Saturday, April 22, 2017

This week at the library; or, The Big Program

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • department staff meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Community party
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Candy Science
  • Friday
    • youth services aide interviews
  • Saturday
    • information desk
This week's big program was our community party. It's a collaboration between multiple community partners, the school, and the library. About 250 people came, which was manageable. I'm working on updating my program instructions on my other blog, hence the lack of links. This week was exhausting and went on forever, but the weather was nice.

Projects in progress and completed
  • Summer planning, marketing, prizes, and scheduling, etc.
  • Interviewing for new aides
Professional Development
  • SLJ Webinar: New spring nonfiction for the library and classroom
    • Creative Company, Mason Crest, Scholastic

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wellie Wishers: The riddle of the robin by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Thai Thu

Willa and her friends make up the Wellie Wishers. Together they play in Willa's Aunt Miranda's backyard and learn about nature and friendship. I picked one title from the series to try out and I have mixed feelings about it.

So, Willa and her friends are looking for signs of spring. They see a crocus and then a robin. They learn about what robins eat but when "their" robin disappears they go on a hunt to find it and get lost! Fortunately, they solve their problem and return to the playhouse, only to run into another problem when the robin is not happy to see them! Fortunately, they figure out that the robin has a special surprise. Back matter includes simply activities for parents to do with their daughters like making bird feeders and observing birds.

The illustrations are charming and colorful and young readers who are ready for longer chapter books but still want pictures will love these. They showcase strong female friendships and creative problem-solving as well as emphasize playing outside.

So, what's not to like? Well, first of all, and this really annoyed me, but they are looking for signs of spring, right? The first thing they find is a crocus and then a robin. Now, I'm looking out my window and I have crocuses and robins. What I DON'T have is summer flowers and green everywhere. It's also 30 degrees and nobody is wearing summer frocks. Even a mild winter, which would have the robins nesting in March, is not going to have the riot of color shown. This may seem very persnickety, but the book is supposed to be teaching kids about nature and the outdoors and it was very odd. Secondly, the "backyard" is more like a forest. They literally get lost in it and it's HUGE. While it's not wholly unbelievable, the average kid is not going to have access to a yard that appears to encompass at least an acre and includes a pond, playhouse, garden, free-ranging rabbit, theater, woods, and more. Thirdly, and this is a perennial complaint of mine, this features the typical representation of this type of story - one girl of each, white, black, Asian, and brown, but of course the white girl is the one whose aunt has the house, is in charge of the group, and while the stories don't seem to run in sequence this one has a "first" feeling.

Verdict: These will be popular. They do feature a diverse group of girls, they're attractive and interesting and the pictures are sweet. While they bother me in some minor aspects, I will probably overlook those and purchase these to add to my American Girl collection.

ISBN: 9781609587918; Published 2016 by American Girl; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson

The fifth volume of Hilda's adventures revisits both her magical, mysterious adventures as well as her relationships with her mother.

The story begins with a wild chase, as Hilda and her pet, Twig, pursue a runaway bit of land that's taken off with a mini house aboard! When Hilda accidentally ventures outside the wall around town and encounters trolls, her mother has had enough. Desperately worried about Hilda's adventures, which seem to draw her farther and farther away from her mother, home, and safety, she lays down the law and confines Hilda to her room. But Hilda's spirit can't be contained and she tries to make a break for it with the help of their house spirit, Tontu. Hilda and her mother are dragged into a strange world, full of frightening creatures and without light or food. Will they be able to work together to survive and come to an understanding?

Unlike the other Hilda stories, this one ends with a startling cliffhanger, hinting at further adventures with the trolls to come. Pearson's art continues to grow and mature, not only showing a wide range of strange and fantastical creatures, but investing each of them with a personality all its own. Even the roughly-hewn stone trolls show distinct personalities and differences, although they are not anthropomorphic, clearly being alien to human emotions and concerns, they nevertheless have their own thoughts and feelings.

Verdict: Hilda may not have the wide appeal of Bone or Amulet, but it nevertheless has a charm, mystery, and delight all its own. Once you've introduced this to children who like beautiful art and complex stories, they will be eager for the next installment.

ISBN: 9781909263741; Published 2016 by Flying Eye Books; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Small Readers: Urgency Emergency: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Dosh Archer

I looked at a few of these titles before; they've been nominated for Cybils and they pop up periodically. Opinion seems to be divided - some don't care for the blocky, awkward illustrations with their odd perspectives, and they're definitely higher reading levels for easy readers. Others find their nursery rhyme-based humor charming and the quirky hospital adventures silly and delightful.

