Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen, illustrated by Emmanuelle Walker

Ever since I put together a birdwatching station in our library (which, to be totally honest, turned out to be more of a "sparrow-watching and coloring station") I've become obsessed with buying every more bird books for the library.

While I love to find beautifully-written bird books, even better are those that are stunningly illustrated. This joyous alphabet book definitely falls into the latter category.

The endpapers are an eye-searing neon orange, speckled with bird eggs and one tiny chick, who pops out of the shell to produce a "this book belongs to" speech bubble. The neon orange is repeated in little hints throughout the illustrations, from the underside of airplanes, joining albatrosses in the skies to the flowers visited by the hummingbirds and their ruby throats. They get around the difficult letters of the alphabet by using ultramarine for U (kingfisher, flycatcher, and lorikeet) and V for a goose flying formation.

The illustrations are colorful and have a modern, smooth style that is fun to look at. I could definitely see these pictures making excellent cards or a fun board book, a la Charley Harper. In fact, there's quite a bit of similarity between the styles, although there's more variety and fanciful color in Walker's art. I'm a little disappointed by the text, which I found rather pedestrian. I'm generally not a fan of rhymed picture books and the rhyming couplets felt forced and heavy-handed to me "N is for nightingales who sing us to sleep, and for nuthatches who bore into trees deep." However, the lovely illustrations make up for deficiencies in the text and families will enjoy poring over the book together.

Verdict: There are a lot of alphabet books out there, but the gorgeous art of this one sets it apart, even if the text is not particularly memorable. An excellent addition if you are looking to add to your bird or alphabet books.

ISBN: 9781909263291; Published 2015 by Flying Eye Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl and the Greatest Show on Earth by Laura A Woollett

Recently, I've started working on improving the middle grade and young adult nonfiction sections of my library. This can be difficult for me, since I've gotten into the habit of expecting high circ numbers from every book I buy. I have a relatively small budget and I have high expectations of my purchases. But nonfiction is, realistically, going to have smaller circulation numbers. Fewer kids are encouraged to read nonfiction, they often need a higher reading ability to understand the more complex vocabulary, and in my library it's not as easily accessible as the fiction.

This is a great gateway book to get kids who are used to only fiction interested in reading nonfiction. It has an interesting storyline, a mystery, and a very practical approach to research.

In the midst of the Great Depression, on a hot summer day in 1944, the circus was in town in Hartford, Connecticut. Packed crowds arrived for a rare day of fun but it ended in disaster and tragedy when the circus tent caught fire. 167 people, many of them children, were killed. In the aftermath of investigation and grief, the bodies of two girls were never identified and another girl was left missing. Arson investigators declared the fire to be an accident, but many clues pointed to a human agent in the tragedy.

Throughout the following years, many different people investigated the fire, trying to identify the unknown bodies, the missing girl, and the criminal, if one existed. The author finishes with a summary of the most recent conclusions and some thoughts on the changing nature of research. Copious notes, bibliography, further reading, and credits are included.

This is well-written and strikes a nice balance between a steady flow of facts and creating an interesting narrative. Even if kids don't get interesting in starting their own historical research projects after reading this, they'll enjoy following the clues and historical tidbits. Although it's a sad story, it's presented respectfully and honestly, without too many gruesome details or horror.

Verdict: A great addition to your history section, whether you are a public or school library. This might need a little extra booktalking, as nonfiction sometimes does, but with a little promotion I think it will be popular. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781613731147; Published 2015 by Chicago Review Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Juvenile Favorites and Series: The Good and the Bad

So far, most of the library data and reflections that deal with areas of my library and circulating collections, have been those of unaparallel success. Heh. Today I'm going to talk about one that I'm still not 100% happy with, but which turned out to be the best we could do at the time and we are getting used to it, or so circulation numbers say.

About two years ago, in preparation for changing the picture books to Neighborhoods, I revamped the juvenile fiction. I wanted more space for picture books and to make a natural progression from picture book to easy reader to chapter book. I wanted to integrate the graphic novels with the fiction, since many kids were going straight to the graphic novel shelves and ignoring the rest of the chapter books and there are many authors who are doing more graphic blends and a variety of formats. I also wanted to make the paperback series more specifically beginning chapter series, and not just "whatever happened to be paperback" series.

But, what to do with series that had no specific author? American Girl, 39 Clues, Superheroes, etc. We finally decided to have a "favorites" section at the beginning of the juvenile chapter books, replacing the graphic novels. This has been of mixed success. A lot of kids still go straight there looking for superheroes, Star Wars, etc. It has been rather confusing for shelvers to remember that items without the normal 3 letter call number go here and not back in the regular chapter books. Because it's where the graphic novels used to be, and because many of the favorites are graphic novels, a lot of kids think these are the only graphic novels we have and the constant cries of "Where is Bone?" can get a bit exhausting. However, people have slowly figured it out and juvenile circulation has climbed back to its former numbers and even grown a little, slowly but surely.

