Monday, June 18, 2018

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson; Astro-naut/Aqua-naut by Jennifer Swanson


These two recent titles by Jennifer Swanson both deal with similar subjects - the science of space - but in different ways. Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System addresses the science of space through the lens of geology. Dr. Ehlmann is a planetary geologist. In her alter ego of Dr. E, a cartoon, faux-superhero, she takes readers through the study of geology and how it applies to space, from space rocks to weather, to following water patterns. The nonfiction sections, with photographs and more realistic information, is interspersed with short comic sections starring Dr. E and her robot Rover as they explore the universe. In addition to National Geographic's familiar layout - lots of panels with extra information, graphics, photographs, etc., there are also activities and science experiments included. This is part of the "Science Superheroes" series, which previously included Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. There is a huge amount of information packed into this book, and readers will learn about famous scientists, the parallels between outer space and earth, from volcanoes to storms, as well as the cutting-edge technology used to study space. Back matter includes a glossary, index, credits, and more resources.

The second book takes a more serious approach. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut compares the world of undersea research with outer space research, coming up with many interesting parallels. Readers will meet astronauts who study below the ocean with aquanauts, since in many ways conditions are similar to deep space. Each section connects the work done in the two different environments, for example, one section introduces the layers - first "going up" through the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, etc. and then going down through the zones, epipelagic, mesopelagic, etc. The similarities and differences in blasting off and diving are shown, and the living conditions and challenges of a space or underwater habitat. Along the way there are activities, interviews with scientists, experiments, and historical tidbits.

While the first title feels geared towards a younger audience, especially with the cutesy cartoons, it's actually quite advanced, containing fairly dense text and a lot of mathematical and scientific vocabulary. In contrast, the second title felt more mature and for an older audience, but in some ways also felt simpler and more accessible. My own preference was for the second title; I've found that most of my readers aren't really interested in "fake" superheroes and the comic portions were a little too goofy. However, readers who are interested in space science are likely to enjoy both these titles.

Verdict: Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System is an additional purchase if you have a lot of interest in geology, space, and younger readers with high reading levels. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut, with it's accessible language, wealth of photographs and information, and carefully planned layout, is a must for your science section and would make a great choice for any number of school projects as well.

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System
ISBN: 9781426327995
Astro-naut/Aqua-naut
ISBN: 9781426328688

Published January 2018 by National Geographic; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, June 17, 2018

RA RA READ: Fantasy Adventure Graphic Novels

These are read-alikes for Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet and Jeff Smith's Bone series. Graphic novels with cinematic color, action and adventure, fantasy and magic.

Long-running or Complete Series
  • Three thieves by Scott Chantler
    • The Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler is an award-winning Canadian webcomic that is published in the US by Kids Can Press. The story is set in a quasi-medieval fantasy world and features a young acrobat and sometimes thief and her companions who are on a quest to discover the secrets of her family and to find her missing brother. Along the way they run into corrupt politicians, dangerous knights, and other people with their own secrets.
  • Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa
    • The Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa is a classic trilogy featuring a strong and determined princess, dragons, music, adventure, and magic. It's recently been reprinted and a third volume added. It's more in the fairy tale vein, but classic fantasy that kids, both boys and girls, will enjoy.
  • Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
    • Kazu Kibuishi's popular Amulet series begins with a pair of siblings entering a strange, fantastical world and gets more serious as the series continues with magic, prophecies, wars, etc. Kids love the combination of magic and adventure and the art is cinematic and stunning.
  • Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko
    • The Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko are, I think, originally a French comic series. They introduce a group of friends who travel to a magical world that turns out to be more frightening than fantastic. They are a little harder sell because they are in a picture book format, but once you get kids into them they're fans.
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
    • Jeff Smith's classic series Bone has been around for a long time and could be said to have catapulted the graphic novel format for middle grade readers to popularity. The original graphic novel series consists of 9 titles. There are also several companion volumes and an illustrated prose series called Quest for the Spark. Bone is basically the story of a collection of animated cartoon bone characters that go on a journey. Along the way they encounter various friends and enemies.
New Series
  • Rapunzel's Revenge; Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
    • These are roughly based on fairy tale characters, but take them to a whole new dimension. They are set in the wild west but include Rapunzel using her hair as a lasso, dwarves, monsters, giants (he is Jack the Giant Killer) and a little bit of romance.
  • The city on the other side by Mairghread Scott
  • Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner
Science Fiction that's closely related to fantasy adventure


Saturday, June 16, 2018

This week at the library; or, First week of summer reading

Happening this week
The animal shelter did show up for Paws to Read with a very cute puppy and the kids were ecstatic. I found some issues with my schedule - I hadn't accounted for the unfortunate injuries two of my three aides are suffering! It was very, very busy.