My book club kids fall into the latter group. I had to do a bit of digging (i.e. ask our inter-library loan librarian to request multiple copies) but the younger and lower-level readers quite happily picked out their favorites of the titles, going either by cover or ones they'd read before.

While the first title, Big Bad Wolf is hilarious, I think this one is my favorite (and apparently other libraries agree as it was the one I was able to get the most copies of). In this story, Doctor Glenda and Nurse Percy handle another emergency; poor Itsy Bitsy spider has hurt her head! The two professionals handle not only Itsy Bitsy's physical hurt, but talk Miss Muppet into overcoming her fears and making a new friend.

Verdict: If you are looking for humorous titles for intermediate readers, especially if you have a large homeschool population or other group likely to be familiar with traditional English nursery rhymes, these will definitely have an audience. A more urban or diverse population is less likely to click with them, but it wouldn't hurt to try one or two and see what the kids think. The female doctor is a nice touch of diversity as well.

ISBN: 9780807583586; Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The magic word by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Elise Parsley

Some days you just want a good, solid, subversive picture book. Of course, the first name that springs to mind in this case is Mac Barnett and his latest book is no exception.

"On Friday night at 8:45, Paxton C. Heymeyer of 23 Larch Street asked for a cookie." Thus the tale of hilarity begins. His babysitter, looking exhausted in a sea of mess and destruction, asks "What's the magic word?" and instead of the culturally-acceptable "please" Paxton says "Alakazoomba". A magic word indeed! Soon, all his wishes come true from cookies and milk to walruses chasing everyone he doesn't like to the North Pole. When his friend Rosie is skeptical of his choices, Paxton chases her off with a walrus too - but then has second thoughts. Apologies all around....except maybe to that mean babysitter!

Parsley's quirky illustrations are just the right match for this silly story. Paxton is mischievous, delighted, and purely naughty by turns while his family and friends' expressions shift from shock to, well, more shock (especially when those galumphing walruses show up).

Verdict: This won't teach kids any lessons and will probably annoy grown-ups no end, especially when kids start shouting "Alakazoomba!" instead of please, but it's so funny you just can't ignore it!

ISBN: 9780062354846; Published 2016 by Balzer + Bray; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Classification: Birds by Erica Donner; My first pet: Chinchillas by Vanessa Black

 My nonfiction selections today are an addition to a series offered by Bullfrog books and a new series.

Birds is part of a new, six-volume series covering animal classification. It covers basic aspects of the animal - for birds it's feathers, flight or non-flight, eggs, and beaks. Back matter includes a diagram of a bird, picture glossary, and a brief index and bibliography.

Chinchillas is an addition to the My First Pet series. It previously included more traditional pets like cats, dogs, gerbils and birds but is now expanding with snakes, lizards, guinea pigs, horses, hermit crabs and chinchillas! They are very furry. Just look at the furriness! This book pictures several kids, including one in a wheelchair, holding and caring for their chinchilla pets. It also lists some basic facts about the animal and their care. It includes a page of chinchilla basic needs, picture glossary, and an index and bibliography.

Both titles have short, simple text. It works well for beginning readers as well as reading aloud to kids with short attention spans who like nonfiction. The animal classification series is superfluous; The About series by the Sills is better quality text and art and less expensive. I would recommend purchasing additional copies if more simple animal classification titles are needed.

However, the My First Pet series is a stand-out. While it doesn't offer enough information to actually teach a small child how to care for a pet (and I would hope that nobody is getting young kids a chinchilla anyways) it does meet kids' need for and interest in different kinds of pets and gets them started on researching different kinds of domestic animals. There aren't a lot of pet care titles, especially ones at this low reading level and this fills a much-needed gap. Plus, you know, furry.

Verdict: Skip Animal Classification, but My First Pet is a good addition to any section, easy reader or picture book, in your library.

Birds
ISBN: 9781620315378; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

Chinchillas
ISBN: 9781620315491; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This week at the library; or, Why am I so tired? I don't know.

dot painting
What's happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach Storytimes: Let's Grow (5 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Dot painting
It's difficult to fully explain the chaos and drama going on. The kids are all super antsy from a combination of spring and our varying level of lockdowns due to an investigation in the next county over. We are all feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We forgot about Easter. I only realized on Monday night that I'd planned a totally different program instead of our traditional egg-painting for Messy Art Club and my associate remembered that we hadn't put any Easter books on display!

Projects
  • Facebook posts - finished the beginning chapter and neighborhood series (they will post through December) and new book Wednesdays (through May).
Professional Development
  • Booklist Webinar: Series nonfiction must-haves for the school library
Real Kids Read Books
  • Book club kids loved Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz. We talked about being average and being "special".
  • Several kids also really loved Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhai Lai. We talked about refugees (they were completely clueless about any refugees other than the Jews in WWII. Or any global conflicts. One kid says "there's a war?" I talked about Hmong refugees, of whom there is a large population in our state and Sudan. We also talked about what it would be like to move to another country and how they treat kids in their classes who don't speak English or are different from them.)
  • We talked about Roller Girl. One reader saw another's copy of Hamster Princess and wanted it next.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel by Charise Mericle Harper

June is a quirky, happy-go-lucky girl who has one big plan - make a new friend who is Fun, Friendly, and will go on Fun Adventures. And believe that she can talk to her dog Sammy. When Mae moves in next door, June has high hopes of a new best friend, especially when June's grandmother sends her the Wonder Wheel with lots of fun activities and suggestions for making friends.

But things don't go quite the way June had expected, especially when it looks like Mae is going to be friends with mean girl April at school. Will the Wonder Wheel come through for June?

Spires' perky illustrations show two exuberant, imaginative girls and their family, friends, and enemies having fun in every day adventures.

This was cute and quirky and will easily join a long line of other female friendship books for this age group. I did have one quibble though - why is the girl with darker skin the friend? Why not the protagonist? While I am seeing more and more kids of color in children's books, it frustrates me that they are always relegated to sidekick status. Hopefully future titles in this series will bring Mae to the forefront - her name comes first after all - and let us hear from her directly, rather than have her feelings and thoughts interpreted to the reader through the lens of her white friend.

Verdict: A cross between Ivy + Bean and Dory Fantasmagory, this is sure to find happy readers in any library looking for more intermediate chapter books.

ISBN: 9780544630635; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon

Sometimes I just need to sit down with a big stack of Ursula Vernon books and forget about the world and the latest Hamster Princess is just what I want.

Harriet has barely arrived home from saving the dancing mouse princesses when she (thankfully) gets a call for help from her friend Prince Wilbur. His dear friend Heady, a hydra, has had her egg stolen! Harriet and Wilbur set out in pursuit and track a wicked witch down to a secret castle where they discover a rat princess with a very, very, very long tale.

Like Vernon's previous titles, this snarky spoof of fairy tales channels Patricia C. Wrede with a verve that's all Vernon's own, unique style. Delightful illustrations, humor and wisdom on every page, and a strong central character who's not afraid to admit when she needs a little help, even if it comes from a ridiculously soppy rat princess!

Verdict: I just love these. They make me laugh and they're just so fun and well-written! If you don't already have fans for this series, and I find it hard to believe you don't, recommend them to fans of Hale's Princess in Black or E. D. Baker.

ISBN: 9780803739857; Published 2016 by Dial; Purchased for my personal library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Small Readers: You Should Meet Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by (respectively) Monique Dong and Elizabet Vukovic

I have a couple book club attendees who are very interested in biographies. I've noticed that it's only the high-level readers who are interested in this genre; lower-level readers and reluctant readers are much less likely to pick up biographies at this age.

This series features both well-known and minority people who made an impact on history. I chose two titles for our book club in March; Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens.

The biography of Mae Jemison talks about her early life, her determination to succeed and try out different things, and her eventual success in multiple careers. It's upbeat and inspirational with lots of short narrative stories that my readers can relate to.

Jesse Owens' biography touches briefly on his disadvantaged early life, where he battled poverty and prejudice, and his eventual triumph at the Olympics in Berlin. However, this did not last long as Owens continued to battle prejudice and poverty for the rest of his life. I felt that this story lacked enough context for younger readers to understand what was going on, although it's an ok introduction to Jesse Owens.

Verdict: My preference is for the National Geographic easy reader biographies - I feel they have more context of the history surrounding the people they profile. However, the You Should Meet... series does a better job of choosing minorities and women to feature. So you should get both series! These are a higher reading level, so they're probably only going to appeal to higher-level readers, but then they are the ones most likely to appreciate biographies anyways.

Mae Jemison
ISBN: 9781481476508; Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Jesse Owens
ISBN: 9781481480963; Published 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library