Sunday, November 23, 2014

RA RA READ: Teen spies, saving the world, discovering buried treasure, and other awesome adventures

The title pretty much says it all.
  • The Squad (series) by Jennifer Barnes
    • Gallagher Girls knock-off - cheerleaders are secretly spies
  • Heist Society (series) by Ally Carter
    • Kat has pulled of the biggest heist ever - stealing a new life.
  • Gallagher Girls (series) by Ally Carter
    • Cammie Morgan attends a very unusual boarding school where she's taking some very eclectic extracurricular activities! But when she meets a "normal" boy from the "normal" world, she starts to reconsider her whole life.
  • Double eagle by Sneed Collard
    • Buried treasure!
  • Jimmy Coates (series) by Joe Craig
    •  Jimmy Coates was living an ordinary life....until the day strange men began pursuing him and he discovered his strange talents. Now he's on the run and trying to survive.
  • Little brother by Cory Doctorow
    • A teenage hacker takes on a terrorist-inspired police state. 
  • A Girl named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
    • While journeying to Zimbabwe, Nhamo struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.
  • Silverfin (series) by Charles Higson
    • A teen James Bond
  • Alex Rider (series) by Anthony Horowitz
    • Ultimate teen spy series
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
    • Matt Cruse has the life he has always dreamed of as a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury passenger airship. Then one night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies.
  • Hatchet (series) by Gary Paulsen
    • Classic wilderness survival stories
  • Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor
    • While working as summer employees in a local pizza parlor, three teenagers are recruited by an underground organization of monster hunters. 
  • H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden
    • A group of brilliant and eccentric kids find themselves suddenly taken to H.I.V.E. - The Higher Institute of Villainous Learning.
  • Alfred Kropp (series) by Rick Yancey
    • Alfred Kropp is just trying to pass his classes and make it through high school when he discovers an amazing artifact and suddenly finds himself trapped in a dangerous adventure 
  • Dragonback Adventures (series) by Timothy Zahn
    • Jack is a thief-in-training, traveling through space with his Uncle Virge, expert con, when he meets an abandoned warrior, Draycos, and a new life of adventure, courage, and danger begins.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

This week at the library; or, My extra week!

I hate taking my picture, but I
needed it for the Paws to Read
staff picks display
What's Happening: In my head and at the library
  • Somehow I thought this week was Thanksgiving. It was nice to discover there was an extra week in here, because I had a ton of work to do!
What the kids are reading:
  • Beginning chapters for a Captain Awesome fan - I gave them Hooey Higgins, Jo Schmo, and Down Girl and Sit.
  • The dreaded 1000 lexiles strike again - and half of what I looked at was checked out. They went with Blizzard of Glass (which the mom said sounded like an I Survived book and I was like Yes!) and Catherine Called Birdy.
  • And again - went with Savvy and Phantom Tollbooth this time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Little Rabbit; The Little Lamb; The Little Duck by Phoebe and Judy Dunn

 There are the classics that you know why they're classics, be it clever marketing, perfect grasp of the audience, sheer literary and artistic merit, etc. Then there are the books you remember from your childhood; they may be utterly weird and completely outdated, but they are a part of you. Then there are the books that fall somewhere in between. The ones that you loved as a child, that have some outdated aspects to them, but somehow hang on, year after year after year.

Phoebe and Judy Dunn's photographed stories of farm animals fall into this last category. When I first realized they were still in print, I was thrilled and decided to treat myself (and my library) to a collection. To my delighted surprise, it became one of our most popular titles.

My personal copies from my childhood have long disappeared, but I found the originals were easy to replace and just as lovable as ever. In The Little Rabbit, Sarah finds a white baby bunny in her Easter basket. Sarah is an adorable girl with freckles and a gap-toothed grin, just as sweet as her fluffy new pet, Buttercup. The simple story talks about Buttercup growing up and their little adventures, including information on pet care in a natural and interesting way. Buttercup meets Sarah's friends, gets lost, and goes on picnics. Eventually, she gets big enough to have babies of her own (no male bunny is pictured or mentioned though) and she has seven babies who get into lots of trouble! Finally, it's just Sarah and Buttercup again, the way they like it.

