Friday, December 2, 2016

Squirrel in the house by Vivian Vande Velde, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman

I reviewed the first book in this "series" quite a few years ago. At the time, I wasn't particularly impressed, however the kids liked it and I purchased it. Now, 4 years later, another book has been added this one featuring only the squirrel Twitch and I liked it much better! (also, I'm not currently on decongestants, but that could change at any time).

Twitch knows that he is much more interesting than the dog. After all, if the dog (Cuddles) was really the man's best friend, why is he tied up to a tree? (convenient for dropping walnuts on his head, but still...) Twitch is delighted when he notices a custom-made door to the Inside just for him - a chimney! Once Inside, things get even more exciting with crashing lamps, screaming people, and frantic Cuddles. Naturally, this is nothing to do with Twitch - he is a valued guest after all!

After a while, Twitch finds the Inside, although fun, is a bit too exciting for him and goes back home. But then he sees a young human in trouble. Can he get Cuddles to understand and help him save the human?

This wacky, nonsensical story has a much smoother flow than the previous title and kids who like fast-paced, silly stories will enjoy whipping through it. Bjorkman's pen illustrations are an added bonus with frantic chase scenes and wild destruction.

Verdict: This is best suited to children who are ready for slightly higher level beginning chapter books but the humor is easily picked up and it's a light, funny story. Recommended to add to your beginning chapter book offerings.

ISBN: 9780823436330; Published 2016 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

I don't know why it took me a while to read this - Hatke is the kind of graphic novelist I love. He creates the fantasy/adventure stories the kids love but with rounded, diverse characters, especially girls.

Jack and his family are going through some tough times. He wants to help his mom, who is exhausted and stressed from working multiple jobs, but all she wants him to do is watch his autistic sister, Maddy, who never talks. When Jack gets into trouble at the county fair, selling the family car for a chest of magic seeds, it seems like the family is at their lowest point ever. But then Maddy plants some seeds and magic happens. The two are joined by homeschooled Lilly, who's lonely now that her brothers are gone and has a lot of useful skills (and weapons). The magical garden seems like the best thing that's ever happened. Jack finally has a friend, Maddy is more involved and happy than ever before, and they can do magical things with the plants and seeds. But maybe the garden isn't the perfect world it seems - and Jack has to make some difficult decisions with serious consequences.

Hatke's art is fresh and cinematic, balancing the excitement, danger, and adventure of the strange creatures and the garden with the character development of three complex personalities. It's a mark of his genius that he keeps this fairytale spin-off from being just another male-dominated fantasy adventure. While Jack is the central character, both Lilly and Maddy are strong characters in their own right and the three share equal time and equally complex emotions and feelings. Maddy, despite her silence, is no less a character than the other two and readers will feel both Jack's frustration at trying to read her moods and Maddy's frustration at trying to communicate in her own way. Lilly at first seems like the predictable tomboyish girl, but quickly grows into a character in her own right, anxious to experience the world and with emotions and struggles no less real than Jack's.

Verdict: This is a complex and powerful story with enough fantasy and adventure to capture the most reluctant reader. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781626722651; Published 2016 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hamsters on the Go! by Kass Reich

Hamsters are always a popular theme at our library, due to our own library hamster (the current version is Humphrey).

A group of hamsters, portrayed in a blocky style with pink hands and various splotches of color, cheerfully troop across the pages in various modes of transportation. They are shown on a bus, train, unicycle, plane, car, boat, moon rover, parade float, etc. The penultimate spread shows all eight hamsters with drawings, toys, and costumes showing their vehicles and the final, wordless, spread shows the hamsters in a variety of headgear.

The soft but cheerful colors and somewhat shapeless hamsters give this a gentle, stuffed-animal feel. The silly costumes of the hamsters are cute and add humor for adults as well as children. The book is a horizontal rectangle with a thinner cardboard pages than the average board book.

