Monday, October 5, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Sand Swimmers: The secret life of Australia's Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver

When I started reading this book, I was confused, skeptical, unsure. But it dragged me in and by the time I reached the end, I had to go back and read it again. It's a unique blend of nonfiction and artistic style that I've never seen before.

The art, informational text, excerpts from historical documents, and inset small panels flow across the page, taking readers down into the seemingly arid desert that is secretly full of life. The book contrasts the life of the desert and the animals and Aboriginal people who lived there for thousands of years with the view of the European settlers who found it a deadly and dead wasteland. Some pictures are like a puzzle, looking for the camouflaged animals a game. Others show the plants and animals in different groupings or habitats. Many illustrations and examples take a quote from European explorers such as Charles Sturt, talking about how lifeless the desert was, and then show the many different plants and animals they missed.

The art varies from sketches to stylized woodcuts, to full paintings. There's a fascinating variety in the styles used that move the reader easily between different perspectives and time periods.

Verdict: While Australian desert wildlife isn't something rural Wisconsin kids have probably ever thought much about, besides kangaroos, this is an amazing way to present not only the wildlife but the history of an area. It would be really interesting to go through it with elementary-aged kids and then work on creating similar projects for other areas they're interested in, or local areas. It's different but really cool. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763667610; Published 1999 in Australia; Published 2015 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Suggested Cybils Nominations

These are books I've read, reviewed, or purchased over the past year that I think are strong contenders for Cybils in their various categories. It can be hard to remember what you read 12 months ago, so I hope this jogs some memories! I cannot guarantee eligibility or appropriate category - this is just a rough list of suggestions.

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • I, Fly by Bridget Heos
  • Big red kangaroo by Claire Saxby
  • When the earth shakes by Simon Winchester
  • Octopuses by Pringle
  • Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski
Fiction Picture Books
Easy Readers/Early Chapters
Graphic Novels
  • Hans Christian Andersen's Red Shoes and other tales by Metaphrog
  • Courtney Crumrin Tales of a Warlock 9781620100196 
  • Batgirl of Burnside 9781401253325 
  • Race for boatlantis 9780547865638 
  • Tokyo Ghoul 1 9781421580364 
Young Adult Nonfiction
  • Battle of the Bulge by Rick Atkinson 9781627791137
  • Three more words by Ashley Rhode-Courter 9781481415576 
  • Just add water by Clay Marzo 9780544256217 
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
  • Mark of the thief by Jennifer Nielsen 9780545561549 
  • Battlesaurus rampage at waterloo 9780374300753

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This week at the library; or, I'm not at the library!

I took a vacation. So far as I know, the library has not collapsed into ruin without me. Ms. Pattie ran storytimes, my aide and an associate borrowed from the adult department ran Lego Club, and the staff were warned that there was no school on Friday.

I blogged my week off over at my personal blog, if you want to really see exactly how obsessive I am.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

Before all the fractured fairy tale movies and other retellings, there was The Ordinary Princess. This is from the 1980s and has been reprinted several times, with progressively worse covers, but I am lucky enough to have the original cover.

This is an original fairytale in the style of Eleanor Farjeon and Milne, who wrote what are usually called "fairy stories" that might or might not have contained actual fairies. Princess Amethyst Alexandra Aurelia Anne was the seventh daughter of a fairy tale king and queen but received an unusual gift at her christening; "You shall be ordinary!" says the Fairy Crustacea. And ordinary Amy is. She has a snub nose, cries, and is no more a golden-haired, romantic princess than the maids of the castle. So it's easy for her to switch places with one Clorinda and retreat to the forest where she enjoys a happy life. But one day she meets a boy named Perry...

I think, if reprinted with the original or a good cover, this fairy tale would find an audience. It has just a little romance, a lot of humor, and pokes gentle fun at fairy tale tropes without being crude or raucous. It's still a fairy story with magical creatures, floating dresses, and royalty. It's also a sweet fantasy with animals, a truly delicious and unique fairy godmother, and an ordinary heroine who is anything but ordinary.

Verdict: I can't recommend you purchase this now, the only in print cover is awful, however, it's worth looking for a used copy to enjoy for yourself.

ISBN: 0153046120; Published 1984 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; From my personal library

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Small Readers: Sofia Martinez, Picture Perfect by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kim Smith

A friend put me on to this series and I absolutely loved it! I've always been sad that I couldn't get any kids to get into Jules' Zapato Power series. I'm not sure why - the covers are a little bland maybe. But Sofia Martinez, oh I can booktalk this one!

Sofia is the youngest of the three Martinez sisters. Everyone says she and her sisters, Luisa and Elena look alike. But Sofia wants to look different! A family get-together gives her an idea and in her next school picture Sofia will definitely stand out of the crowd!

The pictures are colorful and attractive. Sofia is an enthusiastic, bouncy little girl whose personality shines through both the words and pictures. The art picks up the changing emotions of the simple story and gives the reader glimpses into Sofia's warm and busy family.

The text is intermediate, what I'd call a level 2 or 3 in my library, perfect for kindergarten up through 2nd grade. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text in bright pink. The meaning is easy to pick out from the context, but there's also a helpful glossary in the back. Several discussion questions are also included.

I've been looking for more realistic easy readers and Sofia's Latina identity is just the icing on top of the cupcake. Kids will empathize with her dilemma and giggle over her solution. The text is smoothly written and the Spanish integrated so that it won't disrupt the reading experience, whether or not kids know what the words mean. Sassy pictures and a depiction of a caring, happy family round out a very nice start to a new easy reader series.

Verdict: Picture Window only offers paperback or library binding, but the $15 price tag is quite reasonable and definitely worth it to add a little diversity and a fun new series to your easy reader section. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781479857738; Published 2015 by Picture Window/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On the Wing by David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

I'm generally not a fan of poetry books *pauses while friends throw things at me* but poetic picture books can really work, if they bridge the gap between those who are uncertain/reluctant to check out poetry and the almost constant circulation of our picture books. David Elliott's picture books of short poems have always done very well for us. I've used selections in storytime, in displays, and they check out quite a lot.

When I borrowed this new one, I was at first confused that they'd switched to a new illustrator. Then I remembered that the illustrator for the previous three books in this series, Holly Meade, passed away several years ago. I was interested to see how the new illustrator, Becca Stadtlander, would measure up.

So, this follows the same format as the previous titles which explored animals in the sea, on the farm, and in the wild. Each spread or page features a different bird and a clever, majestic, or funny poem about them. I love that Elliott doesn't dumb down the language and uses such rich vocabulary as "conflagration" with ease. My favorite poem, personally, is "The Wandering Albatross" which has a lovely, haunting rhythm. Some of the poems are just a few lines, making them perfect for introducing very young children to both poetry and birds.

The new illustrator has a very different style from Meade's rough, colorful woodcuts, but it is a lovely combination with Elliott's poetry and fits the theme of birds beautifully. The delicate paintings capture the grace and loveliness of the birds as easily as their more quirky features and habits. From the sweeping majesty of the condor soaring far above the landscape to a flock of feisty sparrows, each bird is delicately and lovingly drawn with personality and verve.

Verdict: If, like me, you only purchase a few poetry books each year, make sure to include this continuation of a popular series on your list. The new illustrator was an excellent choice to continue the legacy of Elliott and Meade and take the series in a new direction. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763653248; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen

This book sounded really cool, but I wanted to look at it first. However, it took quite a while before I was able to get my hands on it! It is, indeed, quite lovely.

There isn't so much a story in the book as an exhortation to start small and plant a few native prairie plants. If you plant just a few things, more may follow, along with native animals, until the prairie is reborn.

Back matter includes an explanation of the history and destruction of the great prairies, how to start your own mini prairie and research native plants, and more information on the various plant and animal species mentioned in the book. There is also some additional information on endangered vs extinct and some further resources.

The lovely, delicate illustrations perfectly capture the beauty of small details in the prairie so lovingly described. Birds, flowers, snakes, insects, the tiny creatures grown and expand until they sweep across the page in a flurry of life and motion.

Verdict: This isn't likely to work well in a storytime, as there isn't really a story, more a list of species. If you're looking for a story about reviving a wild meadow, try Meadowview Street by Henry Cole. However, it's a lovely, lovely book and would be a perfect complement to a class project or research into native plants.

ISBN: 9780816679805; Published 2014 by University of Minnesota Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cybils is Here! Cybils is coming!

I am proud and happy to announce the first and second round panelists of Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction, of which category I am chair. I will also be judging in the first round of Easy Readers/Easy Chapter Books. Get your nominations ready, because it's only a few days away!

Round 1 Panelists for Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction. These folks will be reading approximately 100 nonfiction titles, choosing the 5-7 that best fit Cybils' criteria of child appeal and literary quality.

Round 2 Judges for Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction. These folks will take our finalists and, in only a month and a half of intense reading, discussion, and evaluation, choose the One Book To Rule Them All, i.e. the winner!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

This week at the library; or, Reaching out to outreach

Thinking about weeding
the juvenile nonfiction.
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • The real craziness begins this week. Last week was just pretend-craziness. School here started very late - after Labor Day - so my outreach isn't starting until this week. I'm also taking next week off so I had a lot of prep work to do.
  • Data. Daaaattaaaa. The official 2014 data was released today. Of course, I already had my happy data day dance with the preliminaries last summer, but I like to look again.
    • Service Population: 24,484
    • Children's materials circulation: 121,079
    • Children's e-content (which has nothing to do with me): 378
    • Children's programs: 364
    • Children's program attendance: 12,282
    • Teen programs (I count school visits): 24
    • Teen attendance: 456
  • My first visit to the after school community center for middle schoolers. There was a fairly small group there and I only checked out about 3 things. It would work a lot better if I had a mobile hotspot, but I don't think it's worth it for just this monthly group. If I ever started doing books by the pool in the summer though....the kids were absolutely enthralled with the Osmo though.
  • First visit back to one of my preschool/daycares. The threes and fours are so tiny at the beginning of the year!
  • Thursday I frantically rushed through all the misc. things I could think of that would need to be done, Friday I was gone all day at a workshop and then...vacation!
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • Starting to put together materials for book clubs starting in October.
  • Shifted the manga - we're running out of space
  • Weeding YA - again, running out of space
Professional Development
  • Youth Services workshop - using technology, adapting services to kids with disabilities, starting an anime club and lots of other stuff.
  • Cybils. I am cybiling like crazy!
Stealth Programs and Displays
  • Nothing new!
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • "how things work" for a four year old - Macaulay is really too old, I showed them some things in the nonfiction section and let them browse.
  • Pete the Cat
  • Trapani and other music-based books - Music section in neighborhoods.
  • Read-alikes for I Survived for a 5th grader. I survived true stories, Can you survive, Samantha Seiple, Expeditioners, Secret Files. I really need to make a list for this.
  • Leaf books, fall books, apple books.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Anna Banana and the friendship split by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Meg Park

This looked like a really fun new beginning/intermediate chapter series with a diverse main character. But for some reason it just didn't grab me.

Anna loves her best friend Sadie, but they don't always get along. She thinks Sadie is lucky, with parents who let her do whatever she wants. But Sadie can also be bossy and mean. When they have a fight on Anna's birthday, she's devastated and at first tries to make up with Sadie. But then she realizes she needs to stand up for herself and tries...but it all goes wrong. Does she have to choose a new best friend?

I guess what mainly bothered me about this is that Anna's parents are supposed to be a contrast to Sadie's - involved, caring, etc. But it takes them quite a while to realize that something is drastically wrong with Anna and then they just...don't really do anything. Really, I suppose I'm looking at it from an adult standpoint and not how it would appear to a kid, so it's not a legitimate complaint, but it just bothered me.

There are illustrations throughout the book, but this was an ARC so I didn't see the finished illustrations. Despite my own reservations, if you have readers who like stories about friendship with lots of interpersonal stuff going on, this would definitely be a good choice. The writing is snappy and fresh, the characters aren't too stereotyped for this type of book, and a lot of kids struggle with friendship issues.

Verdict: I think this just wasn't a good fit for me personally, since I dislike stories that focus primarily on relationships and this whole series looks like it's going to be one friendship drama after another. I'm going to take the ARC to work and see what my book club kids think about it, but most of my readers are more interested in books where something happens (although that might be my own bias coming through) so I don't think this series is necessary for us. However, it's really nice to see a diverse main character and if I had a bigger budget I'd definitely add this one.

ISBN: 9781481416054; Published May 2015 by Simon and Schuster; ARC provided at ALA Midwinter 2015