Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Jamberry by Bruce Degen

I'm going back to a beloved childhood class today, with Jamberry. Originally published in 1983 as a picture book, the first board book edition was created in 1995 and it has been continuously in print since then.

Degen's cheerful pictures show a white boy with striped blue shirt, brown trousers, and suspenders, his reddish-brown hair sticking out every which way, cavorting through the pages. The boy is accompanied by a friendly brown bear, sporting a stylish purple top hat. There's no particular plot, just explosions of berries everywhere! The endpages start with the barefoot boy, wandering among the berry bushes and sampling sweet treats. He encounters the bear in a canoe, hat full of berries, and the two set off together.

They travel past marshmallow meadows, encounter frolicking ponies and lambs with baskets of strawberries, cart off a trainful of blackberries, and float into the sky in a balloon that's a giant pink berry, with explosions of berries all around them, ending in a flood of berries and sweet stickiness.

The text is so much fun to read-aloud and repeat - who can ever forget, "Quickberry! Quackberry! Pick me a blackberry!" It's a tongue-twister of berries as the rhymes bounce along each page and become sillier and sillier, "Moonberry, starberry cloudberry sky/Boomberry zoomberry rockets shoot by."

Verdict: The book is still available as a hardcover picture book, as well as a board book, and I think the original version shows off the art better. In the board book it's a little squashed and fuzzy, and it's hard to pick out all the details. However, any way you can get it this is a sweet, berry-licious story that's a must-have for most library collections.

ISBN: 9780062643797; This edition published 2017 by HarperFestival; Two copies (board book) owned by the library

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The rhythm of the rain by Grahame Baker-Smith

This British import is stunning! The cover and endpages dazzle the reader with splashes and drips of water, foreshadowing the journey of water that is to come. The story begins with a small, dark-haired boy, scooping up fish into a jar of water by a stream on the mountain. As it begins to rain, he pours his jar into the pool and runs home, following the water in the stream down to a waterfall and imagining the journey of his little jar of water...

The river flows on and the boy now appears on it in a small sailboat, wearing an orange life jacket. He follows the river as it widens, through farmland and into the city, where pipes drip dark sludge, boats move cargo, and someone leans out a window to feed the ducks. The river ends in the ocean, where Issac's small jar of water becomes part of water swallowed and ejected by a whale (that's an error - whales don't eject water but air, with droplets of, well, snot). Eventually, somewhere near a golden jungle where toucans rest, the water evaporates into mist then pours down as rain in a small, dry village. It joins another waterfall and returns to the sea, then finally, once more in the form of rain, it returns to the boy catching fish by a stream.

The illustrations glow and sparkle, from the deep, mysterious depths of the ocean to the light-filled sunrise by the jungle. The tiny image of Issac in his boat, set against the powerful rush of water, then returning to his own small stream, emphasizes the changing perspectives as the water travels throughout the story.

Verdict: While this isn't factually accurate (another point is the use of the word "steam" for vapor), the general trend is clear enough and the gorgeous illustrations make it stand out. Pair with a more accurate description of the water cycle (Miranda Paul's Water is Water or George Ella Lyon's All the water in the world) for an exploration of where water goes.

ISBN: 9781536205756; Published August 2019 by Templar/Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, November 18, 2019

Growing up Gorilla by Clare Hodgson Meeker

I never really got the love of primates - I usually skip them at the zoo, maybe because they look too human? But kids certainly do love stories about these fascinating and endangered animals and continuing interest in fiction like The One and Only Ivan makes these a popular reading choice.

Meeker presents the true story of a baby gorilla, interwoven with science and how zoos work to preserve species in as natural a habitat as possible. The story begins at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, when a new baby gorilla is born. But the mother, Nadiri, had been raised by humans for almost a year after her mother rejected her and then given to a surrogate. Would she know how to care for a baby? Slowly, patiently, Harmony Frazier works to help Nadiri adjust to her new baby. Frazier raised Nadiri until a surrogate could be found, but she wanted to end the cycle of human-raised gorillas, who didn't know how to care for their young.

Readers will follow the story of Nadiri and her baby, Yola, as she slowly becomes accustomed to her and finally, after months of work with the keepers, accepts and protects her. Frazier and the other keepers went to extraordinary lengths, even caring for Yola around the clock in the gorilla's dens, to keep her as close to her family as possible. Along the way, readers will learn about gorilla behavior and the specific behavior of Nadiri's family, which changed after the birth of her baby. The story ends with Yola at seven months, fully in the case of her mother and accepted into the gorilla troop.

Back matter includes a detailed comparison of gorillas and humans, a discussion of how gorillas are endangered, and author's note. There are also acknowledgements, a glossary, further resources, and an index.

While I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt, this is a fascinating look into the family life of gorillas in captivity as well as a thoughtful discussion of how zoos have changed the way they handle gorillas (and other infants) over the years.

Verdict: Hand this to middle grade readers who are fascinated by zoos and apes, and to anyone interested in how zoos raise baby animals. Recommended.

ISBN: 978154154240; Published September 2019 by Millbrook/Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Librarian's Picks: Some Awesome Maker Books I Bought This Year

I generally go very low-tech in our maker space (or STEAM lab) and in my selections for the collection. As I've said before (frequently) I have no problem with technology and maker spaces that rely heavily on it, but I DO have a problem with "every library must have x" pronouncements. Our middle and high school are amply supplied with 3D-printers, laser cutters, robotics, and all students have their own chromebooks.

On the other hand, a lot of crafts, recipes, and instructions are available online. I generally stay away from "10 cute things you can make with toilet paper tubes" types of crafts, since that's what Pinterest is for, in my opinion. Also, the things I think are cool aren't necessarily going to be what kids and their caregivers check out. So, of the books I purchased or otherwise added that were "how to" type books, these are the ones I think were pretty awesome!

Science and Nature experiments and activities

  • Mason Jar Science by Adolph, 9781612129860
  • Gardening with Emma by Emma Biggs, 9781612129259
  • Backyard adventure by Thomsen, 9781612129204
  • 101 Kid's activities that are the ooey, gooey-est ever, 9781624146619
  • Super simple sumi-e by Palka, 9781632172044
  • Art lab for kids: Express yourself by Schwake, 9781631595929
Making things
  • Wood shop by Margaret Larson, 9781612129426
  • Hello, crochet friends by Jonah Larson, 9780999143704
  • Maker comics: Create a costume, 9781250152077
  • Stitch and string lab for kids, 9781631597367
  • Miss Violet's Doll's House, 9781911216131

Saturday, November 16, 2019

This week at the library; or, Why does everything happen at once?

One of my favorite little patrons decorating ornaments
Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Books for bedtime
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Girl Scouts
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Lakeland School field trip
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Grandparents raising grandchildren support group
  • Friday
    • 7th grade outreach visit (5 sessions)
    • Free Lego Build
  • Saturday
  • Worked 41 hours; 15 hours on desk; 7 programs
  • Worked a couple hours at home
  • Why does everything happen at once? Staff are still sick, now I'm sick, and I've got one more week, well, make that a week and a half of craziness before I can get down to really working on the budget and planning for next year. Oh, and life-size candyland of course.
  • Pinterest page for 7th grade outreach visit
  • Partial list in genres
Collection development notes
  • Popular choices at the 7th grade booktalks were the Nathan Hale graphic novels, Rick Riordan presents, Smile and read-alikes, My big fat zombie goldfish, Hamstersaurus Rex, Jennifer Nielsen (historical fiction), and Tod Olson's Lost series. I had requests for sports books and romance - definitely need more sports books.
  • In video games, the approximately 135 kids we polled were primarily into Minecraft with a few Fortnite (from my knowledge of the community, I would guess that a few more kids are playing Fortnite than admitted it - most kids aren't allowed to play.) Roblox is dead. Xbox seemed to be leading over Playstation, but when we actually counted the kids it turned out that Xbox fans are just louder. Only a couple kids were into Switch. There are small pockets of manga and anime fans, but those fans are dedicated, even if there are less than 5 in each class.
  • Request for "baseball comics." I don't have Fuzzy Baseball - not even sure it's still in print, but note to self I should get more Jake Maddox graphic novels. Also, First Second should do sports comics to go with their science, maker, and upcoming history comics.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Paris Project by Donna Gephart

I was initially offered this for review and turned it down - the quirky character name, "Cleveland Rosebud Potts" and small-town Southern setting did not attract me. Well, the publisher sent it to me anyways. I was just going to skim it, and ended up reading it.

Cleveland Rosebud Potts has a plan and her first step in that plan is ballet lessons. As readers follow her through her embarrassing and tragi-comic efforts at ballet, friendship with neighbor Declan in their trailer park, and interactions with her weary mother and determined sister Georgia, they learn a lot about what's going on in Cleve's life. Her father has a gambling problem and is in prison. Before he got there, he stole Cleveland's Paris Project fund from dog-walking and then stole from his employer. Cleveland plans to go to the American School in Paris and get out of small-town Sassafras, Florida, forever. A town where her only friend is Declan, who helps her with French cooking, where she lost all her dog-walking jobs when her dad went to prison, and where her family is now a pariah and the kids harass her at school.

But there are a few issues along the way. First, she gets kicked out of ballet school. Then her best (and only) friend Declan seems to be replacing her with Todd, whose dad sent her dad to prison. Georgia, her sister who is always there for her, is determined on her own plan to get out of Sassafras forever and go to the University of Vermont. And throughout all these trials and tribulations, she's torn between missing her dad, feeling betrayed by his theft, and worried about what will change - or won't change - when he gets out of prison.


There isn't necessarily a happily-ever-after ending, but a happily-for-now, with hope for the future. Cleveland's dad eventually manages to get another job, cleaning the park, and is going to Gamblers Anonymous. Georgia gets wait-listed for the University of Vermont and spends her savings taking her mom and sister on a Parisian-themed vacation. When she is accepted after all, Cleveland makes the decision to give her own savings to Georgia so she can follow her dream. Cleveland accepts Declan's identity and Todd as his boyfriend. The future may not be exactly what she imagined, but it will be ok.

Verdict: Although Cleveland's dream of going to Paris may not be realistic, it's understandable in her difficult situation. Although she struggles with many difficult circumstances, she also displays a lot of maturity, eventually accepting that Todd isn't taking her place but expanding her friendships, and dealing with her confused feelings about her dad. One of my favorite parts of the story was Cleveland's relationship with her sister and how they fiercely supported each other through everything. Hand this to fans of Gephart's other tragi-comic realistic fiction stories and to kids who like realistic fiction with some humor and some serious issues.

ISBN: 9781534440869; Published October 2019 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Bathtime by Alice Le Henand, illustrated by Thierry Bedouet

This French import is a "pull and play" book, i.e. you pull a tab to change the pictures. The back cover lists the social-emotional aspects, reassuring, encouraging, supporting, and empowering kids at bathtime.

The cover shows a scowling purple bear in red underwear and their worried parent. Pull the tab, and the cub is happily splashing in the tub while the parent laughs. Each spread follows this same theme. In the first, a brown bear cub wants to keep playing, despite their mother's request to get in the bath. She tells them they can play in the bath, pull the tab, and they are doing just that. In the next spread, Kangaroo insists on washing himself, while his mother gently reminds him to wash all over. A monkey says "Baths are no fun, Daddy!" but then wonders if his stuffed toy needs a bath too. Crocodile refuses to get in the tub, until Daddy checks the water temperature. A father cat makes a fluffy bubble hat to wash his kitten's hair. The last spread shows all the children with their parents, wrapped up warmly in towels and bathrobes, and thanking their daddies for their baths (although there are two mothers included).

The cheerful pictures are colorful but simple, showing a variety of colors in the animals and their clothing. This book stands out with the preponderance of involved fathers, although some recognition of the mothers pictured would have been nice. Some of the children are identified as boys, others are given no gender. The pull tabs are sturdy, made of a thin cardboard that should hold up well unless kids leave them pulled out and then bend them, which they probably will.

Verdict: I'm at the point where I consider all board books to be an ephemeral collection and figure I'm doing good if they last for 2-3 years with an average of 30 circs. Anything with a movable part drops that time, but this is a fun book that caregivers and kids will love and sturdy enough to be worth the cost.

ISBN: 9782408012823; Published August 2019 by Twirl/Tourbillon Editions; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The golden acorn by Katy Hudson

My favorite Katy Hudson is still Too Many Carrots, but her latest is sure to please fans. The opening endpages pique the readers' curiosity, showing a conglomeration of animals (beaver, turtle, and rabbit) in a golden-leaved try with a small, curious-looking blue bird with a suitcase watching them. And then the story begins...

Squirrel, a pudgy gray charmer with pink cheeks, loves to win. She has a trophy collection and lots of them are Golden Acorns from the annual Golden Acorn Hunt. She's ready to win again, when there's a last-minute rule change - the racers must now be part of a team! Squirrel tries some last-minute training of her friends, Beaver, Rabbit, Tortoise, and a baby bluebird, but without success. They are quickly trapped in the trees and Squirrel gets more and more exasperated as she has to go back and rescue them until finally, she leaves them behind.

Squirrel finds the golden acorn, an unusually large one and is at first triumphant, but then remorseful when she realizes she's left all her friends behind. She abandons her prize and goes back to rescue her friends. They don't win the acorn, but they do still have their friendship and, as they realize in the final picture of a happy picnic together, "Squirrel's friends would ALWAYS come first."

Hudson's cheerful pictures show a fun variety of woodland creatures making their way through the trees, with lots of fun details, especially in Squirrel's home. I love that pudgy Squirrel is a super-fast racer (and her hamster wheel for training is hilarious!). This is a cheerful lesson that winning isn't everything and if adults want something more nuanced, that can come in time, while kids will appreciate an example of kindness and friendship that leaves no one behind.

Verdict: A good additional title for your friendship and teamwork sections, this is sure to be popular in classes where teachers are working on teamwork skills.

ISBN: 9781684460366; Published July 2019 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 11, 2019

So you want to be a Viking? by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, illustrated by Takayo Akiyama

Apparently this was abridged from a 2011 book, Viking by John Haywood. It was part of a series of "unofficial" guides. The creators also adapted a Roman legionary title. The young reader's edition, with all new cartoons and illustrations, features three kids: Kate, who longs for glory (and bloodshed), Angus, who just wants go skip the whole thing, and Eddie (dark-skinned) who is ready for anything.

The illustrations are cartoons in a limited palette of greens and grays. The book is mostly broken up into humorous lists, small chunks of text, and factoids about Vikings, all delivered with a humorous slant. It starts with the kids at a library, going to check out the history section, "Children's books are so tame." They find a book on Vikings and imagine themselves as characters in the book. After a sing-along, it starts with a "Viking checklist" of what you need to be a Viking warrior (money mostly) and the other things you can be, down to a "thrall" or slave. The book has a "choose your own adventure" flare as readers pick which type of Viking they want to be, choose their weapons and armor, and then learn about the hazards of the Viking life. Shipwrecks, battle, looting, and "Viking healthcare" are among the topics included.

The book ends with a map, glossary, and index.

Verdict: This was funny and informative, but I always wonder about handing kids "nonfiction" with so many fictional elements. However, this one is so over the top that I don't think it's a problem; it makes a fun book to browse and a silly introduction to Viking life.

ISBN: 9780500651841; Published September 2019 by Thames and Hudson; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Librarian's Picks: The Best Books I Bought This Year

I'm going to try a new series this year, highlighting the best books of my selections for the past year. "Best" is, of course, subjective. It's a mix of what's been popular, what has literary merit, and what I've recommended heavily to families and teachers.

My ordering is pretty much done by November - there are a few things preordered and I'll grab a couple more things at the end of the year with replacement budgets or stuff that was backordered and will go into next year's budget. It's not absolutely accurate, but this is a rough sample of how my budget and selections broke down this year (number of titles added includes donations - I add heavily from review copies, especially in picture books and nonfiction and I donated a lot of teen comics this year).

  • Neighborhoods (Picture books, including holidays and 8x8 pbs): $5,000, 535 books added
  • Board Books: $500, 100 books added
  • Easy readers: $1200, 120 books added
  • Juvenile Series (paperback beginning chapters): $1,000, 235 books added
  • Juvenile Fiction: $4,500, 430 books added
  • Juvenile Nonfiction: $3000, 330 books added
  • Young Adult Fiction: $2,800, 275 books added
  • Young Adult Nonfiction: $500, 45 books added
  • Young Adult Graphics (including manga): $1,200, 155 books added
  • Publishers (series nonfiction and prebound fiction. I purchase from Capstone, Lerner, Scholastic, ABDO and Bearport, not necessarily every year): $3,000, 170 books added
  • Other (parenting, Spanish, professional collection): $1,000, 40 books added