Verdict: This is sweet and attractive. It's not an extremely sturdy board book, but it's quite acceptable for the amount of use it will get. The only drawback is that Orca's board books are more expensive than the average board book.

ISBN: 9781459810167; Published 2016 by Orca; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pug meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Joyce Wan

I admit that I am not fond of pugs - but I do like Joyce Wan's cute illustrations and they are perfectly suited to the round cuteness of pugs (and pigs).

Pug has a happy home. He has a yard, a bowl, work, and a bed. But one day....Pig appears! Pig eats his food, makes friends with the cat, and sleeps in his bed! Pug is ready to leave when he discovers he can get into the house - without Pig! Will Pug leave Pig alone forever?

Joyce Wan's sweet, round illustrations are just right for the pouting pug and cheerful pig. Everything is round and cozy - the faces of the people passing by, the house, even the trees. Gallion's short, simple sentences would work equally well as an easy reader for beginning readers as well as a read-aloud.

Verdict: Kids will giggle over the gentle humor and enjoy the sweet illustrations in this delightful book. A good addition to your library collection.

ISBN: 9781481420662; Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Anything but ordinary Addie: The true story of Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Bruno Iacopo

While I am often frustrated by picture book biographies, feeling as I do that they exist in a sort of no man's land with no audience, if someone manages to create one that is truly a picture book with biographical aspects I am all there. Mara Rockliff is one of the few authors who can do that, in my opinion.

In a black and white world, Addie wants to be extraordinary, dazzling and amazing! She sets out to be a dancer, then a trick cyclist, and finally marries a famous magician. When he unexpectedly dies of heart failure the show must go on - with Addie as the magician. But can she do it?

Bruno's illustrations combine colorful backdrops with characters giving the illusion of being paper cut-outs, moving across the screen of an old-fashioned film. The stiff figures lack emotional depth, but are a great match for the younger audience and the focus on magic, excitement, and action.

Back matter includes an overview of Adelaide Herrmann's life and importance as a magician and a further note on her disappearance from history and recent rediscovery.

Verdict: A magical read for older and younger kids alike, hand this one to magic-obsessed kids and those who like an exciting, fun story.

ISBN: 9780763668419; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, November 26, 2016

This week at the library; or, Holiday Week

What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Third Grade Field Trip
    • It was a busy day. 75 third graders came - it was rather last-minute and our teachers understood that we weren't as prepared as I prefer (have I mentioned our local teachers are pretty awesome? They are.) We took the kids in groups and showed them on the projector and screen how the catalog works, talked about the differences between a school and public library, then on a tour in the children's area, then set them free. They browsed and checked out books. Then we had a staff meeting. Then I did my evening desk shift. It was busy and crazy (but not crazy busy).
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • I came in long enough to cover the children's desk during toddler storytime and basically make lists of all the stuff I have to do when I get back, and then I was off at 2! I went to Walmart. It was exciting.
  • Wednesday
    • I had today off not because of the holiday but because of all the extra hours I worked at the beginning of November!
  • Thursday
    • I don't really celebrate holidays. I enjoy being by myself and getting things done!
  • Friday
    • Our library is also closed on Friday. Yay!
  • Saturday
    • My turn to work Saturday! It was quite busy.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Small Readers: Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit by Cece Bell

Rabbit is going to surprise his best friend Robot. But Robot already has a friend visiting - a new friend, Ribbit. Robot and Ribbit are playing a game of checkers and Rabbit can't understand why Robot wants to be with this boring friend - all she says is "ribbit!" Will the three ever be able to agree and be friends together?

This easy reader is closer to a beginning chapter book than an easy reader, but it still has limited text and art. Cece Bell shows her mastery of this spare medium by communicating complex concepts through her humorous prose and illustrations. The complications of friendship and community are both explored as Rabbit struggles with his feelings at seeing the close friendship between Ribbit and Robot, which he can't join in. When Robot is in trouble, Ribbit and Rabbit have to join together to help him, building a bond between them as well.

Bell's art has a 2d, flat look that actually works quite well for this tongue-in-cheek story. It will take a fairly competent reader to pick up on all the textual and visual clues, but the right reader will find plenty to make them giggle and reflect in this story.

Verdict: A good choice if you're looking for more high-level easy readers.

ISBN: 9780763679354; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken Burns, illustrated by Gerald Kelley

When I saw this nominated for Cybils, my first thought was - the last thing I want to do right now is read about the presidents and/or elections! But once I got into it I was fascinating and intrigued. While I can't say I really learned anything new, Burns' style was what grabbed me and made me interested in introducing this to my young readers at the library.

Burns profiles each president with their birth, family, party, nickname and other interesting facts, but also writes a brief and intelligent piece on the legacy of each man, in and out of office. What I found interesting was how Burns doesn't gloss over the shortcomings but finds something about each that stands out and plays a part in American history. He talks about the controversial legacy of Rutherford B. Hayes, who supported the rights of former slaves and Native Americans, but did not oppose "Jim Crow" laws. He talks about how Chester A. Arthur, who had a history of graft and crooked politics, changed when he became president and worked to make the government less corrupt. Burns addresses the complex issues presidents faced - struggling economy, racial issues, tariffs, and more - in an unbiased manner, talking about how difficult it is to find solutions that work for everyone and how the presidents made their decisions.

Back matter includes a selected list of museums, libraries, and historic sites, a detailed glossary, and acknowledgements. The book opens with a note from the author about his purpose in writing the book. The book itself is oversized with each spread including a large oil painting in the background and rich colors and details.

Verdict: It's always difficult to purchase books on the presidents, since they get outdated so quickly, but this is one that I think will appeal to both children and adults and have a wide audience for years to come. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780385392099; Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Steam Train, Dream Train: Colors by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

The popular picture book series comes to board books with concept titles.

Each spread has a block of color on the left and a matching train car on the right. A simple rhyme introduces the colored car and there is a label. There is a purple engine car, gray tender car, orange well car, pink boxcar, blue tanker, white reefer car, brown flatbed, green well car, yellow crane car, and red caboose. Most of the animals match; a gray elephant, pink hippo, etc. but some are different like a lemur on the blue tanker and there are a couple dinosaurs. I don't know what they're doing there. Kids like dinosaurs?

Lichtenheld's illustrations have all the soft cheer and bright colors of the original picture books. Fun details are included in the pictures of the train cars. The different fonts, from the large letters of the color, medium font of the rhyme, and smaller font of the repeated car title offer a variety of reading experiences.

The board book is a horizontal rectangle with thin cardboard cover and pages. It's not as sturdy as the board books I prefer to purchase, but the popular subject and familiar art will make it a popular purchase.

Verdict: This is definitely aimed at older toddlers and young preschoolers and is of about medium durability. However it will be extremely popular and I recommend it.

ISBN: 9781452149158; Published 2016 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube

Every day Hannah gets off the bus. Every day her father is waiting for her. Every day Sugar is waiting for Violet P. Sugar is a dog and Hannah does not like dogs! No matter how often Mrs. P. asks if Hannah wants to pet Sugar, no matter how well-behaved she is, Hannah is just too scared.

But then Sugar goes missing. Hannah starts thinking about what it must feel like to be lost, alone and scared and when she finds Sugar she decides to face her fears.

I'm not usually a fan of watercolors, but I love Berube's gentle, scribbly colors and designs. This is a sweet story of a girl overcoming her fear to help someone else. However, the ending of the story didn't click for me. Why didn't anyone else hear Sugar stuck in the bushes? Even more worrying, although Hannah does hold out her hand first, approaching a trapped animal is never a good idea. They were right by her front door - why didn't she call her dad? Why the necessity to comfort Sugar?

Verdict: The story starts out well and I love the illustrations but I just can't get over the ending or suspend my disbelief. I'll look forward to more books from this author though.

ISBN 9781419718908; Published 2016 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium