Sunday, December 15, 2019

Librarian's Picks; or, Did I manage to add anything that was NOT a series?

Kids (and adults) love series. I myself enjoy many series (although I tend to lose interest in kids' series after the first book or two). There's something very comforting about revisiting a favorite world or characters and knowing, generally, what to expect in a book. But sometimes, I feel like all I do in the juvenile fiction section is buy series! Replacements for damaged series, fill-in titles that I've forgotten, and endless sequels. So, I'm looking at the juvenile fiction I added that was NOT a series, just for fun and to prove that sometimes I do buy stand-alones!
Realistic Fiction
  • Stand on the sky by Erin Bow
  • Maybe a mermaid by Josephine Cameron
  • Lety out loud by Angela Cervantes
  • Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
  • Running on empty by S. E. Durrant
  • Far away by Lisa Graff (donation)
  • Becket list by Adele Griffin
  • Dog Driven by Terry Johnson
  • Song for a whale by Lynne Kelly
  • Pie in the sky by Remy Lai
  • Sand Dog by Sarah Lean (donation)
  • Because of the rabbit by Cynthia Lord
  • Not if I can help it by Carolyn Mackler
  • Caterpillar summer by Gillian McDunn
  • Merci Suarez changes gears by Meg Medina
  • Wolf called Wander by Rosanne Parry
  • Good kind of trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee
  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  • Roll with it by Jamie Sumner
  • Bridge home by Padma Venkatraman
Historical Fiction

  • Stolen Girl by Marsha Skrypuch

Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Phantom Tower by Keir Graff (donation)
  • Midsummer's mayhem by Rajani Larocca
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Gamer Army by Trent Reedy
  • Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao

Saturday, December 14, 2019

This week at the library; or, The culmination of all our labors, i.e. Candyland

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Girl Scouts
  • Tuesday
    • Toddler Holiday Cookie Party (including Head Start)
    • VIP volunteers
    • Girl Scouts
  • Wednesday - Friday
    • Storyroom closed for Candyland prep
  • Saturday
  • Worked 42+ hours; about 11 hours on desk; 1 (major) program
  • I had to finish a number of urgent projects - staff schedule, updated marketing, updated STEAM and early literacy calendars, more scheduling issues, emails and emails and emails, etc. and then Candyland. The prep was easier this year because I had more staff and so many things have been done previously and just had to be updated.
Collection Development Notes
  • Haunted hotels - apparently I had exactly the right book and hadn't weeded it, so that was good
  • Rube Goldberg machines - for a school assignment. They wanted to get ideas. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Could you escape Alcatraz? An interactive survival adventure by Eric Braun

Lauren Tarshis' I Survive series continues to be popular, with new titles and a graphic novel version coming out in 2020. I'm often busy recommending read-alikes and one of the series I turn to most often is Capstone's You Choose titles. You Choose covers history, myth, and general survival in a Choose Your Own Adventure format. Rather than the fantasy stories in the original CYOA, Capstone focuses on nonfiction, basing the stories on true historical events or places and including a final chapter explaining the true story, and, in the case of this title, real escape attempts, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and internet links.

Personally, the CYOA format gives me the heebie-jeebies. I can't stand flipping back and forth and end up just reading straight through, which doesn't work very well either. However, most readers really enjoy this format and combining the two things, survival and CYOA, is pretty genius.

This particular title is part of a four-volume set of escapes and includes escaping a deserted island, Paris catacombs, and the Tower of London. I think the other titles might be better than this one. It's exciting and interesting - it offers readers the choice to be smart, strong, or clever, giving sample back stories of prisoners, and then testing different, real-life escape methods. But it's... troubling. One of the discussion questions does ask if it's harder to root for escapees from Alcatraz because they were all "violent criminals." But some of the back stories portray the men sympathetically - and it's hard to see a good reason to suggest readers imagine themselves as hardened and violent criminals anyways. As is traditional, most of the options end with you, as the main character recaptured and sentenced to solitary imprisonment or dead.

Verdict: This particular volume isn't my favorite, but I think in general kids will enjoy the set, especially those who like survival stories and history. I have some reservations about this particular title, and I'm definitely planning to move most of this series into fiction, but overall it's worth adding.

ISBN: 9781543573923; Published August 2019 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher, donated to the library

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Small Readers: Little Penguin's New Friend by Laura Driscoll, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

This is less a review than a "why aren't there more cool easy readers?" meandering complaint. So, this is part of a series, there are picture books, board books, and easy reader adaptations. Laura Driscoll is one of those easy reader authors that turns out a nice, steady stream of competent titles. Bentley debuted the "Little Penguin" character in 2015 and although I'd never heard of it before, it seems to be fairly popular.

In this particular story, Little Penguin tells the readers that he is waiting for a polar bear to visit. He's never met a polar bear before, but his friends all tell him that they are scary, have sharp teeth and loud roars, and they tell bad jokes! When the polar bear arrives, she doesn't seem so bad at first, but then she starts telling jokes... In the end, Little Penguin realizes you can't believe everything you hear and to give new friends a chance.

The art is washed out, muddy watercolors. This may be just in the easy reader versions, since I've seen Bentley's art in picture books and it's brighter, clearer, and more sharply defined, but this looked as though it had washes of gray over most of the picture. The animals are kind of oddly shaped and the polar bear has the typical "female" long eyelashes. The book is a level "K" so for intermediate readers, with typical bold text on a white background.

There's nothing "wrong" with this exactly, it just felt meh to me. Typical story, bland art, etc. Nostalgia of course, but I remember with longing the quirky easy readers of my childhood, Morris the Moose, Ellen Blance's Monster, and the classics like Little Bear and Frog and Toad. There are plenty of awesome easy readers, but it seems like there's a lot more blah titles. And maybe that's ok - kids have to read a lot just to build fluency and I'm probably forgetting all the meh titles of my childhood, not to mention I was a quick reader and started reading more challenging titles very soon.

Verdict: This is filler - books you add to keep your shelves filled in and to provide extra reading material for kids to practice. There's nothing particularly outstanding, good or bad, about it and it's not the first choice, but when you need more it's there to fill in the corners.

ISBN: 9780062699954; Published October 2019 by Balzer and Bray; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the giraffe? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

This delightful series has quickly become a favorite at our library, and a top choice for me when recommending books as gifts for new babies.

Each brightly-colored page plays peek-a-boo with the reader, showing animals that are generally related hidden behind flaps. This titles features jungle animals, lion, crocodile, elephant, and giraffe. The final page asks "And where are you?" and readers lift the flap to see a small mirror. One of the things that sets this series apart is that the flaps are felt, rather than paper, inserted into the page. They are cut in different shapes and are a variety of colors, hot pink, burgundy, green, neon orange, etc.

Arrhenius' illustrations have a classic, minimalist look. She uses a lot of simple forms, circles, ovals, and curved shapes in her animals and plants and tends towards bright but not glaring shades in her colors.

The binding on these tends to give way before the flaps do; Like most of Nosy Crow's titles, they are made with a pretty light cardboard binding and the outside hinge quickly gets puncture marks. However, they are so popular and I generally consider board books ephemeral collections anyways.

Verdict: Unless you only purchase board books that last for many years, these are a must-have in your board book section; caregivers and children alike love them.

ISBN: 9780763693343; Published 2017 by Nosy Crow; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

A new seasonal word to teach the kids! We've learned hibernate and migration, but we haven't tackled dormant!

Spare, poetic language describes the behaviors of a number of plants and animals, not just during winter, but also during droughts. Trees coated in ice wrap their buds in "tiny leaf blankets" to wait for spring. Ladybugs crowd together, waiting for the warmer days to come. A chickadee, on a cold winter night, tucks itself into a little ball "For just a few hours, you would pause." Then it zips across the page, warmed by the morning sun. Earthworms seal themselves in mucus, waiting for the rain, alligators burrow into the mud on cold days. Each phase is illustrated with gorgeous photographs, showing trees frozen in ice and bursting into bloom, animals curled up in cozy balls and playing in the fresh air and sun.

Back matter explains dormancy in detail, from plant dormancy to estivation. The last page includes further reading, websites, and photo acknowledgements.

This would be a great storytime book, encouraging kids to sit still then jump up as they come out of their "dormant" phase. The additional back matter would be useful for teachers and parents to encourage further research into animal and plant behavior, or to use this as an introduction to dormancy and hibernation (both very popular topics here in the Midwest). The gorgeous photographs are the icing on the cake, and don't forget to do a nature poetry unit, asking school-age kids to write their own poems based on the photos!

Verdict: Not an absolutely necessary purchase, but with many uses for both preschool and school-age kids, this is definitely one to consider if you have the funds.

ISBN: 9781541561922; Published September 2019 by Milbrook/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 9, 2019

The incredible yet true adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the greatest inventory, naturalist, scientist, explorer who ever lived by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Claudia Lieb

Hyperbole much? My conclusion is that, while von Humboldt was a pretty cool guy, he was not All That.

He lived during the turn of the century; the 17th/18th century that is! Born a wealthy man in Prussia, after his parents were gone and he had full control of his money he spent several years in exploring South America. He also traveled to North American and Siberia and never lost his curiosity and fascination with science and the natural world. He was trained as a mining engineer and eventually used his entire fortune in support of his scientific pursuits. Unusually for the time, he spoke out against slavery, the Spanish exploitation of the indigenous populations of South America, and he considered himself a "citizen of the world."

The book is fully illustrated, with colorful images of South American flora and fauna, as well as the mountains and volcanoes von Humboldt explored. The text is fairly dense, and also frequently veers into narrative/fictionalized dialogue, with seemed odd to me. There are some further reading and resource lists, but no index or comprehensive source notes. Ultimately, this is the kind of book readers would browse and then go to find more definite information on the subject.

However, I have a hard time seeing any of my young readers picking this up. The text is very dense and the pictures have an old-fashioned feel to them. Explorers from the 1800s are not exactly a topic in high demand, and I found it frustrating that the other people of the time were completely overlooked in the exaltation of von Humboldt. There is a brief chapter on his companion, who was imprisoned for years in South America and did basically all the same research as Humboldt, he just wasn't as charismatic (or wealthy).

Verdict: I found this personally interesting, and plan to locate and read some of von Humboldt's own works, but I don't think this would circulate much, if at all, in the average public library collection.

ISBN: 9781615196319; Published September 2019 by Experiment; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Librarian's Picks: Manga

I cut way back on manga and young adult graphic novels this year, since I was putting a lot of money towards young adult fiction. My selector worked hard, but, sadly, we didn't see any gains in circulation and our graphic circulation suffered. So, next year I have promised the teens to buy LOTS more manga and graphic novels!

These are the new manga series I did add this year:

  • Delicious in Dungeon (7 volumes currently available)
    • This ties into our community's current love of all things D&D! They're trapped in a dungeon and end up eating the monsters.
  • Dragonquest Monsters+ (4 volumes currently available)
  • Isolator (I think this is complete with 4 volumes)
  • Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts (7 volumes currently available)
  • Snow White with the red hair (4 volumes currently available)
These are series I continued
  • Anne Happy
  • Astra lost in space (complete at 5 volumes)
  • Attack on Titan
  • Black Clover
  • Blue Exorcist
  • Boy and the Beast (complete at 4 volumes)
  • Children of the Whales
  • Flying Witch
  • My Hero Academia
  • One-Punch Man
  • Twin Star Exorcists

Saturday, December 7, 2019

This week at the library; or, Planning

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers
    • Grandparents Support Group
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40ish hours; 10 hours on desk; 1 program
  • A couple hours of collection development and planning work at home
  • Finished weeding up to 796 (sports)
  • Wrote reports and budget requests for next year, involving lots of measuring and cursing the architects who made that one corner so weird-shaped that it's basically one inch too small for any corner desks to be put in there. Also freaked out staff and patrons by knocking on walls randomly to see if I could mount cabinets there.
  • Staff schedule (almost) done through February!
Collection notes
  • What is the likelihood of a kid coming in asking for a bowling book if I weed our (one) bowling book from the 80s? High, probably.
  • Minecraft the lost journals by Morgan Winter - took a while to figure out what minecraft series this 1st grader wanted - promised her to buy them for the next time she comes in.
  • Battle of the Books - I totally forgot about this, they've changed things this year and I don't know how high participation will be. I'm going to try not pulling the books this year and I am also missing several from the list, especially older nonfiction that I weeded. It is available in the consortium though. We'll see what happens.
  • Popular book club pics - Hamster Holmes, Remy Sneakers, and funny picture books as always.
  • Historical fiction requests for school - noticed that I need a LOT more copies of I survived.
Professional Development
  • Scholastic Spring 2020 Online Preview
  • Imagine your story: Summer library program and early literacy

Friday, December 6, 2019

Roll with it by Jamie Sumner

I will just say straight out that I am not a fan of Wonder, although I know it's extremely beloved and we own a ridiculous number of copies. So it wasn't a draw for me that Palacio had blurbed this book - is every book with a disabled character going to have to have the mark of approval of an abled person? Ahem. However. This is a really, really good book!

The story opens with a typical day for Ellie. She's eating freezer food while watching a baking show and hoping her aide doesn't call her mom. The thing is, she just needed a break and zipped out during lunch at school. But kids in wheelchairs who have CP (Cerebral Palsy) are a "health risk" and are absolutely NOT supposed to skip. Luckily for Ellie, her mom has other things to think about. Ellie's gotten her long-awaited appointment with the dr. and has finally been seizure-free long enough to go off her medication. Meanwhile, Ellie's grandfather's dementia is getting worse and her grandmother is not able to cope with him. Ellie and her mom decide to extend their Christmas vacation and stay with their grandparents until things calm down a little.

Life in the trailer park is better and worse than Ellie expects. To her surprise, she makes friends - Coralee, whose mother has left her with an elderly relative and who dreams of getting out by winning talent contests. Bert, who lives along with his dad and is a bit (ok a lot) weird. Ellie figures he's probably on the spectrum. School is a whole 'nother can of worms. The kids (and staff) treat Ellie like some kind of weird freak one moment, then ignore her the next. Nothing is set up or accessible, and the only bright spot if the gym coach who has a background in physical therapy and rehabilitation.

As Ellie makes it through bad days - her grandfather's episodes - and good days - experimenting with baking - she comes to realize that, as Coralee says, this is her new family. Ellie is a refreshing and realistic character. She's aware of her limitations, hates having to have help to go to the bathroom because the trailer is too small and inaccessible, and gets snarky and tells people off when they get on her nerves. But she's also growing as a person, becoming aware of the issues faced by other people and of the challenges in and around her family. She sees her mom from a mature, almost adult viewpoint, understanding how much she's sacrificed to care for her and how difficult it is for her to handle her grandfather's decline, while still having moments as a kid. She secretly fears being put in an institution, like the nursing home her grandfather will eventually have to go to, and even when she understands why her mother is stressed she sometimes just can't let go of her own plans and problems. In other words, Ellie is a typical middle schooler; she's full of potential, has plenty of additional challenges to handle, and does her best to deal with what she's got.

In the end, there's no perfect ending; everyone still has problems they have to deal with and that affect their daily life. There's no moment when an all-school assembly realizes how Ellie has changed all their lives and inspired them all to be better people (yes, this me being extremely sarcastic). But Ellie has hope for the future, friends, and feels part of a community in a way she never has before. Sumner has a son with cerebral palsy and also consulted children with disabilities in writing this book. The main feedback was that they loved the character of Ellie, who "tells it like it is."

Verdict: An absolute must-have for every library. Aside from the rarity of a main protagonist with a disability, written realistically! this is a funny, touching, and strong middle grade novel that any kid who loves realistic fiction will devour. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781534442559; Published October 2019 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library; 2nd copy purchased for the library