Monday, August 29, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Mystery & Mayhem: Survival and Pirates and Shipwrecks by Tom McCarthy

 I'm looking at two titles from the Mysteries & Mayhem series, published by Nomad Press, today.

Survival is, of course, a collection of true survival tales. It includes both familiar and more obscure tales in the selection of five historical episodes. The first story is Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica, which resulted in he and his crew being stranded for months. It includes both the hardships they suffered and Shackleton's ability to inspire and sustain his men. The second chapter covers Captain Bligh, set adrift with a handful of sailors, after the famous mutiny on his ship, the Bounty. The third chapter covers William Lewis Manly, who, along with the party he was guiding, was lost in Death Valley when they were traveling west. The fourth story was new to me; Mademoiselle Picard and her family were victims of a horrific shipwreck and then stranded in the Sahara. Finally, the well-known drama of the Donner Party rounds out the book.

The stories are each introduced with a map and end with the results of the adventure; Continued controversy over Captain Bligh's actions, Mademoiselle Picard's life after rescue, etc. There is also a list of historical facts for each chapter, to put the events into context. There is a glossary but no sources or bibliography.

The second book I'm reviewing, Pirates and Shipwrecks, presents a shipwreck and encounter with pirates for sailor Daniel Collins, and the mysterious disappearance of Captain Franklin's expedition to the Arctic. It also includes the stories of two pirates; Mary Reed and Barbarossa. There is also a story of shipwrecks on the Andamans and encounters with the hostile indigenous peoples.

This book also includes a glossary, but only the story of Daniel Collins mentions a source.

Survival is not particularly unique, but does include a reasonable variety of stories including various people and ranging from well-known to more obscure. Pirates and Shipwrecks is very troubling in its depiction of native peoples, especially "The Wild Men of the Andamans." That particular chapter ends with this quote "A group of Wild Men watched the rescue from their hiding place, then turned and disappeared. They were probably disappointed to have missed out on a good meal." Um.....what? While this was the most glaringly outdated reference to indigenous cultures, both books in general have an "Adventures for Boys" 1950s feel, focusing primarily on action sequences and imagined feelings and thoughts of the historical figures and presenting an extremely stereotyped and outdated depiction of indigenous populations.

Verdict: The lack of sources make these titles additional choices at best, but the depiction of indigenous peoples made me cringe. Not recommended. There are many better choices for fans of survival stories and history. I frequently purchase the titles from the "Explore" series from Nomad Press and I'll be sticking to that series from now on.

ISBN: 9781619304802

Pirates and Shipwrecks
ISBN: 9781619304758

Published October 2016 by Nomad Press; Review copies provided by the publisher

Sunday, August 28, 2016

It's Cybils Season! I suggest you consider applying to be a judge, preferably in my category.

Once the excitement of summer reading is over, it's Cybils season! If you have been living in a hole without internet, you may not be familiar with Cybils. It's the eleventh year of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award and it's awesome.

There are a lot of children's book awards out there. They recognize literary quality, contribution to the genre and canon, and much more. Cybils is different. It's the only award that recognizes both child appeal and literary quality and the process is very transparent. You, the public, nominate books. Parents, teachers, librarians, and authors with public review platforms (aka bloggers) choose the best. Along the way, we review, discuss, and promote children's literature.

How can you get involved? At the least, you can nominate! Nominations will open October 1. However, if you'd like to dip your toes into the water of judging, now is the time to apply to be a judge! You can see the call for judges here. How to decide what category to apply in? As a general rule of thumb:

  • The most time-intensive categories are those with high numbers of nominations, first-round panelists. You'll be reading and discussing a LOT of books. Middle Grade Fiction, Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade, Speculative Fiction YA, and YA Fiction tend to have the highest number of nominations.
  • Categories for younger genres and more specific fields tend to have fewer nominations, but can require different approaches; fact-checking for nonfiction, early literacy for easy readers, discussing both art and text for graphic novels, etc. Nonfiction Juvenile/Elementary, Poetry, Nonfiction Middle Grade/YA, Graphic Novels and Easy Readers/Early Chapters. It helps to know about the genre and audience for these categories but they also tend to have 100 or fewer nominations.
  • Finally, there are a couple categories that defy categorization - Picture Books has a ton of nominations and you'd think you could zip through them, but no! We are an award with professionalism! Think of all the careful consideration of art, text, and audience! And we have a new category this year, Audio Books, which will be a whole new experience - looking at performance and production in addition to narrative.
If you don't have the time to read through a ton of books, second-round judge may be for you. These people take our finalists, announced at the end of the year, and choose the best of the best. There's less reading - but more intensive discussion.

Finally, I suggest you consider my category - Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction. We will be creating a finalist list for both age groups this year (great news for judges who suffered torments trying to compare apples and oranges, i.e. picture books and middle grade nonfiction last year). Nonfiction is on the rise with a ton of amazing books coming out, an emphasis on nonfiction in schools and libraries, and recognition that nonfiction is an amazing reading experience that goes beyond just learning facts. Join me in my quest for world domination through, ahem, I mean, it's really awesome to discuss nonfiction with a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I guarantee you (and the children you teach, parent, or write for) will be all the better for the experience.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Small Readers: Giraffes by Jennifer Dussling

This nonfiction easy reader not only focuses on the habitats, behavior, and life cycle of giraffes, it also talks about their history and relationship with humans.

Giraffes are introduced as one of the "coolest animals" in Africa. People once thought they were mixes of camels and leopards, but we now know this is not true. The book explains giraffes' unique neck and bone structure, and how their necks and tongues help them eat acacia leaves and avoid thorns. Different predators of the giraffe and their defenses are shown, as well as their mating habits. There are several photographs showing how giraffes' skin patterns differ, and also a spread on the sounds they make. Finally, the book talks about the threats to giraffes and an unusual giraffe zoo in England.

Level 3 is for "transitional readers" so this is more challenging, almost into paragraphs. I still find some of the text difficult to read, as it's placed on different-colored backgrounds, from dark, blurry photographs to patterned colors. The photographs are fine, but they're not particularly eye-catching.

Verdict: An additional purchase if you need more high-level nonfiction easy readers.

ISBN: 9780448489698; Published 2016 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by the publisher

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Galactic Hot Dogs: The Wiener Strikes Back by Max Brallier, Rachel Maguire, and Nichole Kelley

I admit it; I had an ARC of the first title from a conference and didn't get around to reading it. But I did read this one! It was pretty easy to figure out what was going on, even having missed the first volume.

Cosmoe, boy from earth, is continuing his adventures along with Big Humphree (mostly ex-space pirate) and Princess Dagger (who has escaped from her evil queen and mother). Cosmoe has Goober, his....possibly sentient? booger-shaped companion to help him out, Humphree has big muscles, and Princess Dagger has unbounded confidence and all the sneaky lessons her evil mother taught her. Together they and their food stand, Galactic Hot Dogs, are having a great time. Until they run into Crostini's Cosmic Carnival. Cosmoe has some back history with circuses, but he doesn't want to talk about it, even when he becomes Cosmoe the Monster-Tamer, against his friends' advice. But there's something sinister going on in Crostini's circus.... will they get out alive and, more importantly, thwart Princess Dagger's evil mother, save the monsters and keep the wiener mobile running?

This notebook novel is generously illlustrated in wacky black and white pictures, comic panels, and includes more than enough cartoon violence. In fact, it's a non-stop whirl of action, puns, explosions, monsters, and hot dogs.

Verdict: This is just a little too silly for most of my readers. However, if you have a lot of really dedicated Captain Underpants fans they'll eat this up. Kids who like gross humor and nonstop action will also be fans.

ISBN: 9781481464840; Published May 2016 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Peekaboo Pals by Gareth Lucas

These aren't quite board books, but this is the closest category and the audience they're intended for, so here they are.

Opposites features colorful scenes with animals acting out the concept. There are also copious lift the flaps. A sample spread shows a pink beauty parlor. A lion getting a trim from a fox is labeled "Hairy"; lift the flap to see the bald (and shocked) lion afterwards. A yak with long bangs has the word "Straight" marching up the side of his flap; lift it to see his curly 'do with a cute bow. Finally, a zebra says "I need some color in my life!" in a "Before" picture. Lift the flap and it says "After" to match a rainbow-tinted mane and the zebra's panicked "Not every color!" to his disappearing stylist. The zebra is the only creature with any lines and after going through various scenes, including a city street, ocean, circus, bedtime, and more, a final spread shows the zebra's party, with double-fold-out flaps. Both pages fold out and have additional lift-the-flap tabs.

Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3 is a counting book. Once again, zebra is the only talking animal and he urges various alliterative groupings of animals on in the "Animal Antics" race. The count starts with "One polar bear on a pogo stick" and continues through "Fifteen ferrets on a ferry" and up to "Twenty turtles on a train." It then goes by tens, thirty, forty and fifty and then finishes with "One hundred rabbits in a rocket." Each flap has the letter both in digital and alphabetical form (that doesn't sound quite right, but you know what I mean) and you lift the flap to reveal the animals and their transportation beneath. A little green snail shows up on each picture, hitching a ride to the finish line.

The final book in this set, Peekaboo Pals: A to Z also features alliterative animals. Each flap shows an animal and their letter. Lift the flap, and you'll see an alliterative sentence of the animal doing an action. From "A is for alligator admiring some art" to "M is for mouse making music with maracas" the text is workable but not particularly unique. Zebra once again follows along, making impatient comments as he waits for his turn, only to give the reader a little surprise under the Z flap.

The art is bright and cheerful and the text simple and works well for the age of the audience. The books themselves aren't, strictly speaking, board books. The pages are a thin cardboard - slightly thicker than shirt cardboard - and the flaps are shirt cardboard sturdiness. Each spread is folded and then bound together (it's hard to explain without seeing it) so the binding basically holds a handful of folded cardboard. I can tell by looking at it and touching it that's it's nowhere near as sturdy as a traditional board book and, apart from the tearing of the flaps, the spine will quickly disintegrate.

However, while I wouldn't recommend this for your board book section, I think it would make a fun addition to your pop-up section (if you have one) or for a toy section. I'll be adding them to my circulating toy collection and making them seem "special" will help keep them intact a little longer. They'd also be a great purchase for supervised lapsit or baby storytimes. The large size of many of the flaps will help build fine motor skills.

Verdict: A fun purchase if you are looking to add different types of pop-ups and movable books.

Peekaboo Pals: Opposites
ISBN: 9781626865228

Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3

Peekaboo Pals: A to Z

Published 2016 by Silver Dolphin; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt

Michelle Robinson is back with another silly story, paired up with another kooky illustrator.

On a lovely clear day, a brave knight rides off on his, that's not right, he didn't have a horse. He did have a sandwich. No, I mean a sword. He had to fight....something. What was it? Oh, yeah, a dragon. Worst of all its offences, it has eaten the knight's best friend, Sir Clopalot! He can't quite remember what Sir Clopalot looked like, but he definitely misses him....

After much confusion and wackiness, the knight finally remember what really happened, gets his friend back, and all ends happily.

Blunt's colored pencil illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's messy and funny scrawls, with untidy hair, bulgy eyes, and hasty swirls denoting scales, smoke, and more. The dragon looks both cool and bored as he waits for the knight to get his act together and the fleeing townsfolk, shown in medieval disarray in the vet's office, are hilarious.

Verdict: If you're planning any fractured fairy tale storytimes or programs, or just looking for some silly reads, make sure to add this one to your list.

ISBN: 9780803740679; Published 2016 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Otters love to play by Jonathan London, illustrated by Meilo So

I've felt ambivalent about some of London's previous nonfiction picture books, but I embrace this one whole-heartedly.

The bold text of the main narrative describes a family of otters who have moved into an old beaver lodge. "It's spring, and in a nest of moss, leaves, and grass, three newborn otter babies drink warm rich milk at their mother's teats." Frequent references to play behavior accompanies the descriptions of the otter pups' antics as they grow, learn, and live through the seasons. In addition to the primary text, there is a running narrative of information in a smaller font, explaining the instincts and reasons behind the otters' playful behavior and giving additional otter facts. There is an additional "About Otters" section at the back with more facts and a brief index.

Meilo So's playful watercolors really make the book, with frolicking brown otters, whiskers quivering, leaping, sliding and pouncing across the pages. The seasons glow with color and detail, from the cool greens and blues of spring to the chilly white and grays of winter.

Verdict: The layout follows that of Candlewick's series about Australian animals and leads me to hope there will be more books from different authors and illustrators about all kinds of animals! I love the juxtaposition of the bolder text, for reading aloud, and smaller text for more information for older listeners and readers. This delightful story will be loved by children and parents alike. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763669133; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This week at the library; or week with vacation

Next summer is a building theme. Hmmm, building, coral, I
think there's an idea there. I also want to do a display on all
the reasons Finding Dory is bad for fish, only more tactfully,
but that's a different discussion.
What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Supervisory stuff. Smelling toy bags to find the bad-smell culprit. reader's advisory meeting with a patron (why does Scholastic Reading Counts crash every summer without fail??). going through new books. cleaning off my desk. working on updating the toy bags.
  • Tuesday - Thursday
    • Vacation! I went to Chicago to visit the Shedd with Sara the Librarian, we also went out for yummy food several times, I did bits of this and that and cleaning and writing. I also started an afghan, using a pattern! I've never tried this before.
  • Friday
    • Back to work. Next time I take vacation it will be the whole week and that is all I have to say about THAT.
  • Finished redoing the Read 'n' Play bags, now tackling the handful of Imagine a Story and the bags that weren't redone with tips. I've weeded out the bags with costumes - they are being cleaned and will then alternate in our new dress-up corner.
Fall Schedule
I think we have it mostly figured out through December, although I still have to schedule outreach and field trips. Of course there are other things - conferences and substitutes for programs and vacations and things...
  • Monday
    • Morning - Jess on the desk, Pattie has two playgroups a month
    • Afternoon - Jess on the desk, I have off desk time to do important managerial things
    • Evening - I work the information desk, twice a month Pattie has Tiny Tots, twice a month Autism Support Group
  • Tuesday
    • Morning - I'm on the desk, Pattie has 2 toddler storytimes
    • Afternoon - I'm on the desk, charter school meets at the library
    • Late afternoon/early evening - I have book club twice a month
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach/Field Trips (September-October)
  • Thursday
    • Morning - Jess is on the desk, Pattie has baby storytime
    • Afternoon - either Jess or I cover an hour on the information desk
    • Late afternoon - after school club
  • Friday
    • Outreach
  • Saturday
    • I'm supervising the Ice Age Trail Mammoth Hunt in September
    • Pattie is doing It's Great to be 3 in October and Jess and I are both working a Saturday at the information desk (mine will coincide with Pattie's program)
    • Fairy Tale Adventure in November and it's my turn to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving
    • Scholastic book sale and Santa's Kitchen in December and Jess is working a Saturday

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers

Louie and Ralphie are tough, just like their dad, Big Lou. Big Lou doesn't talk much, especially about their mom. He always says they should be tough. Louie and Ralphie decide it's time to show everyone just how tough they are.

First, they steal tough Chad Badgerton's hat. But it turns out to belong to Tiny Crawley and the boys get congratulated for standing up to bullies. Then they try shoveling all the snow in front of Mr. O'Hare's store - but they shovel in the wrong direction and get told how thoughtful they are, instead of how tough. They try to pick on a new kid and accidentally make her feel at home. They soap a mean neighbor's window and get thanked for cleaning it.

When their dad finds out about how kind they've been, they admit that they've been trying to be TOUGH, just like him - and Big Lou admits that it's hard to be so tough all the time - and maybe they should be kinder, just like their mother was. Now they're not the toughest Ratsos anymore - they're the kindest.

Black and white cartoons fill the book, showing silly bunnies, tough rats, and more animals populating the Ratsos' city. This light and funny story, with a not-unexpected ending, is a fun addition to beginning chapter book collections.

Verdict: This was cute, but I'm not sure I have an audience for it. It's a little too didactic for my taste also.

ISBN: 9780763676360: Published August 2016 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Great Flood Mystery by Jane Louise Curry

I hate to tantalize you with books you cannot purchase for your library, but occasionally I cannot resist. I was delighted to see that Aladdin has recently republished Willo Davis Roberts' classic mysteries - so why not Jane Louise Curry?

While this includes an historical element, like many of her titles, it's also a straight mystery with hidden rooms, criminals, and, of course, skeptical family and police! Gordy Hartz is in trouble - again - for his wild stories. He was absolutely sure he saw a burglar in the empty house next door, but nobody believes him after the UFO scare. Even his best friend Izzy's dad, who is a policeman, is mad at him. On top of this, his family isn't doing too well - his dad has been unemployed for a while and money is tight. Gordy is both worried and excited when his parents decide to rent out their house and spend the summer with Great-Aunt Willi. Soon he's finding secret rooms, mysterious happenings, and potential criminals. Even when he gets Willi and some of her elderly friends involved, researching events of the great Johnstown flood that seem to be resurfacing, will anybody believe him? And is there really a treasure?

Verdict: A snazzy new cover on a reissue would make this an excellent mystery - it's got historical elements, features kids with economic struggles, and has plenty of clues and excitement. I hope some publisher puts this on their reissue list!

Used copy purchased on Amazon; Donated to the library book sale