My first Library on the Go of the summer went great - Headstart was very welcoming and my summer associate translated my bookmark into Spanish! It was great to be able to explain the program to everyone! Terri's first summer program, We Explore Outdoors, was very popular.

More schedule issues, but all was resolved and I redid the rest of the June schedule. Our core group of anime fans showed up and (reluctantly) signed up for summer reading. My summer associate got their first experience with anime!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron

It's hard to explain the difference I see between the US and UK imprints of Scholastic's graphic novel publications. David Fickling Books has several titles that have been popular in our library and they have nothing inappropriate in them, they just feel like they have a little bit more of an "edge" as it were.

Anyways, this latest title doesn't really break any new ground but it caught my interest nonetheless. Brothers Alex and Freddy are your typical, squabbling kids. Except they're also robots. They're living their life, arguing over video games, trying to get to school on time, but unbeknownst to them there are things going on in the background. Their mom is dealing with government officials who are skeptical of her work, trying to show the value of her cybernetics while also protecting the robots she's come to think of as her children. And then things start going wrong...

Throw in an existential penguin robot, some high-stakes shenanigans, and some dark dreams, and this is a fast-paced, superhero adventure with a twist. It's funny but also thoughtful, reflecting on what it means to be alive and a family. Colorful art and a futuristic, scifi world add to the intrigue. All of the characters, including Alex and Freddy's parents, display a wide range of diversity, as well as several characters in hijabs.

Verdict: Sure to intrigue HiLo fans, this is a must-have for your graphic novel collection.

ISBN: 978133818959; This edition published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The last firehawk: The ember stone by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Jeremy Norton

There's a limited number of fantasy books for beginning chapter readers. Mostly they tend to involve fairies and lots of sparkly glitter. Epic fantasy, not so much. However, Scholastic's Branches imprint was extremely successful with their Dragon Masters series by Tracey West (I don't know about your library, but I had to buy multiple copies and referee fights over the remaining titles!) and apparently decided to branch out into an animal fantasy, a la Warriors, in this latest series The Last Firehawk.

The story begins with an introduction: The fantasy is set in the land of Perodia, where the Owls of Valor fight against the evil vulture, Thorn, who is using the Shadow to destroy the land. Tag, a young owl who is smaller than the others, tries hard to live up to his dream of being an Owl of Valor. Appropriately, a classic fantasy map is also included.

Tag and his friend Skyla, a squirrel, rescue a mysterious egg from the evil tiger-bats, servants of Thorn. When the egg hatches, they discover it contains a firehawk, long thought to be extinct. Once upon a time, the firehawks had magic that could defeat Thorn and his Shadow, but their magic was contained in a gem which has since disappeared. Tag, Skyla, and the firehawk, named Blaze, set out on a quest to find the magical jewel.

Digital black and white illustrations are on every page. Most of the animals look "normal", excepting the weird tiger-bats, but the owls wear armor, as does Skyla at times. Some of the art is blurred and the faces a little distorted. This is very classic animal fantasy; owls and squirrels are "good", vultures and bats are "bad". There is a magical map, legends, and a dangerous quest for a magical artifact. The hero (male of course) is the smallest and yearns to be part of a group of "knights" but ends up proving himself in a different way. However, just because it may seem old hat to a regular fantasy reader doesn't mean young readers new to the genre won't enjoy it. The story moves quickly and is written smoothly and briskly, with just enough peril to keep the story interesting. There are gentle lessons about working with your strengths, accepting the help of friends, and trying even when things seem hopeless.

Verdict: I think the art does the story a disservice; I don't expect it will be as popular as Dragon Masters because of the lack of art and human characters to relate to. However, it was a good story; even I want to find out what happens next! Recommended to add to your Branches collection.

ISBN: 9781338122138; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal

I picked this up for the library because the bright cover was attractive and was delighted to discover the interior is equally whimsical.

Each spread shows two improbably colored animals and poses the question: what would happen if they were mixed? The following spread shows the result. A giant, vivid blue whale plummets through the sky, landing on a startled yellow lion and creating… a rather glum-looking “green whion.” The mixes get more and more weird, a “turquoise rhortoise,” a “chartreuse kangamoose,” and my favorite, a “violet brizzly.” The third to the last spread shows a swirling ring of mixed and unmixed animals which combine to form a marvelous creature on the second to last spread. It’s unnamed, but has blue wings, a yellow trunk, green elephant legs, stripy red body, and so on. The final spread shows spots demonstrating the different color combinations, with a red monkey juggling a few extra balls.

The vivid colors add excitement and interest to the quirky book. While the combinations are too advanced for most toddlers, they can still enjoy the combinations and colors and will be delighted with the wacky animals that are created.

Verdict: A bright new entry in the world of board books, sure to fly off your shelves and delight little ones. Recommended.
ISBN: 9781499805352; Published 2018 by little bee books; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Snail Mail by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Julia Patton

A long time ago, (well, not that long, but probably before you can remember!) people didn’t send emails and texts - they sent letters through snail mail.

Berger imagines a fanciful landscape with four determined snails and a very special letter. A dark-skinned girl in Santa Monica writes a special love letter “It was a card made with her own hands, written in her own handwriting, and sealed with her own kiss. It even smelled a little bit like her.” The letter is sent to a boy across the country in New York and the snails set out on their journey. They see marvelous sites like Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, sail across the fields with birds, and finally deliver the letter. “When the snails saw the Boy’s face as he opened the letter, they knew their journey was worth it.”

Patton’s soft colors show a sun-washed landscape and four unique snails, each with their own personality. Postcards, collage elements, and sketched in details pop against the water-washed background.

I like to write letters myself and it’s certainly a fun thing to introduce kids to. Although the book was sweet though, I didn’t care for the illustrations, which had a very indistinct, swashy look, as though they’d had water dumped over them. The text is a little long and complex for the average storytime as well.

Verdict: An additional choice if you have teachers who want to encourage letter-writing; most readers will be more interested in the workings of the real-life post office. However, it’s a sweet story and if you have a large collection or want to expand your books on postal services it could make a nice addition.

ISBN: 9780762462513; Published 2018 by Running Press; Review copy provided by the publisher

Monday, June 11, 2018

Split history of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Steven Otfinoski

As I continue updating the 900s, I’m constantly looking for additional materials on some of the most popular historical events like World War II. It can be tricky to find materials that are well-researched and written, cover the basic information (which many kids don’t know) but also offer additional perspectives, stepping outside the traditional black and white presentation.

I was very interested to see a new series from Capstone that seems to promise this in its unique presentation. “Perspectives Flip Books” include the same major historical event from two different perspectives. This one covers the attack of Pearl Harbor from the American and Japanese perspectives. One side of the book covers one perspective, flip it over and read about the same event from a different perspective. This includes a blow-by-blow account of the attack with eyewitness quotes and inset information on people like Doris Miller, an African-American hero who was denied recognition due to his color or Japanese ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura who tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate peace.

Both stories share a timeline, further reading, and glossary, but have their own individual index.

While brief, each story lasting about 30 pages, they do a good job of conveying the basic events as well as exploring some of the different perspectives. Otfinoski touches on some of the reasons behind the war, mistakes made by both sides in the attack, and overtures of peace after the war.

Verdict: I’d like to see more titles from this series to make a really informed decision, but I think this is what I’ve been looking for and I plan to purchase the series to fill out and diversify my 900s. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780756556914; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 9, 2018

This week at the library; or, It's not quite so hot

3rd graders doing progressive drawing
What's happening
I had to make a last-minute change on Wednesday. There was thunder, the third-graders couldn't walk over, so instead of the big art field trip I had planned, my colleague and I hauled baskets and baskets of books over to the school. Of course, it only rained while they were being carried out to our cars! I did a quick spiel for summer reading with the kids then those with library cards checked out regular library books and those without got Library on the Go books. We did check out about 100 books, give or take, but I still lament my lost art field trip.... It did work out on Thursday though!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella

Published simultaneously with The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome, this time travelers' handbook takes readers back to the American Revolution. Written like a guidebook, this includes starred reviews for the accommodations (including prison ships and Valley Forge), people to meet, and landmarks to see. There are also frequent interjections from the indentured servants, I mean authors, and Finn Greenquil, futuristic CEO and dictator of Time Corp.

The narrative is a pretty standard story of the American Revolution, including Paul Revere's ride, George Washington's difficulties during the war, and the Continental Congress. It does have some additional notes regarding slavery and the Founding Fathers, and famous people do include some African-Americans. There is also reference to some of the African-Americans who fought on both sides, trying to find the freedom that the new country denied them.

This is light and amusing, a good introduction for readers who aren't interested in history, or even those who are. I did feel that women were largely overlooked, several pivotal figures being left out. It's also hard to swallow the "humor" of Finn Greenquill who supposedly owns and oppresses the US while reading about the colonists who fought and died for freedom.

Verdict: While I still see a lot of issues with this, I admit that I liked the series enough to read a second title and will probably purchase these. Fans of I Survived, Sarah Albee, and Nathan Hale are sure to enjoy this latest adventure and humor-packed incursion into history.

ISBN: 9781101998113; Published 2018 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortium