school? Plus, she's gifted and he feels stupid around her.

Then they discover a magic shop. Will Mike be able to impress some kids with his magic tricks? Best of all, is there more to magic than just the tricks the owner is teaching him?

Wight's digital black and white illustrations are crisp and attractive and are really clear in illustrating the instructions for various magic tricks that are included in the book. Reading the story, it felt a little didactic and slow-paced, and I was thinking - "it's at a beginning chapter book but it's about a fourth grader so..." until I realized that it's going to appeal exactly to kids like Mike, who won't want to read a massive book, want something they can relate to, and need a fun hook.

So, it's got all of those things. It's only 142 pages long, with nice bold text in a large font and illustrations. Not daunting at all for a reluctant reader. It's going to appeal to kids who want to read stories about kids they can relate to, since it doesn't feature kids improbably taking off on their own or a stereotyped bully. Finally, it's got hooks - the magic tricks and the hints about magic being real.

Verdict: If your library is like mine, you have a lot of kids interested in magic tricks. This will meet the desires of both the kids and their parents, who want them to read chapter books. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250029140; Published 2014 by Feiwel & Friends; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Stanley's Garage by William Bee

This is the second book in a new series by William Bee, featuring Stanley the hamster.

In this title, Stanley has a garage. A succession of animal friends, in differently-colored cars, arrive for help from getting gas to an overheating radiator, to a flat tire. The color of each car is emphasized in the text. Stanley's friend Myrtle, from the first book Stanley the Builder is his last client, calling for a tow. Oily and tired, Stanley goes home for a bath and bed.

This is not, strictly speaking, a board book. It has a thick, padded cover and is a large square, a little under 9x9 inches. The pages are a little thicker than the typical picture book, but definitely not board book thickness - they're not even as thick as cardstock. However, my usual gripe with padded covers - the kids poke holes in them (and I just find them squicky) doesn't apply here as the book's cover is made in such a way that even if you try you can't poke holes in the spine (I tried) and the padding on the cover is very thin - it's really just reinforced and gives slightly under pressure, not a true padded board book at all. I would have no problem putting it either in regular picture books or board books.

William Bee's illustrations for this series have thick, bold lines and bright colors. Each book (so far) has a different general color theme. This one is green, with vivid swathes of color in appropriate places. There is a spread of tools before the title page, which are related to the book's theme. This one shows various tools useful for the featured career.

Verdict: The attractive illustrations, combined with the simple, rhythmic text, make this series the perfect choice for toddlers and also for young beginning readers. This series should have a long and popular life ahead of it and I'm looking forward to more entries - Stanley the Farmer and Stanley's Diner are coming next! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781561458042; Published 2014 by Peachtree; ARC and review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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