The display thingy in the forefront is where all the new juvenile fiction goes. It has its own location to assist staff in finding titles for picks and circulates really well, especially in summer. The diver feet on the floor lead to easy readers on the right and favorites on the left.

This is part of the favorites section, with logos listed on top. This is mainly for adults, since most kids aren't tall enough to see them.Some favorites, like Hello Kitty, Power Rangers, etc. only have a couple volumes and my ultimate goal is to either add to or clear out these minimal ones.

These are the paperback series. The diver feet lead back around the shelf with the Bone poster and here they are. This collection used to be a massive source of circulation, as kids went straight here for series, but I shrunk it a lot so it really does have only beginning chapter books and would fit in the smaller space. Of course, now lots of people don't realize we have many beginning chapter books in the juvenile fiction....

I finally got labels on the paperback series. I plan to add pool noodles to keep them from squeezing to the back.

The diver feet come out and point towards our big beginning chapters display. Eventually we'll change this over, but we've had it up since April and it's gone quite well over the summer. It's not an ideal place for a display, but it's better than where it was before.

Also, it's fun to listen to little kids quack as they follow the "duck feet" every day.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This week at the library; or, Third week of summer

I was taking pictures at Mad Scientists
Club and saw this Red Admiral on the
column. So, have a butterfly.
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • The weather was weird, my garden got slugged again, but a gazillion people came to the library, I got licked by a friendly Great Dane and it was all awesome.
  • Lest you think that my library looks like it did in all those pictures of cool displays at the beginning of summer, I include what we now look like at the halfway point below. Actually it looks rather worse, but I took pictures after we'd been shelving and tidying for several hours.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • Worked on collection development - orders for the rest of the year
  • Continued working on updating the series spreadsheet
  • Finished thank you letter and grant for continuing funding for circulating toy collection.
  • My small section of the upcoming newsletter
  • Finished going through the parenting collection - updating call #s, pulling items for the neighborhoods.
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Hunting, military
  • More wrestling
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Charlie and Lola
  • Mighty Dads
  • I survived and read-alikes
  • easy nonfiction
  • Lego books
  • Little House in the Big Woods (both copies checked out)
  • Magical artifacts/ghosts
  • Books for a 2nd grader
  • Books for a four year old - trains, funny, action
  • Lots of requests for mysteries
The U keeps falling off. Gotham is definitely due for some urban renewal soon...

This is our 3rd? 4th? cover in less than two weeks

The phone booth is holding on valiantly, but I foresee a total collapse coming soon...

We lost track of stars for every name somewhere around 700 and then somebody sat on some of them....

The shelves are bare

The superhero hideout has been attacked by super villains. We took off the tower to start over.

Most of my little character stickers have fallen off, due to humidity and eager fingers

Locusts have ravaged all the shelves

The window is leaking

Book bundles are flying off the shelves faster than we can refill them

This is actually fairly tame - yesterday every single toy was out and spread across the floor

Little fingers found a rip...

The sign up box is showing signs of wear and tear...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Maybelle goes to school by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos

It's been a long, long time since the first Maybelle book, Maybelle in the Soup, came out and was a surprise hit with my patrons. The last Maybelle book came out in 2012 and I'd given up seeing any more until I saw this at ALA and was assured by the publicist that it really was coming out.

In this, the fourth book of Maybelle's adventures, Maybelle the cockroach and her friend Henry the flea inadvertently go along for the ride to the first day of school when they sample Mrs. Peabody's massive ten layer cake and end up visiting the school bake sale. Hijinks ensue, from frantic bug-chasing by the humans to Maybelle's efforts to keep track of Henry (and his pants). Finally, everyone makes it home and safe and sound and Maybelle vows to never fall asleep in a cake again...until next time.

The art in this galley was incomplete, but there are enough black and white drawings to get a sense of Tagyos' humorous line art and how it fits into Maybelle's wacky adventures. The larger-than-life characters have exaggerated facial expressions and lumpy Henry and sylph-like Maybelle are cute and bug-like without being too insectish.

My main concern with this is that it's been so long since a Maybelle book came out. For a beginning chapter book series, three years is, literally, a lifetime. The original Maybelle fans moved on within a year or two at most and purchasing the newest book in the series means having to start all over with building a fan base. While this book can be read on its own, it will make more sense if you've read the prior books and know who Maybelle and Henry are, their previous adventures, and the general tenor of the series. However, it looks like the three previous books are being released with updated covers to match the latest book so now could be a good time to start with the whole series if you missed it the first time around.

Verdict: This wouldn't necessarily be my first choice if I had a very limited budget for beginning chapter books, but it's definitely a recommended series, being funny, easy to booktalk, and I know it was an easy sell for kids before so probably will be again.

ISBN: 9780805091588; Published June 2015 by Henry Holt/Macmillan; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Ma! There's nothing to do here! by Barbara Park, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli

This is another board book that would have worked better as a picture book.

A baby complains about how boring it is inside his mom and imagines all the things he could be doing. Finally, he realizes he needs some more time to grow but promises he'll be coming out soon.

The drawings are dominated by the baby with its giant head. Most of them are fanciful, but the baby has an umbilical cord more or less and the final picture shows him sliding down a twisting chute to be born.

It's very busy and text-heavy for a board book and is likely to raise questions about the birth process, if that's a concern for your parents. I can see older kids and adults finding it very funny, but it's all wrong for a board book audience.

Verdict: This should never have been adapted to a board book - it's a picture book story both in complexity of text and illustrations and in subject matter. I seem to be seeing more and more picture books adapted to board books when they don't work in that format at all. I don't know if this is something mainly done by Random House or if I just review more of their books.

ISBN: 9780307982193; Published 2008 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library prize box

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

Marianne Dubuc's deceptively simple, understated art offers a chance to explore both story and imagination and this new title is no exception.

Clara is very excited to be taking her first solo bus ride. As the bus travels, she quietly observes the changing scenery, including the different animals that get on and off the bus. As they pass through a tunnel, Clara interacts with new friends, and finally arrives at her destination, there many subtle changes in the scenery and passengers. A sharp-eyed reader will pick out the details, as well as the fairy tale hints in the various characters.

Dubuc's soft pastel pencils are enlivened with spots of color; red cheeks, clothes, an apple, and accessories. The rectangular design enforces each picture, which mostly take place on the bus itself. The simple background scenery is almost unchanging, focusing the reader's attention on the activity within the bus.

Verdict: The simple story and almost drab illustrations are unlikely to make this a storytime hit, but with a little more time and a thoughtful reader, the details and tiny shifts in the story shine through and will make this a favorite for a special child. An additional purchase if your budget is limited, but if you are looking to fill your quotient of special books for specific children, something I try to add a few of every year to balance out all the Pinkalicious and Disney, this should definitely be on that list.

ISBN: 9781771382090; Published 2015 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Awesome Inventions You Use Everyday: Fun Food Inventions by Nadia Higgins

I picked up a whole stack of random nonfiction as I'm getting ready to do a major overhaul of the juvenile nonfiction. This is pretty random - it's one title from a set of books about everyday inventions.

After a quick introduction, the book jumps straight into the invention and evolution of a number of fun or funny foods. Some, like ketchup, talk about the slow changes over time in a recipe. Others, like bubble gum, were created by accident. Creations like the doughnut hole, are legends that nobody quite knows the truth of while microwave dinners required lots of different inventions and experimentation.

Each story is told in one page, while the facing page has a photograph of the inventor and/or the food. A few extra fun facts are sprinkled around the edges. Back matter includes a glossary, some books and websites for further information (these are really random, ranging from cookbooks to websites about food myths, to a book on how ice cream is made) brief index and a handful of source notes.

Verdict: This is really not what I was looking for. There was no clear differentiation between fact and fiction and the limited source notes make me skeptical of the history of the different foods. The cover isn't very attractive - something with photographs and less eye-searing color would have been better I think. I wanted something more factual.

ISBN: 9781467710916; Published 2014 by Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Putting my money where my mouth is

This is a running list of titles I have reviewed and also purchased for the library this year. I'm updating it roughly once a month, or when I think of it. This does not include titles that were review copies and were donated to the library, which is indicated in the review. For a complete list of new library materials, you can check out the library pinterest page!
Reviews coming soon (or sometime anyways) ((yes, I have a BIG backlist of reviews))
  • Jake Maddox: Gymnastics Jitters
  • Let it begin here! by Don Brown
  • The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham
  • Toto Trouble: Back to Crass by Thierry Coppee
  • Cat Napped! by Leeza Hernandez
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  • Midnight library by Kazuno Kohara
  • Lulu and the duck in the park by Hilary McKay
  • Horse Club by Patricia Murphy
  • Eat like a bear by April Pulley Sayre
  • Best friends forever by Amy Shields

  • Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This week at the library; or, Summer Week Two

What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • Week 2. My garden has been SLUGGED. This weekend the WAR will commence.
  • This was actually a fairly quiet week, in between bouts of reader's advisory, field trips, and programs.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • I tidied the magazines - relabel boxes etc.
  • I also changed over and relabeled the Christmas movies
  • Worked on collection development  - orders for the rest of the year
  • Cleaned out stash of donations
  • Finished Read 'n' Play - baby toy bags
  • Continued working on updating the series spreadsheet
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Request for nonfiction and scary books for a ten year old I picked out Into the Unknown and Haunted Histories.
  • Nim's Island/How to eat Fried worms - checked out
  • Recommendation for a middle school boy I know. I showed him John Feinstein, but then I thought of my all-time favorite, Bad Day for Voodoo.
  • Jurassic Park books - TIM: Defender of the Earth
  • Two middle school girls I recommended Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Sorcery and Cecelia and then a younger girl who was listening I gave Suzanne Selfors' Imaginary Veterinarian.
  • More books recommended - lots and lots and lots of beginning chapter books, Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Stanley family to two different people, Scholastic Branches, Holub's Heroes of Olympus, Paul Dowswell to a group of middle school boys
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord - checked out. I recommended Battle of Darcy Lane instead.
  • Lots of requests for mermaids