Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Shhh! This book is sleeping by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau

This is an odd board book. The cover shows a sleeping face, nearly lost in the blue of the book. The first spread shows a small, pink, mouse-like creature and features the book face with its eyes open. On each page, the mouse-creature asks a question - have you brushed your teeth? "Did you go pee-pee?" and the face answers "yes". The face grows sleepier as the rest of the bedtime rituals are gone through and finally you turn off the light, the white pages go dark grey, and the book sleeps.

It's an interesting concept, but I am skeptical about a small child having the ability to think abstractly and A. realize it's a face on the book and B. connect that to themselves, since presumably the aim of the book is to send the reader to sleep.

Verdict: Quirky, possibly a little too quirky. I'm trying to get my board book circulation up so I'm not getting any iffy purchases right now, just good, solid popular titles. If you're looking to expand your horizons a little though, this would be an interesting addition.

ISBN: 9780553538755; Published 2016 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hiccupotamus by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Ada Grey

Tiger Tales pretty reliably produces cute, colorful fare. Usually I pick their books to fill in gaps in the collection or for book-hungry toddlers, but every once in a while one comes along that stands up and yells "behold my cuteness!" and I do.

A little mouse gets the fun started with some squeaky sounds and then all the animals join in with taps, tweets, hoots and more. But who's the real star of the musical show? Why, it's the hiccuping hippo of course, who started everything with her hiccup bubbles!

Naughtier children will doubtless attribute the bubbles to *cough* another source, but toddlers will happily bounce along with the rhythm and giggle over the myriad of silly sounds. The vibrant, scratchy illustrations are the perfect background to this light and frothy story.

Verdict: While I usually pick up Tiger Tales when I have some spare budget, this is one that will definitely be at the top of my order list. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781589251717; Published 2015 by Tiger Tales: Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Lives of the Explorers by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt

I read this because I chose this for a book club. I chose this because I actually wanted another book. Let me explain! I really wanted to use one of Kathleen Krull's books from her new series, Women who broke the rules. They're great middle grade chapter biographies, not too long, with pizzaz and interest. Unfortunately, they're just too new - not enough libraries have them for me to get a set for book club. So I scrolled through Krull's many other titles and picked this one, to be totally honest, rather at random.

The introduction explains the varied reasons people explored the world and reminds readers that not all those explorations ended happily. Each explorer has a few pages, a map, and a caricature. The featured explorers are predominantly the familiar white males - Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Daniel Boone, Richard Byrd, August and Jacques Piccard. But the line-up does include more diverse choices; Ibn Battuta, Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Matthew Henson, Zheng Che, and Sally Ride. The brief biographies give just enough information to get a good idea of the person's character, highlights of their lives, and inspire readers to research more.

In the profile of Zheng He, "Chinese commander of seven voyages to thirty countries" we learn a little about Chinese history, the legends that formed around Zheng He, and see on a map his remarkable accomplishments. Mary Kingsley "English explorer of little-known parts of Africa" is presented in all her complex life, from her refusal to support women's right to vote to her adamant opposition to organized religion and her support for the rights of native tribes. The story of August and Jacque Piccard introduces the reader to a family of scientists and explorers and we learn how their inventions and discoveries influenced both their family and others, from Jacques Cousteau to cartoonist Herge. The book ends with a spread of "more pioneers of space exploration" included Mae Jemison, Guion Bluford, and a list of sources for further reading.

Verdict: Reluctant readers may be more willing to pick this up than a more "standard" book on exploration. Krull is witty, brief, and informative and the short chapters will allow them to pick and choose stories to read. The caricatures are very similar to the popular "who was" series and will also gain interest. On the other side of the coin, it's difficult to get kids to pick up nonfiction that looks too much like a picture book and this will need some booktalking. Still, I'm glad I chose it for my book club.

ISBN: 9780152059101; Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Sunday, July 24, 2016

RA RA READ: Middle Grade Sports in Fiction

Sports books! I am not a sports fan and really don't read this genre, but I certainly buy them for the kids. I have kids who will read only sports novels, but they are not really voracious readers so I find a few basic series is quite enough.