The Little Lamb features Emmy, a pig-tailed little girl in sturdy jeans and sweater, who adopts an orphaned lamb, Timothy. He grows fast as she cares for him and introduces him to other animals and places on the farm. But eventually Timothy gets too big - and causes too much trouble - and goes back to the farm, where he happily joins in with the other half-grown lambs.

The Little Duck, Henry, is found by an unnamed boy as an egg by the pond. This book follows most closely the duck's life cycle from hatching to changing from a fluffy chick to a beautiful white duck. Eventually, he wants more than his little blue pool and finds his way back to the pond and a beautiful girl duck.

Verdict: There are plenty of farm animal books out there, but these photographs just seem to really strike a chord with parents and children alike. I recommend taking a look to see what's currently in print and trying out a few, be they paperback, prebound, or board books.

These are reprinted so constantly that I'm not going to list a specific ISBN. Most of them are still in print, either in paperback or prebound, or are soon to be republished as board books. They're the books that just keep going! Just search for Judy and Phoebe Dunn. The copies pictured are the latest paperback versions in print, but I personally own older paperbacks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup

[This review has been edited and republished]

This is a board book version of the original, oversized picture book. I really liked some of the other things Britta Teckentrup has done, but this one was disappointing.

It's an annoying cliche that I detest - grumpy adult cat, appears to want to be alone but is really lonely alone, meets a friendly kitten who shows him how to be friends.

Because nobody could possibly ever want to be alone and if you're not smiling all the time there's something wrong with you.

Not that I'm biased. At all.

Teckentrup's illustrations are still fun, with broad, bold strokes of color and shapes and delightfully fuzzy details. However, the story has not been cut down much and especially for this small board book (7x5 inches) there is way too much text. Also, the storyline itself is not developmentally appropriate for a toddler.

Verdict: Teckentrup has done some really good board books for the toddler crowd, like My Book of Opposites, and I strongly recommend those. If you absolutely must have this book, purchase it as a picture book. Also, we are no longer friends, you anti-introvert person!

ISBN: 9781907967481; Published 2013 by Boxer Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Nicola Davies is one of my absolute favorite authors of nonfiction for young children (the others are basically all Peachtree authors, in case you're wondering). She doesn't disappoint in this new book tackling a unique subject: microbes!

The book starts out by giving some scales of the size and number of microbes, then talks about how they are everywhere. There are comparative images of large and small microbes, and then my favorite spread which shows lots of different kinds of microbes so you can see all the unique shapes and patterns.

The book then explains how microbes can eat anything and that they transform things into something else, like milk into yoghurt! Davies attempts to explain how rapidly they split and increase with a stunning visual across two pages.

The story finishes with talking about how "the wrong kind of microbes" can make you sick and some simple precautions (like washing your hands) but reassures readers that there are very few microbes that will make you sick. The book ends with two gorgeous spreads showing the amazing BIG things that tiny microbes can do. "They are the invisible transformers of our world."

Sutton's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Davies' simple but beautiful text. She draws both cozy, cheerful pictures relating the abstract idea of something so tiny you can't see to the things you can see, and also stunning, delicate illustrations of microbes themselves.

Verdict: This will work in a storytime with an older audience; probably four and up. It will also be a great book for teachers and families to enjoy in smaller groups to pique children's curiosity about the world around them. Highly recommend.

ISBN: 9780763673154; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Sunday, November 16, 2014

RA RA READ: For Teens Who Need a Laugh

Humor is really subjective and seems to get more so the older you get. These are books I found hilarious, bearing in mind I rarely read teen books and have, according to my friends, the sense of humor of an eleven year old.
  • Temping Fate by Esther Friesner
    • Summer jobs. What else is there to do when my-sister's-getting-married-and-has-turned-into-an-evil-harpy. Summer jobs that aren't quite what you expect. Summer jobs with a little more responsibility than you want to handle. 
  • Into the wild nerd yonder by Julie Halpern
    • Jessie is ready to join a new group of friends. The band geeks? The nerds? The punks? THE NERDS? I reviewed this one a long time ago.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant (series) by Derek Landy
    • He's a living, breathing, fire-throwing skeleton...and he's got a sense of humor, even if the world IS coming to an end. (After the first couple books the series gets more intense and not as funny)
  • Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
    • A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland. 
  • A bad day for Voodoo and I have a bad feeling about this by Jeff Strand
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
    • Bored with traditional palace life, a princess goes off to live with a group of dragons and soon becomes involved with fighting against some disreputable wizards who want to steal away the dragons' kingdom. 
These are what reviewers and teens have told me are funny.
  • Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Squashed by Joan Bauer
  • All-American Girl (series) by Meg Cabot
  • Oh. My. Gods (series) by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Happyface by Stephen Emond
  • Two parties, one tux, and a very short film about the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman
  • Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
  • My most excellent year by Steve Kluger
  • Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler 
  • Dairy Queen (trilogy) by Catherine Murdock
  • How to get suspended and influence people by Adam Selzer
  • Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Spud (series) by John Van de Ruit

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This week at the library; or, So much for all my planning time

What's happening: In my head and at the library
  • I turned my goals and program planning in to my director; now I just have to wait for her feedback, put them into the actual calendar, give it to my school colleague, and then meet to discuss and finalize next year. And, of course, actually plan the programs...
  • Still working on NEIGHBORHOODS, piles of stuff on my desk, Cybils, planning the last bits of programs for this year.
  • The homeschool thing went well - I basically just pulled together bits of all my regular school tours and then had some crafts. The kids really loved the scavenger hunts. There were about 25 people - some of them were just random people with toddlers and preschoolers who happened to be there and tagged along.
  • 74 people came to Lego Club. Then the next morning I had to take down all the tables and run back to back tours with my director for 70 four year olds. THIS is why I never have planning time!
  • I am trying desperately to keep my mind off next summer. You are planning WINTER and SPRING mind, not summer! Not yet! But I do have to at least briefly think about it because, if I'm going to step away from the CSLP theme which I definitely plan to do, I have to convince my director now because of the crazy ordering schedule of CSLP promotional material.
  • And then I realized I'd had an error in my formula in my budget spreadsheet and every time our cataloger had ordered teen fiction it had flipped over and back into the budget so I overspent my budget by $600. This was a rather fraught week.
  • Moms with multiples
  • Tiny Tots
  • Toddlers 'n' Books
  • Homeschool tour/library visit/scavenger hunts
  • November Outreach: Tales and Tails (1 visit)
  • Middle School Madness
  • Books 'n' Babies
  • Lego Club
  • Family Game Night
  • Kohls Wild Theater (including tour)
What the kids are reading
  • I spy/Look inside
  • Books about sentence structure/writing (tutor)
  • Alexander and the no good etc. (was in the back)
  • historical fiction at least 120 pages (school assignment)
  • ocean animals (this turned out to be dolphins and whales of course)
  • 800 lexile books - she wanted Jigsaw Jones, but it wasn't the right lexile. We went through the list and she ended up taking Allie Finkle and an Andrew Clements book.
  • Lego books
  • Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan

Friday, November 14, 2014

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

I grew up loving Tony Johnston's Amber on the Mountain and of course I love LaMarche's gorgeous, colorful, emotional paintings. Who doesn't? However, I was doubtful about liking this because it seemed too...poetic. Books of poetry don't do well in my library.

I am so glad I gave it a chance. This is a stunning, beautiful book. The story begins with the endpapers; upon opening the book you see clean notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, and binoculars. Moving into the story, a girl carries all these supplies to her observation post in the tree. The first page reads

"It is a cold September day. Fall is still here but ice is in the air. I feel it. Winter is coming."

From there, simple, poetic language accompanies the girl's observation of the wildlife and forest as winter approaches ever nearer. She sees a fox, bears, chipmunks, deer, a lynx. All of them searching for food and preparing for winter. Some of them will not survive, but that is the natural cycle of nature. Finally,

"Today no animals come.
Not one.
The clearing the trees are filled with
And wildness.
And cold.
They are waiting for something.
Winter is coming."

And then, in a few more brief pages, winter is here. In the final wordless spread the girl walks through the snow back to her warm house and the last set of endpapers show the sketches and notes she's made of the animals she's seen.

LaMarche's paintings always seem to have an inner glow but these are, I think, the best he has ever done. Each spread captures a different hue of autumn, from rich gold to softly fading brown. Each page is a different part of autumn, a different animal preparing. You can feel the silence and chill of the fading season.

Verdict: If you only buy one "literary" picture book for the year, make it this one. I've added it to my personal wishlist, which I don't often do. Highly recommended. A beautiful, beautiful book.

ISBN: 9781442472518; Published 2014 by Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Small Readers: Shampoodle by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tim Bowers

[This review has been previously published. It has not been edited.]

First of all, just look at that cover. Doesn't it make you want to giggle? I've been chuckling every time I glanced at it, and now that I've read the book my chuckles were not ill-founded.

It's time for a bath and a motley collection of dogs are going to the groomers. Baths, haircuts, and fancy touches are in store! But, uh-oh, something's gone wrong!

This is a level 2 Step Into Reading, which in their system means "reading with help". There are enough familiar simple words that a child can feel confident on their own but plenty of new fun words to sound out with a little help. Even with the limitations of language in an easy reader, Joan Holub has created a fun rhyming story that kids will enjoy working their way through and parents and teachers won't mind listening to for the fiftieth time!

Tim Bowers' illustrations are the perfect touch of hilarity, especially when he matches the dogs' crazy 'dos to their groomers' own haircuts. The pictures enhance the text without offering too many clues to readers.

Verdict: Hand this one to fans of Capucilli's Biscuit series and kids who like funny stories and stories about dogs. It's also going to be a good starter for kids reluctant to try stories on their own, as the fun pictures entice them in to try the chewy words for themselves! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0375855764; Published October 2009 by Random House; Review copy provided by author; Added to the library's wishlist

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Hippos can't swim and other fun facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald

This is part of a new series called "Did you know?" Just as the title says, it's a collection of fun facts. They're loosely linked together and hilariously illustrated with colorful cartoons.

There are no sources or bibliography; the only backmatter is a page of additional facts.

I had to read the book more than once to really get used to the sometimes flimsy segues. It starts with some facts about hippos, including that they can't swim...but sea turtles can swim and go faster than you think, much faster than jellyfish...speaking of jellyfish, here are some facts including that some species have fireflies! who can be different colors...unlike zebras who aren't lots of colors but have interesting patterns and are attracted to black and white things...not like racoons who like shiny things and can be found in garbage cans....on the other hand, chipmunks are more likely to be found in the woods, filling their mouth pouches with food for hibernation...kangaroos have a different use for their pouches, here are some interesting facts about their jumping abilities...another animal that jumps is a rabbit, did you know rabbits live underground? Bats, on the other hand, may live above ground or in caves and sleep all day...not like ants, who live underground but are awake a lot and live in herons who are really tall....but hummingbirds are whales are bigger than everything "And unlike whales sure can SWIM!"

So, that's a LOT of facts packed into this little book. The illustrations are cheerful and definitely attractive with bold colors and lines, pop-eyed cartoon animals, and funny details like speedy sea turtles in sweatbands and chipmunks with food pouches distended bigger than their entire bodies.

Verdict: This wouldn't work well for a school report or an older kid wanting to learn about a specific animal and it's too long for storytime or reading as a story to a little one, but it's just right for that in between age of 1st - 3rd grade when kids really crave collections of facts and will enjoy the cartoon animals. You can buy this whole series in paperback, but I would expend the extra money to get them in hardcover as they will see a lot of use.

ISBN: 9781442493520; Published 2014 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium