Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Genius Factor: How to capture an invisible cat by Paul Tobin

Delphine has only just noticed Nate Bannister. He's very quiet and a little odd, but only when she sees him being tested by some strange people does she realize he's not at all the average, boring kid she thought he was.

The next thing she knows, she's gotten caught up in his insane adventures, trying to corral an invisible (and giant) cat, escape from tea-drinking assassins, riding hippos, having discussions about emotions with a car and....what has she gotten herself into??

Eventually all ends well (more or less) and Delphine goes back to her ordinary, everyday life. But....once she's gotten a taste for adventure with Nate, she wants more...

This is very wacky. It's definitely in that genre of adventure story that could easily be mistaken for a bedtime story. "And then what happened?" "um....then hippos showed up! But he had a friendship ray! But then he dropped it in the water!" Nate is constantly producing gadgets, unlimited funds, and scientific gabble to solve any problem that arises, so the sense of peril is never really there. Older middle grade readers are probably not going to be interested in this unless they're really into silly stuff. But younger readers, who might be more willing to read silly adventures, are unlikely to pick up a book this long (260 pages). It falls into that tiny audience of young but strong readers.

Verdict: These types of silly adventures don't circulate very well at my library and the genre is already quite full so I'd pass on this one. I'd reconsider if it was a graphic novel or shorter (100 pages or less).

ISBN: 9781619638402; Published 2016 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Before I Wake Up... by Britta Teckentrup

I love Teckentrup's bright, vigorous colors and textures so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book when it arrived and I saw that it seemed to be a very different style of art.

The text is a little girl's dream and, to be honest, is completely forgettable. It's written in stilted rhyme and is very random. "I swim with the whales/I dive into the ocean/I close my eyes/so full of emotion" or "When I open my eyes we're deep in a wood./We follow the path. I feel so good." So, let's move on from the text.

The art isn't really what I expect from Teckentrup; it's very dark and mostly in shades of black and brown with a few sharp splashes of color. Initially, I didn't like it. However, the more I studied it, the more interesting it became. There are several spreads that are layered with different prints, colors, and images. The lack of emotion on the face of the girl and lion makes each pictures seem like a separate landscape, a dreamscape of events and emotions, where the focus is on the background and what the reader imagines, rather than what is pictured.

Verdict: In the vast sea of bedtime books this doesn't really stand out and the text is mediocre at best. However, if you're looking for titles to stimulate the imagination or introduce children to different art styles this is a good choice.

ISBN: 9783791372464; Published 2016 by Prestel; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Who eats what? Arctic food chains by Rebecca Pettiford

Yep, that's blood. No sentimentalizing of animals here - this is real life and these critters have to eat!

The book explains the basics of the Arctic biome, then explains a food chain. It uses precise language, "predator", "consumer", and "producer" and clearly shows each part of a simple food chain. In the sample, plants grow to feed a hare, the hare is eaten by a fox, the fox is eaten by a lynx, eventually the lynx dies. Its body is eaten by scavengers and broken down by insects and then feeds more plants which restart the cycle.

The book ends with a brief note about global warming, an activity encouraging the reader to build a food web, a glossary and index.

It just so happens that I've been looking for more specifically about the Arctic tundra, but regardless this was quite good. It's at an intermediate level and would work both as a read-aloud to younger, struggling children or in independent reading for elementary kids starting to research topics. The photos are realistic but not unduly gory and the simple graphs and diagrams are easy to follow.

Verdict: A great series to introduce younger kids to different biomes and the food chains within them. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781620313006; Published 2016 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 22, 2016

RA RA Read: Quick Reads: Books in Verse for Elementary and Middle Grade

There aren't a lot of novels in verse for middle grade readers, and there aren't many of those at our library - it's not a really popular genre for that age group. However, if you get kids who like the format, want something that's a quick read, and match them up with a couple really good selections it works out well. These are several books in verse, which my library owns, that middle grade kids will enjoy:

Younger Titles (Elementary)
  • Little Dog Lost; Little Cat's Luck by Marion Dane Bauer
  • The Dancing Pancake; Where I live by Eileen Spinelli
  • Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg (first in a series)
Middle Grade Titles
  • Crossover; Booked by Kwame Alexander
  • Love that Dog; Hate that cat by Sharon Creech
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Saturday, May 21, 2016

This week at the library; or, I feel frazzled

A screenshot of the spreadsheets I'm working on
What's going on, in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Supervisory things, cleaning off my desk, and going over lots of misc. details. First meeting of the Autism support group!! Only one person came, but it's a beginning!
  • Tuesday
    • Planning summer programs and continuing to work on weeding. Board meeting for a charter school group in the afternoon. I told the teens to be good when I left b/c our director was feeling frazzled and they didn't know what I meant!
  • Wednesday
    • Worked a half day. It was kind of crazy and then it wasn't. I worked on collection development spreadsheets because my mind was feeling a little fragile.
  • Thursday
    • Mother Goose on the Loose (Pattie)
    • Still planning all the things.
  • Friday
    • Welty Environmental Center (4K field trips) (2 performances)
    • This is why I took a half day on Wednesday. The regular presenter has moved jobs (how could you do this to us Lena??) and the volunteer covering was a little freaked out at the prospect of 100 four year olds! However, as I reassured him, kindergarteners aren't critical! They all had a lot of fun, learned about pollination, and were very well-behaved, even the ones who, as I like to say, have personality.
  • Saturday
    • It was a day. I have no more words. Next week I'll tackle more 
Projects in progress and completed
What the kids are reading; A selection
  • Tommy by Blumenthal
  • Tricky lexile questions. I really wish that, if teachers require kids who are reading at 1200 or above to stick to their level, they gave them a LIST.
  • Frogs (real frogs)
  • YA read-alikes for Hush Hush - Cynthia Leititch Smith (already had) Forest of Hands and Teeth
  • Red Queen
  • Kung Pow Chicken - checked out, took Space Taxi instead
  • Missing volumes of Star Wars Legacy - I think they're out of print
  • Angry Birds books
  • Little House continuations
  • Kamisama Kiss
  • Strong reader finished Wolves of Beyond, I suggested some other series but then got her interested in Redwall. I think that is a match made in heaven.
  • Car books

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale's latest hazardous tale of American history takes on an interesting subject - the Alamo. Despite having been raised in Texas, in Austin (which is quite close to the Alamo) I know very little about it other than some vague ideas gathered from historical novels. But there's a lot more to the story...

Hale expands his universe by bringing in a new magical history book - El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana - and Vicente Guerrero (along with his own executioners) to tell a story down south....

The story begins with a brief explanation of Mexican independence and then delves into the complicated story of Texas' early history. Hale carefully lays out the players in the complicated events from the various native tribes to different groups of settles. He even includes some animals, like rattlesnakes and armadillos! Despite the executioners' interest in hearing the stories of Jean Lafitte (pirate controlling Galveston) and maybe having an "executioner slumber party" the story marches inexorably on, introducing famous characters like diplomat Stephen Austin, reckless lawyer William Barret Travis, and their interaction with the changing scene of Mexican politics, from Guerrero to Bustamante to Santa Anna. There are side trips to learn about James Bowie, Santa Anna's rise to power, and constant unrest and uprisings across Texas. In the end, the Alamo is but one story among many on the complicated, violent road to Texas independence and eventual statehood.

Hale's color scheme for this title is a kind of sickly yellow and gray, suitable for the general color of Texas (Yes, I grew up there. No, I'm not a fan. It's green for like, two seconds in April and October.) and the cholera epidemic that overshadows the complicated political maneuvering and violent battles. Although he includes the well-known and "popular" characters - Crockett, Travis, Austin, Bowie, etc. he also includes as many references to and stories of native populations and local settlers as possible, keeping the book strongly representative of Texas' diverse population. Hale's stories are, as always, funny, informative, and fascinating reading but also include a nuanced portrait of the events and people involved.

Verdict: Another great history title from Nathan Hale! This will be a cinch to booktalk at upcoming summer events, whether or not you're in Texas. The whole series is highly recommended (although Big Bad Ironclad remains my all-time favorite).

ISBN: 9781419719028; Published 2016 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

I loved Jenson-Elliott's Weeds find a way but had a hard time clicking with this title. It's a very different format, as well as a different illustrator.

The repeated refrain "I dig in the dirt" heralds a number of discoveries. A pill bug which curls up, a spider who runs, a sprout that grows, etc. The simple story ends with one final discovery - add some water to the squishy dirt and get....mud!

The illustrations are blocky and have a textured look that fits well with the dirt. The worms, spiders, and other bugs are cute little cartoon critters. The hands digging into the dirt in each sequences are large, tan and have splayed fingers.

So, I do love the text. I like the repeated refrain, I like how it introduces very young children to what they'll find in the dirt in a simple way. This would click perfectly with our toddler storytimes and our garden project coming up this summer. I like the cheerful little cartoon worms and the texture of the dirt.

I just can't like the hands. They look weird and creepy to me. This is totally subjective and everyone else loves this. But I just can't get over the hands, and the way they look like sort of flat, floppy gloves. I also don't care for the shade of green used. Usually I won't pay much attention to little details like this that are totally personal, but I've had this for quite a while and I just can't like it.

Verdict: Everyone else likes this and I know my colleague will love using it in storytime. Just chalk it up to my personal weird issues and purchase it for your own gardening/dirt/worm programs with toddlers.

ISBN: 9781442412613; Published 2016 by Beach Lane Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The Nitty-Gritty gardening book: Fun projects for all seasons by Kari Cornell, photographs by Jennifer S. Larson

I'm looking at as many gardening books as possible, now that it looks like our long-awaited gardening project at the library is finally getting off the ground.

This is one that has been on my list for a while; I briefly skimmed it after borrowing it from another library. However, once I got a review copy I was able to really delve into the projects and ideas.

The book is divided into four seasons. The introduction covers not only gardening basics, like planning your space, testing your soil, and caring for plants, it also discusses the environmental importance of gardening. Spring projects include seed starting, a bean pole tent, and growing potatoes. Summer projects have instructions for various plantings, stations for birds, and creating a hanging garden. Fall projects include forcing bulbs, creating window boxes, and making an indoor compost bin. There are still gardening things to do in winter; create a terrarium, grow an avocado, or grow greens in a window.

There are lengthy resources including a glossary, resources, supplies, and index. The photographs include a diverse group of children and the simple drawings have both white and brown hands. While this book has a limited number of projects, it is very detailed, both in instructions and in explaining what is happening and why. The instructions are extremely detailed and, while the projects are primarily geared towards readers living somewhere with seasons, many of them are multi-purpose and can be adapted to different climates.

Verdict: This is an excellent resource for families or older kids wanting to try gardening but with no prior experience or knowledge. I think it will spark interest in trying new things and even learning more about the environment. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781467726474; Published 2015 by Millbrook/Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 15, 2016

RA RA Read: Scary Stories from Beginning to End

Interest in scary stories waxes and wanes, but it's always there. For the past couple years I get more and more requests for scary stories for younger listeners and readers, which is always tricky. However, here are my favorite recommendations to get started. This list needs a lot of expansion!

Scary Picture Books

  • The Book That Eats People by John Perry
  • The Monster and the Tailor by Paul Galdone
  • Creepy Carrots by 
Easy Readers and Beginning Chapters
  • Ghosts! Ghostly stories from folklore; In a dark, dark room by Alvin Schwartz
  • Scary Stories by James Preller
Middle Grade
  • Series and Titles
    • Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
    • American Chillers by Jonathan Rand
      • We only have random titles from this series which has to be ordered direct
    • Spinetinglers by M. T. Coffin
      • This is an old series but I had so many requests for it that I found an old set at a garage sale
    • Weenies by David Lubar
    • Scary stories to tell in the dark by Alvin Schwartz
    • Reef of Death; Rats; Raptor by Paul Zindel
  • Graphic Novels
    • Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner
    • Lost Boy by Greg Ruth
  • Author
    • Dan Poblocki

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This week at the library; or, I do ALL THE THINGS

What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • The pollen counts are ridiculous. My sinussesss. I brought lemon cake for my aides' birthdays and we had a staff meeting. I unpacked supplies and tried to plan Saturday's program and the rest of the week's craziness.
  • Tuesday
    • Science Alliance: Zap! (5th grade field trip)
    • Roll into Summer (Pattie)
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • This was kind of a long day. Of course it rained, but the fifth graders made it over anyways, there were lots of people and six giant trucks at the Roll into Summer party, then our local charter school classes, then our last book club. Oh, and the chicks hatched.
  • Wednesday
    • No programs! I made pilgrimage to Walmart for summer supplies and covered the desk in the evening.
  • Thursday
    • BEA! BEA!
    • It was fun and amazing - I think I still like ALA best, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to go. My feet hurt.
  • Friday
    • Puppet Story Theater (kindergarten)
    • Lovely day, kindergarteners had a blast, thankfully remembered NOT to set the room up for tomorrow because there's a movie tonight! I have done that more than once...finished some more things for the party and covered the desk and then went and bought plants for my garden, which hopefully won't die in the cold snap tomorrow night...
  • Saturday
    • It's a Pig Party! Celebrating Mo Willems
    • I'd forgotten how much work it was to run these events on my own! Thankfully our circulation supervisor helped me set up tables, one of my moms helped clean up, and the associate on reference came over and took down a lot of tables. From set up to clean up, 8:45 to past 1pm.
Projects in progress or completed
  • Everything in progress, nothing completed
What the kids are reading: A Selection
  • School bus books
  • Manipulatives and books for babies
Some pictures from BEA - I use my camera to remember books I want to look at later.