Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Small Readers: The perfect gift by Paula Yoo and The garden by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez

These two titles are from Lee & Low's Dive into Reading series. Both are labeled as "emergent", "Predictable story episodes, simple dialogue, high frequency words and familiar vocabulary." I usually consider "emergent" to be much lower level - these come in around the 400s in lexiles or a E level. They are easier stories in the Confetti Kids series.

In The perfect Gift, Mei, an Asian-American girl, tries to figure out the perfect gift for her baby brother Ming when he turns 100 days old. The story includes notes about Chinese culture, making red eggs and a 100-day celebration, as well as Mei's sweet gift, a book of drawings, for her beloved baby brother.

In The Garden, Lily and her mom miss their garden at home so they join a community garden, along with Lily's friends. Their neighbor Mr. Sam, an experienced gardener, walks them through the work of planting, weeding, and watering until they have a great harvest.

The illustrator's work is soft and colorful, showing a diverse group of children; Henry, Lily, Mei, Pablo, and Padma, in an idyllic urban setting.

Verdict: It's nice to see easy readers with some diversity and the simple stories are reader-friendly. On the other hand, they're not particularly memorable; the trend for easy readers right now is humor and cartoon-style art and layouts and these are a more traditional layout. There's no real conflict or story to grab hold of, just some everyday events. This is what I'd purchase as filler for my easy readers - the kids won't ask for them specifically, but when they need a nice, big stack of books to work their way through these are a good choice to pop onto the stack.

The Garden
ISBN: 9781620145654
The Perfect Gift
ISBN: 9781620145678

Published May 2018 by Lee & Low; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

How does my garden grow? by Gerda Muller

I personally love many of Floris' books; they often publish older European titles with lovely illustrations, but they're usually just not a good fit for my library. Too text-heavy, unfamiliar words and settings, etc. But this one, oh I loved this one and I really hope it will be popular in the library!

The white endpages are covered with delicate drawings of the "eight vegetable families" - fruits, bulbs, tubers, flowering vegetables, stem vegetables, pulses (those are peas and corn in case you were wondering, like me), leafy vegetables, and root vegetables.

Sophie, a small girl with dark hair, who might be Asian, has gone to live with her grandparents in the countryside. Together they plant, weed, water, and harvest, all carefully illustrated with delicate drawings of plants and vegetables, pictures of Sophie and her grandparents and neighbors working in the garden, illustrations of how plants grow and are pollinated, and periodic full-page spreads of the garden at different times of day and the vegetables being harvested. The story ends in winter, with Sophie returning to help put the garden to rest, and a look forward to spring.

The story is admittedly too long to read in storytime, or probably at a sitting. It's handily divided into chapters of a few pages each and filled with gardening knowledge and suggestions. It's a great choice to check out again and again from the library, reading a little bit each night or before gardening, or to purchase for your family's bookshelf to accompany work in the garden.

Verdict: This isn't a necessary purchase for every library, but if you have an emphasis on gardening and an audience for longer picture books, you are sure to find some readers who appreciate this simple story of garden appreciation and growth.

ISBN: 9781782500377; Published 2014 by Floris books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pipsqueaks, slowpokes, and stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

Stewart steps away from popular, big-name animals to take a look at some unusual creatures - and their unique abilities.

Forget about elephants and cheetahs - what do you know about the Etruscan pygmy shrew? The Amau frog? How about a stinky hoatzin or reeking zorilla? Why is an okapi so shy and a bat so lazy? Stewart takes each of these animals, as well as walruses, naked mole rats, western fence lizards, and more and shows how their stinky smells, tiny size, weird diets, and sleep habits help them survive and thrive.

Back matter includes thumbnail illustrations of each animal with additional information on their habits and abilities. The final page has a brief list of sources and a dedication to children who are bullied. Laberis' friendly illustrations add a cartoon flavor to the various creatures while still capturing their unique looks and behavior. Plump gray koalas lounge on tree branches, a naked mole rat tries on a furry coat, and a panicked group of predators flee in humorous shock from the stench of the hoatzin and zorilla. Readers will want to look carefully to discover the okapi blending into the forest, well-hidden from a prowling leopard, and the western fence lizard flies comically off its branch.

Verdict: This cute book not only introduces kids to an unusual set of animals, it also gently points the lesson that sometimes the smallest, weakest, and weirdest of us all have hidden strengths! Recommended for storytime read-alouds and class discussions.

ISBN: 9781561459360; Published 2018 by Peachtree; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Holiday Edition: The Brambly Hedge complete collection by Jill Barklem

As a child, I deeply loved all things miniature and British - so when I discovered Jill Barklem's exquisite little books about the mice of Brambly Hedge I was smitten. Fast forward lo these many years (we won't say how many) and I still have my miniature set-ups, my collections of tiny books including Jill Barklem, and my utter delight that HarperCollins is republishing these classic stories.

Now, just so you are aware, they are also republishing the original books (they're about the size of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books for a size comparison) but if you're looking for a great holiday gift for a miniature and/or book lover, why not get this gorgeous collection? It comes in a nice, sturdy slipcase and includes the eight classic stories in a single volume.

The first set of four are seasonal - Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, and Winter Story. They show the mice enjoying the excitement of each season from harvest to winter balls, weddings to picnics. The second set  - The Secret Staircase, The High Hills, Sea Story, and Poppy's Babies adds to the adventures of the mice showing them traveling to the seaside to get salt, setting up a new home for a tired mother, and discovering secrets in the Old Oak Palace.

The Brambly Hedge stories are a pastoral world, with the mice busily collecting, storing, and sharing food in their intricate stumps and tree homes. There's a quasi-feudal feel to it, with the presence of Lord and Lady Woodmouse, but on the whole the mice are an egalitarian lot with everyone pitching in to help each other out. The most present characters are the ever-curious Wilfrid Toadflax and his best friend, Primrose Woodmouse. Together they have many adventures in and around the meadow.

A large part of the charm of this series is Barklem's intricate illustrations showing shelves stacked with tiny dishes, food, and other household equipment. Then there's the fields, stream, and trees with exquisite drawings of flowers, grasses, berries, and mushrooms. The mice themselves are dressed in old-fashioned style, buttoned into trousers, petticoats, and adorned with shady straw hats (suitably adjusted for ears and tails of course).

Verdict: The complete collection is a great buy for library shelves, if you have little listeners who love tiny things (and who doesn't?) and I look forward to introducing our patrons to this beloved series. Consider either the complete collection or selections of the individual books for the miniature loving children in your life; you can even pair them with some little mouse dolls or tiny foods for imaginative play.

ISBN: 9780008282820; This edition published October 2018 by HarperCollins; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library (I have purchased my own copies of the individual books as well as a few for the library)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

This week at the library; or, Candyland

Happening at the library this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
    • Worked 12-8
    • Cleaned off desk, monthly report, Lost/Paid for list, Weeding, Cleaning up after adorable kittens who left us a "present" (but were still adorable and it was a corner I want to rip the carpet out of anyways)
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Worked 10-5:15
    • Finished lost list, busy morning on the children's desk, wrote up all the marketing blurbs for next winter/spring programs.
  • Wednesday
    • Budget meeting
    • Worked 10:30-6
    • Finished second grant (one more to go)! Working on Candyland, weeding, busy few hours on the children's desk in the late afternoon, other stuff.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers
    • Meeting
    • Worked 10:30-6:15
    • Random stuff kept happening all day.
  • Friday
    • Worked 4:30-8:30
    • End of the week emails, setting up next week's outreach, and then set-up for Candyland.
  • Saturday

Friday, December 7, 2018

Animal zombies and other bloodsucking beasts, creepy creatures, and real-life monsters by Chana Stiefel

If you have kids who love the gross, ghoulish, and disgusting, all in the name of science, this book is for them! I've got a pretty strong stomach and a few spreads made me shudder!

The idea of the book is to look at "real-life" monsters in the animal world and compare them to Dracula, zombies, and other supernatural creatures. Under the category of "the living dead" are included various bugs and parasites that take over their hosts and control their actions. Chapter 2 introduces creatures that feed on blood - lampreys, vampire bats, ticks, and more. For sea monsters we plunge deep into the ocean and meet poisonous and powerful undersea creatures, including a cone snail, giant squid, goblin shark, and more. For those who like to shudder at the thought of alien invaders, there's tapeworms, guinea worms, fungus, and other things we don't want to think about. The last chapter, "animal monster mash" has a wide range of creepy, gross, and unexpected animals from a porcupine with quills to cannibal crickets, a lizard that squirms out of its skin to escape predators to a caecilian mother that feeds its young with its own body.

Each chapter also includes a section on the mythical or popular culture monster - zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. that inspired the research as well as profiling a "mad scientist" who researches some of the animals included. Back matter includes a glossary, index, further resources (I, personally, am not watching the videos) and credits.

The book is available in library and paperback bindings and is a slightly wider layout than some National Geographic titles - 10x9 inches. This gives plenty of space for lots of close-up, gory photographs! A great nonfiction pick for Halloween, grab this one off the shelf any time you have a kid proclaiming they like REALLY scary fare or that nothing grosses them out!

Verdict: Full of facts and photographs, this is a great addition to National Geographic's oevre and is sure to fly off your shelves (but hopefully not into your brain. Mwa ha ha ha).

ISBN: 9781426331497; Published August 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Craftily Ever After: The un-friendship bracelet by Martha Maker, illustrated by Xindi Yan

So, I read and reviewed the second title, Making the band, first. After reading the first title though, the characters have a very different look!

Emily and Maddie, or Mad-Ily as they call themselves, have been best friends forever. Emily (white, red hair and glasses) likes to make things with tools, while Maddie (black, with natural, curly hair) is an artist and can sew. They have friendship bracelets they made for each other and spend all their time together. But then Isabella Diaz shows up. Bella is great with math, coding, and crafts too! Bella is put next to Maddie and suddenly the two are spending all their time together - and Emily feels left out. Maddie even teaches Bella how to make their special friendship bracelets! When Emily loses her bracelet, she feels like it's a sign that their friendship is over forever. And then there's Sam Sharma, who sits next to Emily. Maybe she wants to be friends with him too?


Once Emily speaks up and explains how she feels to Maddie, all is well. The four become friends, bonding over cleaning out a shed in Bella's yard that becomes their crafting clubhouse. The diversity, as it often does in these early chapter books, feels carefully planned and I was disappointed to find that the first book in the series features the white girl, but overall it's a good attempt to create something to appeal to young makers.

Verdict: This isn't particularly realistic, from the access to craft supplies and skills to the level of independence the kids have, not to mention their maturity in dealing with friendship issues. However, it's a nice modeling of behavior to follow and will appeal to kids who like to make things.

ISBN: 9781534409071; Published March 2018 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Small Readers: Mouse loves snow and Mouse loves spring by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan

I'm looking at two easy readers by Lauren Thompson today. I freely admit that I bought these for the library without looking at them. I've seen other work by Thompson and it's usually popular with the kids and their parents, mice and seasons are generally popular subjects, and sometimes you jusCybils that they're actually extensions of picture books about Mouse.

t buy books to fill in, especially in the easy readers! I didn't realize until I read them for

In Mouse loves snow the titular character and his father go outside to play in the snow. Each activity includes a repetitive phrase. First, his father does the action, "Poppa slides down the hill. Woosh, swoosh!" and then on the next page Mouse copies him, "Now Mouse will try. Pliff, ploof! Good job, Mouse!" The story ends with them creating a snow mouse together.

In Mouse loves spring, he experiences another season, this time with his mother. This has slightly more complex text, although it still includes some repetition. Mouse sees a creature, described by an adjective "something flittery" and his mother tells him what it is. "The wind blows whoosh!" and the creature hides, flies, or otherwise goes away. The story ends with something cuddly - a hug and a kiss with Momma.

Erdogan's illustrations are soft and fuzzy, often with little halos of light around objects. Mouse is a cute, fuzzy grey ball and his parents are larger versions. The art runs along the top two thirds of the page with the text in a bold font on the bottom. The books are labeled as "pre-level one" but the made up words like "flittery" actually bump this up to about a level one for us. Erdogan's illustrations are copyright 2005, so from a little research it looks to me like these easy readers are just cut-down versions of two older picture book titles, which have also been reissued as board books, Mouse's first snow and Mouse's first spring. I also found these rather annoyingly stereotyped - the father does all the active things, the mother looks at pretty flowers and animals and gives hugs. Mouse defaults to male, his father wears a blue/green scarf and his mother is pinkish-grey, rather than just grey.

Verdict: These aren't particularly stand-out easy readers, but they're solid backlist fare to fill in your easy reader collection. Kids need a lot of easy readers to work through as they're building fluency and these are acceptable for that purpose.

Mouse loves spring
ISBN: 9781534401853; This edition published January 2018 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Mouse loves snow
ISBN: 9781534401822; This edition published November 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Cat Book by Silvia Borando

Another delightful interactive book from minibombo.

What's that orange ball? It's a cat! Call him by name to wake him up and let's get the story started. As this cute little interactive book continues, kids will pet, feed, tickle, and even squish fleas off their cat.

I'm looking for fun new cat books for a cat-themed outreach I have planned and I think this one, with its minimalist illustrations and silly actions, will work great with both toddlers and preschoolers.

I would recommend adapting the instructions somewhat if used with a class, but with minibombo books I generally use them as a framework and put in my own dialogue. First, you'll need to discuss what we're going to call the cat. Once a name is decided on, the kids can call her name (I usually switch to female pronouns b/c it's ridiculous how many animals etc. in storytimes default to "he") , make stroking motions in the air, make tickling movements with their fingers, pinch fleas (make sure they don't pinch each other), blow away fleas, hold up hands like an umbrella, blow again to get him dry (the book says to use your shirt as a towel, but I don't need to see that many bare tummies lol), and so on.

With a small enough class the kids can take turns doing the actions with the book, but you'll want to count beforehand - just so you know, there are 8 actions an individual child could come up to do.

Verdict: This small book is not ideal for a large storytime, but for a small group it's sure to hit the sweet spot! Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763694722; This edition published April 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Squirrel's busy year and Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Richard Jones

Martin Jenkins has written several "first science storybooks" and I recently read through a slew of them, these two being some of my favorites. On a quick surface read, they appear to be about animals and seasons, but dig a little deeper and they actually incorporate specific science concepts.

In The Squirrel's Busy Year, Jones' earth colors illustrate Jenkins' story of the seasons through the eyes of a family of squirrels. An owl sits silently on a tree, a recurrent figure through the story. Young listeners will learn how squirrels visit their food caches over the winter, search for buds in the spring, dig up bulbs, and survive a storm in the summer. When fall returns, animals begin to hibernate and the squirrels work to build up a food supply for the winter ahead. There's more to the story than just the seasonal changes for squirrels; as explain in an opening note for parents, this book is about the science of the seasons. Each description of the season and the squirrels' behavior includes a note about the position of the sun and the changes in the weather. The final note includes seasonal activities and a simple index.

In Bird builds a nest, Jenkins uses even simpler language, suitable for a toddler, to show a brief season in the life of a bird. Bird hunts for a worm; after unsuccessfully trying for a big one, she successfully catches a small worm. Next, Bird works on her special project - building a nest. She collects just the right kind of twigs and weaves them together to create a nest. When the nest is lined and finished, it's ready for eggs! This is not just a book about nest-building, it's also a book about forces. The opening note gives readers simple language and concepts to discuss with children and the book incorporates those concepts in how the bird pulls at the worm then chooses a smaller one that can't resist as much, and how she pushes and pulls to weave in the sticks. A final note suggests some activities and a simple index is also included.

These books make fun reading, just right for a toddler or preschool storytime about squirrels, seasons, or birds. They're also a great choice for STEM-based programs for little ones. Use Bird as a central choice for a story about building things, then provide string, twigs, and other recyclables for children to make their own nest. Squirrel would make a great introduction to how the earth moves and affects the seasons; pair it with a flashlight and some shadow puppetry or some globes to learn more.

Verdict: Excellent choices to bring more science into your storytimes and classrooms for younger children.

The squirrel's busy year
ISBN: 9780763696009; Published July 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Bird builds a nest
ISBN: 9780763693466; Published January 2018 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library