Authors for younger or struggling readers

  • Matt Christopher
    • Classic titles
    • Play Ball series
  • Jake Maddox
    • Multiple titles, includes sports with girls
Authors for middle grade readers
  • John Coy
  • Tim Green
  • Mike Lupica
  • W. C. Mack (Athlete vs Mathlete)
  • Dan Gutman (Baseball Card Adventures)
Sports series with girls
Sadly, a very short list
  • Alex Morgan - The Kicks
  • Belle Payton - It takes two
More Resources

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This week at the library; or, Week 6

What's happening in my head and at the library
This week coincided with Farm Technology Days in our county. Take a moment to google it and you'll see it's a HUGE deal. A lot of our staff were there (I took one look at "50,000 people" and "record heat" and volunteered to hold down the fort at the library....). I am feeling very meh about taking pictures of anything that is not my garden.
  • Monday
    • Open Garden with Jess
    • Autism Support Group
    • In which we have a long discussion about the ethics of killing bees who are by our book drop. Except they turned out to be wasps/hornets, which we all were ok with killing. Mostly. Pearl the reading dog was under the weather (probably literally - who would be a Great Pyrenees in the summer?) and so we cancelled that program for today. I got most of the program plans for this very busy week finished and we hashed out more things we need to discuss for the fall. It was a full moon.
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • We Explore Favorite Artist Denise Fleming
    • I was partly asleep for this. I admit it. I had to take my mom to the airport very early in the morning and sort of drifted through the day. We were pretty quiet after a morning rush though. I spent most of the day after my program 
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Explore Elkhorn Field Trip (3rd/4th grade)
    • Maker Workshop: Brushbots
    • This is a warning to me not to do programs I'm not fully invested in...I felt like I needed at least one more "techy" Maker Workshop and picked this because I've done it before. Well, the first thing was that the supplier I usually use for the brushbots, Maker Shed, was out. I should have cancelled the program then. Instead, I ordered them from a different site and had to limit attendance because I had fewer kits. Then I suddenly realized these kids needed batteries. I really dislike doing things that are so limited and I should have remembered that. This was very popular and I *might* do it again next year, but I will purchase more kits and be better prepared.
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • Big Nate
  • tree identification for a preschooler - Crinkleroot
  • first request for Max Crumbly - I only bought one copy to start, may need more now that it's gaining traction
  • Lawn boy by Paulsen
  • Gave someone National Geographic's I read you read - I need to buy more We Read from treasure bay
  • gymnastics, olympics - all the new stuff i bought is gone already!
  • dinosaurs
  • world war II - teen
  • 52 story treehouse
  • minecraft
  • photography
  • building
  • legos
  • easy readers/reading levels
  • My little pony

Friday, July 22, 2016

Small Readers: Noodlehead Nightmares by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss

Fly Guy fans get ready - Noodleheads have arrived!

Mac and Mac are noodleheads. Literally. In four short chapters they have some crazy dreams and nightmares and come up with their own solutions for those dreams. First, they sleep outside so they won't have to make their beds - but they have a nightmare and their legs get all tangled up! The next day, they have a contest with their friend Meatball. Whoever has the best dream gets the apple pie! But Meatball has a trick up his sleeve.... Bedtime rolls around again and the Noodleheads have a pillow fight... and lose Mac's pillow! He tries some substitutes, but just gets nightmares. Fortunately, the Noodleheads have a solution for this - and for never having to make their beds again!

Notes at the beginning of the book explain the folklore origins of the tales, which will be of interest to adult readers and teachers. Kids will just have fun laughing at the hilarious antics of the Noodleheads - and maybe get introduced to some fun folktale motifs!

Arnold's trademark bulgy eyes and cartoon characters are a great fit for the foolish stories of the Noodleheads and their nightmares. The art has a scribbly background, which reminds me of Alison Jay's cracked eggshell designs, and gives an interesting texture to the art. The story is arranged in comic panels with bold white dividing lines, large text, and speech bubbles that are easy to follow.

Verdict: Fly Guy fans will be delighted by this new title, hopefully a series, and it makes a great introduction to simpleton/noodle stories. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780832435661; Published 2016 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Master Diplexito and Mr. Scant: The Thief's Apprentice by Bryan Methods

London is agog with fear and speculation about the mysterious master thief, the Ruminating Claw. Oliver Diplexito is more interested in convincing his father he's not a coward and to take some interest in him, but when he gets a shock late one night and realizes the Claw is none other than his father's butler, Mr. Scant, he starts to take a much closer interest!

Oliver is soon caught up in Mr. Scant's mysterious world and dramatic story; he gets taken along on some nerve-wracking expeditions as an apprentice, learns about some of Mr. Scant's ingenious machines, and goes up against a dangerous organization who are the real thieves of England's treasures!

The descriptions of the various characters are vivid and the whole story has a Dickensian air. It's also a decent length, coming in at less than 300 pages. However, the story is rather rambling and confused and it's not a particularly fresh plot. Readers are unlikely to sympathize or relate to the neurotic Oliver or the eccentric Mr. Scant and the action doesn't really take off until partway through the story.

Verdict: Fans of secret societies and adventures will be better served with more popular titles like 39 Clues, Infinity Ring, or Seven Wonders. The story does have a flavor of Roald Dahl, but not enough to ride on the popularity of the new movie. Purchase only if you have truly dedicated Anglophiles and fans of Dickensian children's literature.

ISBN: 9781512405798; Published October 2016 by Carolrhoda/Lerner; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons by Belle Yang

I don't think I've ever had a patron ask for any books in Mandarin, but this looked really cute so I wanted to take a look anyways.

Each page features a simple descriptive sentence of spring with the Mandarin phrase on the opposite side. The language is lovely and includes some more difficult vocabulary, "Spring turns to summer. Watermelons grow sweet on the vine." Some things that may be unfamiliar are included; camellias, yellow watermelons, cicadas, and persimmons, a great opportunity to teach kids some slightly more difficult words.

The paintings are created in gouache. They have thick outlines and rich colors. There is enough detail to hold a reader's interest, but the pictures are blocky and large enough to be easily seen by very young children. The squirrel is in each spread, making a fun seek and find activity.

The last spread has an explanation of tonal marks and the Chinese characters repeated with their pronunciation.

Verdict: Even if you don't have an audience for board books in Mandarin, this is a delightful seasonal board book with lovely art and text. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763665975; Published 2015 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

1 Big Salad: A delicious counting book by Juana Medina

This was so adorable! And I don't even eat salad! (seriously. broccoli is my vegetable of choice)

Foods with personality aren't a particularly new idea - Freymann and Elffers have turned out quite a few vegetable personalities - but Medina brings a charm of her own to this counting book.

Each spread features both the cardinal and nominal numbers in bold type and cheery colors, as well as a label for the creatures who dance across the pages. And what creatures! Pen and ink drawings turn radicchio into lions, carrots into horses, walnuts into birds, and finally an entire bowl of delicious salad. All it needs is a little dressing from some lemon pigs and a penguin salt shaker...

Verdict: While younger children may not recognize all the vegetables and creatures, they will enjoy counting and learning the different words. Older kids may be inspired to create their own vegetable creatures - you may have trouble convincing them to eat them though! I look forward to adding this to our collection of titles used in healthy eating programs.

ISBN: 9781101999745; Published 2016 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Hungry Coyote by Cheryl Blackford, illustrated by Laurie Caple

This is a little different from the nonfiction picture books I usually get excited about and I have some concerns about the accuracy, but it would be great to spark a discussion with kids.

The story follows a male coyote through four seasons. It begins in the cold winter as the coyote hunts for food under the snow. Next comes spring and the coyote mates and has cubs, still hunting for food in the ponds and woods. In summer there is more food to be found both in the wild and in the urban areas the coyote moves through; he and his family enjoy a treat of stolen sausages. Finally, fall arrives and winter returns. A brief informational note discusses how coyotes adapt and live in both urban and rural environments.

The big draw for me is the lovely artwork. Caple's rich illustrations show the coyote's quiet integration into urban life as he slinks through the fields, across bridges, and by roads. The effortless detail not only gives an accurate picture of the coyote's behavior but also parallels it to human life, as he watches humans interact with the seasons as well. There are also different things to find in the pictures, like the vole the coyote is hunting or the soft whiteness of falling snow.

My main issue is with the text. It feels as though it is struggling to be poetic but only ends up sounded forced. "Coyote skulks until everyone leaves. He drools, darts, and snatches." or "Near the shore, water birds snooze in feathery flocks. Shaggy shadows stalk, bounce, and pounce." It's not exactly poorly written, it's more that it would make a difficult read-aloud to wiggly children because of the wordiness and while I enjoy teaching kids new words, there are too many unfamiliar adjectives to dump on them all at once. My other concern is factual - the coyote who is the main protagonist of the story is clearly male. He dens with his mate, hunts for the pups, and then takes them out to teach them to hunt. That didn't sound right to me; a quick search informed me that while male coyotes may hunt for and regurgitate food for their pups, the female doesn't allow them in the den and they do not stay together as a "family". Also, the female teaches the pups. Of course, I'm not an expert in coyote behavior and they are very adaptable, but females, not males, teaching pups to hunt and survive is fairly common in animal life and I found it exasperating that the author chose to...give the coyotes' traditional gender roles? I don't know, maybe I'm overthinking it. I would like some fact-checking and more sources listed though to justify this.

Verdict: I loved the art, not so much the text. This is a small press title and therefore more expensive, but the lack of materials on coyotes makes it a strong purchase for my library. If I used it in storytime we would probably discuss the pictures though and skip most of the text. I won't wholeheartedly recommend or not recommend this; I feel like I don't know enough about coyote behavior to accurately judge.

ISBN: 9780873519649; Published 2015 by the Minnesota Historical Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium