Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bots: The most annoying robots in the universe by Russ Botts, illustrated by Jay Cooper

This beginning chapter graphic novel tries hard to mimic the success of similar black-and-white titles like Bad Guys but ultimately falls short.

The story begins with Earth scientists sending out an exploratory rocket with a space camera. After many years, most people (and scientists) have forgotten about the rocket but it finally reaches the end of the universe and the camera shows them… an alien planet! It’s Mecha Base One and everyone on it is a robot! The cameras are released and quickly found by a couple robots.

Extremely dumb robots named Joe and Rob. They spend a chapter taking turns swallowing the robot to start with. Eventually, they realize it’s a camera and start doing dumb tricks and making lame jokes. The kids on earth decide it’s their favorite show and only one scientist (the narrator) believes the bots are real. A little tension is added with a tiny female robot named Tinny, who realizes the cameras are real and wants to rule/destroy the universe, but it seems unlikely that she will effect this goal. Meanwhile, the cameras follow Joe and Rob around their daily life.

The black and white illustrations show a robot universe, mainly by making everything more or less square and giving it antennae. There was no need to make the robots gendered, but the humans on earth are shown as a diverse group.

Verdict: This was really boring. Nothing happens, just a lot of lame jokes. Kids who are obsessed with Captain Underpants-style humor and spend a lot of time watching utube videos will probably like this, but there are so many other better things out there that I think I can pass on this.

ISBN: 9781534436886; Published 2019 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My first interactive board book: On the farm by Auzou

I was disappointed by this board book. It seemed to start out well, but ultimately didn't go where I'd hoped. It has pull tabs and lift the flaps, according to the cover, so I wouldn't expect it to last long, but for something that's only going to make a few circs I want something worth the money.

The cover shows a red-headed girl milking a cow. A slider turns the cows spots from black to white. This... doesn't really make any sense, but ok, let's see what's next. The first spread shows a variety of chickens. A black hen with red wattles and comb has a movable head and a hole under her to show an egg. But there's no tab - you have to catch the cardboard and move it up and down, which slides the egg into place as well. Ok, next page is sheep. A slider moves wool on and off the sheep (the farmer is another red head). That's a reasonable one. As is the next, a slider which puts mud spots on and off the pig. The second to last spread has a cow chewing her cud. There's a hole for your finger, to wiggle the cardboard grass around, and that's all it does - wiggle. Now, this did come out in 2017 BUT the library I borrowed it from only got it in May so it's unlikely it could have been broken by then. I would think the kids would get frustrated, just wiggling the grass around. Wait, we were promised pull tabs and lift the flaps? Ah, the lift the flaps are on the last page, all four of them. Each asks a question about a farm animal "What does the hen lay?" and the answer is underneath. There are no pull tabs, unless they are equating those with sliders, which they apparently are. Sliders are not pull-tabs.

Verdict: A rather flimsy binding and flimsy flaps mean this won't last long - and it just didn't have much quality or interest to me. I don't recommend this one, unless you are happy buying anything interactive that comes along.

ISBN: 9782733859131; This edition published 2018 by Auzou; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A tiger like me by Michael Engler, illustrated by Joelle Tourlonias, translated by Laura Watkinson

There are plenty of books showing kids pretending to be animals, but the illustrations in this import make this an especially attractive iteration of the trope.

The end pages show a dark forest, in night shades of blues and grays, with just a few orange leaves amongst the trees. Sprawled on a heap of pillows and blankets is a little tiger... or is it a child in a tiger suit? On the title page the lights come on, he stretches and yawns... and the little tiger, er, boy, wakes up with a roar! He avoids a morning wash and brush, devours breakfast at a stone table with cave paintings, and finds a great hiding place. Unfortunately, the laundry basket turns out to be more of a trap and he needs rescuing...

The little tiger puts on boots and explores the snow, hunts tasty food in the jungle of the kitchen, stalks his dad (and gets sent to his room), has a crafty evening making tigers with his parents, and finally goes to bed... but he doesn't stay there! He ends the day cuddled up in his parents' bed and then finally back in his den after "a long, exciting day."

The text is lengthy for a read-aloud, but could easily be shortened since it consists of a series of short sentences. Each scene ends with a refrain, "Because I am a tiger, a [adjective, adjective] tiger." The tiger is by turns clever and cunning, whirling and swirling, crafty and creative, wild and wary. The swirling, messy illustrations are especially attractive, showing the little boy's bedroom turning into a jungle, a messy craft time on the floor of the living room with orange paint splashed about liberally and the boy cuddled in his father's lap, and a determined little boy, his shadow a big, brooding tiger, refusing to brush his teeth before bed.

Verdict: This story won't be for everyone - a lot of parents prefer more consequences for bad behavior and the longer text will make it hard for wiggly kids (or tigers) to sit still, but with a little judicious editing, every family's wild child, with or without furry stripes, will enjoy this imaginative romp.

ISBN: 9781542044561; English edition published September 2019 by Amazon Crossing; Review copy provided by publicist; Donated to the library

Monday, August 19, 2019

My Happy Year by E. Bluebird by Paul Meisel

Paul Meisel's first Nature Diary, about praying mantises, My Awesome Summer was hilarious and informative. Well, I thought it was hilarious anyways. Who hasn't dreamed about eating a sibling or two when hunger pangs strike?

A new title joins the series featuring bluebirds. The end pages, front and back, contain in-depth information about the Eastern bluebird, their habits, behavior, status, and a glossary of terms. There are also some simple resources.

The story itself works equally well as a read-aloud and an easy reader, unsurprisingly since Meisel is a Geisel Honor winner and has written a number of excellent easy readers. The story begins with E. Bluebird, naked, blind, with just a few tufts of feathers, stretching her body up for food. Day after day, she eats bugs and grows feathers with her three fellow chicks. Mom takes out their poop sack, keeps feeding them, and warms them with her body until they get feathers. Eventually, her fellow chicks fledge and she herself finally make the leap.

Still an immature bird, she follows her family south, eating bugs along the way. Arriving in the south, there are cats and other dangers, but also plenty of bugs. In March they return home. Now an adult, she finds a mate, a house, and lays her own eggs.

Meisel's paintings are lovely, showing a wealth of insect life, birds, and greenery in the bluebirds' habitats. The most outstanding thing to me, however, is that in both nature diaries he has focused on the female's life cycle. Stop and think about how many books about animals focus on the flashier of the pair - usually the male - or a sentimental version of the "mother love" type of story, or feel like they read from the male perspective. I enjoyed not having to consciously remember to change genders to add a little diversity to the read-alouds.

Verdict: Informative and humorous, this is an excellent addition to storytime read-alouds and nonfiction picture books. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823438372; Published March 2019 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Saturday, August 17, 2019

This week at the library

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Manager's Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Library on the Go: Immunization clinic
    • Craft-o-rama
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
    • Yoga with Josie's Poses
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (3 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Book-a-Librarian Sewing
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Gianna Marino
    • Teens after hours
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40.5 hours; 5 hours on desk; 6 programs
  • I had a bad sinus headache (and some residual back pain from gardening) on Monday and didn't write the meeting minutes as carefully as I should have, oops, sorry staff that I freaked out, we are NOT changing everyone's schedules!... cleaned off my desk, worked my way through some professional development, still cleaning up various bits of collection development, starting placing holds for fall programs.
  • Still a bit muzzy, but with the help of my associate and aide (who were very flexible and helpful) we handled the summer camp, VIP volunteers, and craft-o-rama clean-up with me spending most of the afternoon at the clinic.
  • Second to last LOTG visit to Learning Curve - kids loved using watercolors and oil pastels and I agreed to visit the regular four year old room in the fall. I think my collaboration has made a big difference in involvement with our most distance elementary school (which they feed into) so I'm all for keeping it going! I heard that we had a big group for yoga.
  • Cleaning the basement on Wednesday; on Thursday I had some sewing sessions and then cleaned the meeting room/maker space.
  • Finished the newsletter on Friday, in the midst of a nerf gun battle no less. Also very pleased to see a family from the clinic come to the library!
Professional Development
  • Niche Academy: Librarian's guide to homelessness

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Wendy Mass' contribution to Scholastic's Branches series launched last year and there are now four titles in this time-traveling series.

Siblings Chase and Ava (white) are selling their parents' junk sculptures at the flea market and, after their work is done, get some money to fund their own purchases. They find an old suitcase and at first the woman at the booth refuses to sell it - then she pushes it on them when Chase tells her how interested he is in history and science. Inside the suitcase are a number of strange artifacts. The two are exploring their find when a mysterious stranger starts yelling about his missing suitcase.

Chase and Ava take off on their bikes, but when they stop in the park a weird dragon doorknob flies out of the suitcase and the next thing they know, they've been thrown back in time to the reign of King Arthur! The dragon doorknob is the hilt of Excalibur and only they can keep history from being destroyed. But what does the strange, threatening man have to do with the suitcase? How does it work? Are all the artifacts stolen? Only time will tell!

Black and white sketches show a predominantly white, male cast. The story is written in third person and an odd tense - I'm too far from my literature study days to define it, but here's a sample, "They're both breathing hard when they reach a dead end. Light peeks through the edges of the stones. They wedge their hands into the tiny gaps." While this is the starter book for a series, it feels very disjointed and doesn't really give much information or set-up for the series, other than defining the "magic" object. There isn't much effort put into historical accuracy either.

Verdict: This checks out, due to being part of the popular Branches imprint, but, as Kirkus says, it's really just a "riff on the Magic Treehouse series." An additional purchase only.

ISBN: 9781338217360; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Small Readers: A friend for dragon by Dav Pilkey

While most kids - and adults - think of Dav Pilkey only as the author of the riotously popular Captain Underpants and Dogman graphic blends, he originally started his career in the early 90s with picture books and other titles for a young audience, one of the first being the Dragon series. It was well-reviewed at the time, suggested for readers age 6-8 and marketed as a beginning chapter book.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and Pilkey is extremely well-known in his field, children are being pushed to read younger and younger, while reading abilities continue to decrease (hmmm... can't be any connection there, can there?) and Scholastic is turning out a new line of easy readers marketed to kindergarten through 2nd grade, for kids who are not yet ready for their Branches chapter books. Among their original titles for the Acorn line, they are also republishing higher-level easy readers (or low-level chapter books, depending on how you look at it) and one of the first is Pilkey's Dragon books.

The story is simple; Dragon, a blue, dinosaur-like creature, goes out to find a friend. A snake plays a mean trick on him, and he takes home his new friend - an apple - thinking it can talk to him. The apple, while at first just what he was looking for, eventually doesn't seem well and Dragon takes it to the doctor, where a hungry walrus transforms the apple into a skinny, white core. Sadly, Dragon buries his friend. He grieves throughout the fall and winter, but in the spring, a new tree appears with lots of apple friends!

Pilkey's trademark humor isn't quite fully realized here, although his apparent dislike of female characters is in the grossly overweight female walrus. A note in the newer edition says that Pilkey taught himself to use watercolors, with a child's paint set from the grocery store, when making this book. According to original reviews, later books in the series are funnier; this one has a bit of a melancholy feel to it, especially with the mean snake and Dragon's extended grief.

I compared the original and the new edition; the text remains the same (right down to words like "catsup") and the art appears the same as well, if slightly brighter on some pages, but that could be just that it's a newer book. The layout has changed a little - the original was just 47 pages long and the new edition is 51, plus some bonus features in the back, like how to draw Dragon. This was done by splitting up some of the pages; some text is against a white background and the art has been shrunk to fit in the smaller format.

Scholastic recommends this for 1st grade and it has a lexile of 460. As I mentioned above, the Acorn books are being marketed as easy readers but because of the simultaneous push for kids to read younger (I get a lot of parents of four year olds asking for leveled readers) and the drop in reading ability (I only know a handful of 5th graders who read - and comprehend - what is being produced for middle grade) I've decided to put the Acorn titles in our beginning chapter books. This will satisfy kids and parents who want to read "real" books while offering something more accessible.

Verdict: I've realized before that I'm not really a fan of Pilkey and don't necessarily "get" his sense of humor. However, name recognition he's got in spades and I think this will be a popular series once there are more available so kids can get past the sad first book.

ISBN: 9781338341058; This edition published June 2019 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Little Senses: Nope. Never. Not for me! and This beach is loud! by Samantha Cotterill

These two titles are part of a new series of picture books for "wonderfully sensitive kids." They are fun stories that depict protagonists on the autism spectrum or with sensory issues interacting with the world.

In Nope. Never. Not for me! a little girl (identified as such in the publisher's description) wears a dinosaur cape and hood and dinosaur pajamas as she has a meltdown over trying a new food, broccoli. After lots of dramatic yelling and flinging herself on the floor, her mom gives in gracefully, saying "Oh well, then... Not every dinosaur likes trees." The girl perks up immediately and cautiously tries it... only to realize she really, really doesn't like broccoli! She's sad that she's not a brave dinosaur after all, but her mother gentle explains that she's a brave "try-ceratops" and the girl tries out a lot of different foods, a little at a time, discovering new things she likes. Both mother and child are white with black hair and a little brother, also white, shows up on the last page. The girl's "try-ceratops" chart, with pictures of food that she likes and food that she doesn't is something that may appeal to parents with kids who have difficulty trying new foods.

In This Beach is loud! a brown-skinned boy eagerly wakes his dad up at 4am, ready for a day at the beach. He's got Sharkie, everything packed, and even manages to get dressed after a struggle with tags and itchy clothing. His enthusiasm lasts until they arrive at the beach, accompanied by a stream of chatter... only to discover that the beach is loud, crowded, and just too much! His dad gently coaxes him to a quieter spot, but there's sand on everything and he just wants to go home. Fortunately, his dad knows just what to do and with some familiar rituals the swirling explosion of noise and sensation calms down and the little boy manages to enjoy his beach trip after all, regaling his dad with excited chatter all the way home.

Cotterill's charcoal and ink prints, especially in the second title, show a diverse range of people enjoying the beach and clearly depict the growing wave of sensory input that overwhelms the little boy, dimming his enthusiasm and leading him near a meltdown. The pictures in the first title are simpler, largely showing the main character against mostly plain white backgrounds, with a wide range of facial expressions as she reacts to the new sensations.

Verdict: These books appeal on a range of levels, not only to children with sensory processing issues or autism, but any child who's ever had a bad day or something that's just too much to handle. They offer a gentle story as well as a window and mirror for children to see themselves and others. Not only this, but there's help for parents and caregivers as well, suggesting ways to help children dealing with these issues or encouraging compassion when observing other caregivers dealing with meltdowns. A strong addition to any library or storytime collection.

Nope. Never. Not for me!
ISBN: 9780525553441

This beach is loud!
ISBN: 9780525553458

Published June 2019 by Dial Books; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 12, 2019

Awesome Achievers in Science; Awesome Achievers in Technology by Alan Katz, illustrated by Chris Judge

Alan Katz, best-known for his silly rhyming books like Take me out of the bathtub dives into an entirely new genre, nonfiction, but still retains his well-known silly humor.

Both were published simultaneously, in paperback, at the beginning of August. Science includes twelve scientists. Each is covered in a brief chapter on their achievements, influence, and inventions. Additional facts are sprinkled throughout the book, as well as jokes and humorous interjections, mostly at the end of chapters and in separate sections. There are also black and white sketches, mostly of the people included. There is no back matter, only a silly note from the author and a blank page for notes.

The people included in this book are Michael Collins (astronaut), Dr. Henry Heimlich (I believe there is some controversy about the use of the technique, but this was not mentioned), Dr. Patricia Bath (African-American opthalmologist who pioneered a technique for laser surgery on cataracts), George de Mestral (inventor of Velcro), Dr. James Jude (pioneer of CPR techniques), Katherine Blodgett (inventor of anti-glare glass coating, among many other things), Edwin Land who invented the Polaroid, Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Sally Ride, Dr. Roy J. Plunkett (inventor of Teflon), Dr. Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry (creators of Sticky Notes), and Dr. Hugh Herr (current researcher in bionic prostheses)

Awesome Achievers in Technology focuses on people who invented, improved, or made unique uses of technology. Like the Science volume, it starts with a brief introduction, profiles twelve people in two or three pages each, includes extra facts, jokes, and silly chat from the author after most chapters, and finishes with a humorous note from the author and a blank page for notes.

People included in this book are Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari and early computer games), Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus (creators of SIRI), Nils Bohlin (inventor of the seat belt), Roberta Williams (computer game developer who pioneered graphics and character development), Robert Adler (creator of the tv remote), Mary Anderson (inventor of windshield wipers), Martin Cooper (cell phones), Marie Van Brittan Brown (used existing technology to create personal camera security system), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (African-American pioneer in physics and fiber optics), Percy Spencer (microwaves), and Patsy Sherman (Scotchgard).

These brief vignettes don't go into any depth about the characters or their experiences; there's no reflection in the technology book, for example, about the continued issues of sexism and discrimination. Prejudice and historical sexism are mentioned casually, but not dealt with in any in-depth manner. The collection of people is varied with no really strong core holding them together. They also focus on the single, brilliant idea concept rather than the more realistic version where a group of people works together to come up with an invention.

So, these are not the books you'd use for research on the topics. Katz' humor is juvenile and, to an adult, rather annoying. However, these don't purport to be research books or thoroughly cover the subject. They're a nice introduction to some different people, many who are not well-known, and will certainly be new to children.

Verdict: This is the perfect new series to hand to Who Was fans. They whet the appetite with a brief introduction to the topic and kids can go on from there and learn more. A strong addition to biography and science collections, adding browsing materials for younger readers.

Awesome Achievers in Science
ISBN: 9780762463381

Awesome Achievers in Technology
ISBN: 9780762463367

Published August 2019 by Running Press; Galleys provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I will eat you by Giada Francia, illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi

Anyone who knows me, knows that my perennial complaint about books featuring animals is that they never accurately show food chains. Cute owls hanging out with their natural prey, sentimentalized pigs on farms that produce meat, etc. It drives me nuts! Kids can handle the natural life cycles of the world, it’s adults who have the problem with facts!

So this book, although the novelty aspect was a little problematic, was balm to my soul. The whole thing is basically things eating other things. The book opens vertically and you unfold the pages to show the food chains. The first spread gives a basic overview of food chains and then each page shows two creatures, one proclaiming “I will eat you!”. The pages fold out, showing an unexpected predator joining the mix. A big fish and little fish are joined by an even bigger fish, a mouse is ready to eat a beetle, but is being chased by a snake who in turn is followed by an owl. The sequences continue to the very last page, which has an array of every creature in the book and a label for each.

The back of the flaps add some lovely background to the following picture, and the stylized illustrations are attractive while still being identifiable. The pages are a sturdy paper, not as thick as a board book but stronger than the average page. This isn’t something I’d want to put in the general collection, due to the many folds, but I can see it working well in a special collection or one of my storytime kits.

Verdict: A unique and interesting book, useful for caregivers who want to teach about food chains or kids who are interested in nature.

ISBN: 9780823440313; This edition published 2018 by Holiday House; Borrowed via inter-library loan