Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Small Readers: Sparkly new friends by Heather Ayris Burnell, illustrated by Hazel Quintanilla

This is one of the new Acorn readers from Scholastic. The Branches books, meant to be a branch from easy reader to chapter book, have been a huge success with my readers. Kids up to 5th grade devour Dragon Masters, Notebook of Doom, and Owl Diaries, among others. This new line is meant to hit that spot right between early leveled readers and beginning chapter books, where you'd find, say, Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, etc. In fact, some of the series coming out later are actually remade from easy reader series like Rylant's Poppleton.

I sampled a couple books from the series and first I'm looking at Unicorn and Yet. The first book, Sparkly new friends, introduces Unicorn who is pink, has a rainbow mane, can fly, and is, well, sparkly. Yeti is big and fluffy and... not so sparkly. Or is he? When Unicorn sees something sparkling, he flies down to investigate and discovers Yeti. By crashing into him. Yeti wishes he was sparkly and Unicorn decides to convince him that he - and the snow - do have sparkles! In the second and third chapters, their friendship continues as they discover things that are different and the same about each other and learn more about their different abilities.

The pictures are cute and colorful; Yeti has a male pronoun at the end of the book but I didn't see one for Unicorn so I've decided he's a boy because I was annoyed that they defaulted to Yeti as male. Lots of sparkles, pastel colors, and little cartoon figures dot the pages. The book is laid out like a comic book, with different colored word balloons (Unicorn is orange and Yeti is purple) and a mixture of panels and full-page illustrations. 

They are calling them early readers, but after due consideration I have decided to put them in with beginning chapter books. Physically, the books are smaller than a Branches book - about 7x5 inches - and 56 pages long. They include a drawing tutorial and an encouragement to tell your own story in the back. Most Branches books are a 400-500 lexile and these seem to be coming in at a 300-400. More generally, I've found that kids are being pushed to read younger but are falling behind and losing interest earlier. Having an easy series in with the beginning chapter books will attract both younger and older readers.

Verdict: With a unicorn and Scholastic's track record of success with Branches, there's no argument that this is a necessary purchase. The only decision is the best spot to put them and how many copies to purchase.

ISBN: 9781338329018; Published April 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hannah Marks

A delightfully roly-poly panda wreaks hilarious havoc in the latest addition to the popular genre of books bending the traditional picture book narrative.

The story begins, like all stories do, with a problem. But wait! This panda has no problem. No problem? How can there be a story with no problem? A hilarious conversation ensues between the increasingly exasperated narrator and the cheerfully indifferent panda, munching away on bamboo, as the narrator tries to get the story going and the panda just. won't. cooperate! But wait, the panda has an idea! Maybe the problem in this book... is the panda! What if the panda a banjo? Chaos ensues until suddenly the panda (and the panda's double) DO have a real problem - they're hungry! A bargain is struck and the story comes to its silly and satisfying conclusion.

Hannah Marks produces an excellent illustrator debut with her mischievous panda and ensuing problems. From the innocently pleased panda in a leafy bower of bamboo to the chaos of jellybeans, banjos, aliens, and penguins, Marks' sweet cartoons will keep kids laughing as they blend perfectly with Underwood's exasperated prose.

Verdict: This is a delightful addition to picture books breaking the fourth wall; Read for a riotous storytime and listen to the growing giggles of your audience as they follow the wacky adventures of this naughty panda. I've read this to about 600 kids before school ended and all universally acclaimed it!

ISBN: 9780735228504; Published April 2019 by Dial Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, June 17, 2019

20 recipes kids should know by Esme Washburn, photographs by Calista Washburn

I think this is the first kids' cookbook that teaches you how to cook steak! Come to think of it, I've never cooked steak... It's created by two sisters, ages 12 and 17 (the younger wrote it and tested the recipes and the older took the photographs). I'm always interested in the newer type of kids' cookbook that teaches real cooking skills, and this is a fun addition to that genre.

The introduction covers measurements, safety, and a glossary of commonly used cooking terms. Each recipe is introduced with a little story from the author. The recipes are pancakes, banana bread, omelets, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, black bean soup, hummus, salad and dressing, breaded chicken, steak, pizza (including the crust), pasta with tomato sauce or pesto (including making the pasta), mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, bread, and popovers.

As you can see there's a wide variety in the recipes, from simple (grilled cheese sandwiches) to more time-consuming and complex (pasta and bread by hand). Each recipe has a mouth-watering photo, clear list of prep time, ingredients, and directions. The book itself is an over-sized hardcover with colorful text and information about and photos of the authors in the back.

Verdict: I don't know that I'd agree that every kid needs to know how to cook these specific recipes, but they do include a nice variety, in ingredients, cost and tastes, and paired with a book that teaches more specific cooking skills, like my favorite How to cook in 10 easy lessons, this is a great resource to encourage kids to try some cooking on their own.

ISBN: 9783791385075; Published April 2019 by Prestel; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 15, 2019

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

Some of the 30 people who came to our Eric Carle art
program - cutting up their paintings after storytime to
make collages.
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Outdoor Playgroup
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Box Build
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Open Storyroom
  • Friday
  • Worked 41 hours; 18 hours on desk; 5 programs
  • Worked 2 hours at home finishing emails and program plans for next week
  • Summer Reading: Approximately 300 kids signed up for summer reading, about 200 activity bags given out.
  • Headstart came to the Box Build - I think they brought about 20? people. My staff brought up massive amounts of cardboard from the basement and I had tons of masking tape, duct tape, regular scissors, markers, kitchen shears, xacto knives, and hot glue. We had a lot of cardboard left over, mostly because I had acquired way too many couch boxes earlier this year, but the kids had a lot of fun and we eventually got it all out to the recycling dumpster.
  • Updated all my field trips from the last few weeks to be ready for next year.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Becket List by Adele Griffin

Starting with changing her name to Becket, the middle Branch is ready for the country! Her older sister and younger brother aren't so enthusiastic, but Becket is sure that if she follows her "Becket List" for "How to be a Country Kid" she'll succeed in her goals of making a new best friend and getting a younger, just-right-for-the-country dog.

Of course, nothing goes the way she has planned. The new best friend she thinks she's found doesn't like her, her enthusiasm at camp is misunderstood and everyone thinks she's snobby, and her little brother, who she was all ready to help get over his many fears and issues, is settling in much more easily than she does! As she tries to earn money, makes mistakes, and slowly settles in herself, she finds that there are positive and negative aspects of her new life, just like her old life, and that as long as she keeps trying she'll eventually succeed.

Line drawings by LeUyen Pham show an exuberant girl who goes headlong at life and sometimes trips along the way. She's white with lots of freckles; their old friends from the city, the Fairs, are black. The girl she hopes to make her new best friend is black. Fair warning - the dog dies at the end. It's not traumatic and clearly expected throughout the book, as the dog is an ancient, wheezy pug who clearly is coming to the end of his lifespan.

At just 200 pages, this is a welcome addition to chapter books for younger middle grade readers, specifically 3rd and 4th graders. Becket is a relatable character, even if her readers haven't moved from the city to the country. She's putting her best face on a difficult change and she makes mistakes, missteps, and bad choices like every other kid. Her family is always there to back her up and help her out, but they give her a chance to assert her independence and make mistakes as well.

Verdict: This is a great choice for readers who are facing big changes in their lives or who are ready to move on to more independence and need reassurance that, although mistakes can happen, things will work out in the end. The death of the dog at the end of the story is a quiet ending, surrounded by family, and leaves the way open for more stories about Blackberry Farm.

ISBN: 9781616207908; Published April 2019 by Algonquin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Small Readers: Hello, Crabby! by Jonathan Fenske

Acorn books is Scholastic's new easy reader series, a step between leveled readers and the Branches books, which are a step before chapter books. Some of the Acorn books are new and some will feature familiar easy reader characters like Pilkey's Dragon and Rylant's Poppleton.

I have been eagerly waiting for Fenske's contribution to this new line - kids love his silly easy readers like the nut series and his picture books. Fans of Barnacle is bored and Plankton is pushy will be delighted to see all his ocean critters joining a new character for this series; Crabby.

Crabby, a grouchy red character with lowering eyebrows and a determined frown, is having his usual crabby day. He meets Barnacle, "He is always hanging around" and gets sloshed by a wave. But the real fun (or frown) doesn't begin until he meets pushy Plankton. Plankton is determined to get a smile out of Crabby. He tries jokes, introducing him to some not-so-crabby crabs, and even baking a fantastic cake. Will Crabby get over his crabby mood? Or is he just meant to be crabby?

The deadpan humor of Fenske's other books is here in full force and will have kids who appreciate the more subtle jokes laughing hysterically as they read the goofy story. I am curious as to how long it can be sustained as a series - does Crabby have enough dimension to have more books with three chapters each? But I have faith that Fenske will make them funny, whatever happens.

Verdict: There's no doubt that Acorn is going to be a hit in libraries, schools, and homes. The only question is how many copies you'll need to buy for your Barnacle and Plankton fans.

ISBN: 9781338281507; Published April 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Noah builds an ark by Kate Banks, illustrated by John Rocco

This contemporary retelling of the classical Bible story, depicts a sensitive boy who cares deeply for all the creatures around him.

The story begins with Noah, a boy with curly dark hair and brown skin, peeping over the fence to see a storm coming down the hill in his city. As his parents prepare the house for the storm, boarding up windows, getting out candles, and stockpiling food, Noah prepares his small friends for the storm. He creates a roof for the bed of an old wagon and fills it with food, miniature furniture, a flashlight, and other comforts. When the storm hits, Noah and his family are safe in their home; and his small friends are safe in their ark. Hummingbirds, salamanders, snakes, spiders, grasshoppers, and toads all weather the storm in safety within their ark. The creatures hiss, buzz, and sing while the family in their house tell stories; they nibble on snacks, curl up for bed, and when the storm is over emerge to see the glorious rainbow and fill Noah's yard with life one more.

Banks' pictures were created in pencil and watercolor and rendered digitally; they show a glow of light in the sky and on Noah's skin, the gathering storm clouds, and the individual personalities of each little creature as they wait for the storm to end. The rising waters, dark sky, and anxious families waiting to see if they make it through the storm are shadowed in grays and the joyful return to the world at the end shines with all the colors of the rainbow.

There are many layers and possibilities for this book; readers familiar with the Biblical story can discuss the parallels and differences and look at the book from a religious perspective as both Noah and his parents care for those under their protection. Readers unfamiliar with the story or approaching it from a non-religious viewpoint can discuss how Noah cares for the wildlife in his home and what things they can do to help their own backyard creatures. All readers can enjoy this imaginative, warm story for its lovely text and rich art.

Verdict: A strong addition to any library, this is a great choice for a preschool or older storytime, one-on-one reading, or retelling traditional stories.

ISBN: 9780763674847; Published March 2019 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, June 10, 2019

Just right: Searching for the Goldilocks planet by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Jessica Lanan

An African-American girl looks out her window, dreaming of what's in the sky... and the book segues into an exploration of the search for exoplanets and the science surrounding space and the stars. The book alternates between nonfiction and fiction, introducing astronomers and scientists of the past and analyzing what makes a planet habitable - and for what type of life forms and then switching to the girl and her sister and parents visiting a museum an exploring these concepts and questions further.

There is back matter, including an extension of the science behind finding exoplanets and more information on carbon-based life forms as well as a list of further reading and resources. The book is written simply, in a way that young children can understand, but also offers room for older readers to investigate the concepts further and think more deeply about the subject.

Lanan's watercolors show a realistic picture of a family exploring the wonders of science as well as imagining galaxies and planets beyond our reach. Smaller sections of text explore some concepts in more depth although they can sometimes be hard to decipher against the colored backgrounds.

Verdict: Whether or not you're adding to your space titles, this is a strong selection that not only explores a fascinating topic but encourages creative thinking and scientific questioning.

ISBN: 9781250155337; Published January 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, June 9, 2019

RA RA Read: Is there a book about...

I have mixed feelings about bibliotherapy. On the one hand, picture books on difficult topics can give caregivers a helping hand in dealing with said topics. On the other, I am personally skeptical of them really having an effect on the kids themselves. Be that as it may, I do get asked a lot for books on specific "issues" and this is the list I have so far. I have a separate list of books on divorced and blended families and all of the titles here are stories, not books specifically aimed at issues. Specific issue books are in our Parenting collection.

  • Adoption
    • My new mom and me by Renata Galindo
    • Orange Peel’s Pocket by Rose Lewis
    • Best family in the world by Susana Lopez
    • Most unusual day by Sydra Mallery
    • Goyangi means cat by McDonnell
  • Biracial families
    • Spork by Kyo Maclear
  • New Baby
    • Double trouble by Atinuke
    • There's going to be a baby by John Burningham
    • Mooshka by Julie Paschkis
    • Phoebe and Digger by Tricia Springstubb
  • Siblings
    • Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall
    • Big red lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
  • Single father (or sole interactions with father)
    • Hammer and nails by Josh Bledsoe
    • Rory the dinosaur by Liz Climo
  • Single mother
    • Two is enough by Janna Matthies
  • Dealing with Emotions
    • When Sophie gets angry by Molly Bang
    • Jar of happiness by Ailsa Burrows
    • Llama llama mad at mama by Anna Dewdney
    • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
    • Taming of Lola by Ellen Weiss
  • Grief and Death - animals
    • Big cat, little cat by Elisha Cooper
    • City dog, country frog by Mo Willems
  • Separation Anxiety
    • Llama Llama misses mama by Anna Dewdney
    • Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney
    • No more blanket for Lambkin by Bernette Ford
    • I want my pacifier by Tony Ross
    • No babysitters allowed by Amber Stewart
Growing Up
  • Bedtime Issues
    • Your own big bed by Rita Bergstein
      • Moving from a crib to a regular bed
    • Back to bed, Ed! By Sebastien Braun
      • Staying in bed
    • Llama Llama red pajama by Anna Dewdney
    • I don’t want to go to bed by Tony Ross
    • Jake stays awake by Michael Wright
  • Being Sick
    • Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker
    • Llama Llama home with mama by Anna Dewdney
    • Bear feels sick by Karma Wilson
  • Healthy Eating (Picky Eaters)
    • Monsters don’t eat broccoli by Barbara Hicks (out of print)
    • Bread and jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
    • Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
  • Moving
    • Before I leave by Jessixa Baxley
  • Potty training
    • Saddest toilet in the world by Sam Apple
    • Dinosaur vs. the potty by Bob Shea
  • Sharing and Playing Together
    • I’m the best by Lucy Cousins
    • Llama Llama time to share by Anna Dewdney
    • Tea party rules by Ame Dyckman
School and socialization
  • Bullying
    • Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
    • Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney
    • Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore
    • Stand tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
    • Dixie and the big bully by Grace Gilman
    • Trudy Ludwig (author)
  • Social Interactions
    • Plankton is pushy by Jonathan Fenske
    • Invisible boy by Trudy Ludwig
    • Kindergators: Hands off Harry by Rosemary Wells
    • Kindergators: Miracle Melts down by Rosemary Wells
  • Tolerance, diversity
    • There's a cat in our class by Jeanie Ransom
Other Issues and Subjects
  • Allergies and food issues
    • Jake goes peanuts by Michael Wright
  • Biting
    • No more biting for Billy Goat by Bernadette Ford
    • Teeth are not for biting by Elizabeth Verdick
  • Children with physical disabilities
    • Snow rabbit by Camille Garoche
  • Lice and bedbugs
    • Barnaby the bedbug behavior by Catherine Stier
    • Bugs in my hair by David Shannon
  • Poverty and social issues
    • Bike like Sergio's by Maribeth Boelts
  • Vision issues
    • Pirate of kindergarten by George Lyon
    • I can see just fine by Eric Barclay
Updated 5-19

Saturday, June 8, 2019

This week at the library; or, Last week of field trips. Summer looms.

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to read
    • Managers' meeting
    • New employee training
  • Tuesday
    • Kindergarten field trip (3 classes)
    • Fourth grade field trip (4 classes)
    • 2nd grade field trip (1 class)
    • Teen sewing club
  • Wednesday
    • Tibbets school visit (5 grades)
    • Fourth grade field trip (4 classes)
  • Thursday (last day of school)
    • 1st grade field trip (4 classes)
    • 3rd grade school visit (4 classes)
  • Friday
    • Free lego build
    • Usborne book sale
  • Saturday
    • Blast off to summer reading
    • Usborne book sale
    • In-person summer reading registration for all ages begins
  • Worked 33 hours; 10 hours on desk; 9 programs (approximately 650 kids)
  • Worked at home on collection development for several hours
  • Tuesdays 4th grade field trip was rained out - had to haul all the books over to the school. Just as well, since we forgot to put up the Pac-man maze the night before and it wasn't ready!
  • Wednesday went well... except for my somehow frying the scanner the night before, the a/c in the library being out, and only 1 kid remembering their library card! But for a first year of doing remote check-outs it was very successful and we checked out LOTS of books!
  • Last visits on Thursday - writing up all the things I need to remember to adjust next year.