Tuesday, September 27, 2016

If a T. Rex crashes your birthday party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova

You might think having a T. Rex at your birthday party would be awesome.

You would be wrong. First, he's huge. Second, he's scary. Then there's all those teeth (which he's never brushed), those little arms (not so good for playing games), not to mention his temper. And he's never learned that you don't touch the birthday boy's toys!

But in the end, when he hugs you with his little arms, you know you want him back next year, even if you do have to hide your toys....

I'm not sure how I feel about these pictures. I like parts of them - the striped tights on the dark-skinned girl throwing water balloons at the T. Rex, a curious green turtle, the brightly colored dinosaur pinata. But overall the pictures just didn't click for me. There's too much white space and the style is too abstract for my taste.

I also found the story baffling. The dinosaur basically behaves like a naughty toddler and so it doesn't make sense the kids would want him back. Parents, sure, but this isn't a "I'll love you no matter what" type of book. There are both longer chunks of text that will need an older child to appreciate them but also a very young feel to the book, in the T. Rex basically having a tantrum.

Verdict: Dinosaurs and birthdays are both popular subjects, but this doesn't combine them well. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781454915508; Published 2016 by Sterling; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, September 26, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Ocean Animals: Who's Who in the Deep Blue by Johnna Rizzo

When I was weeding the 500s this year and needed to update the animal books, I went to my go-to publishers which, of course, included National Geographic.

Finding Nemo and Finding Dory have made underwater creatures even more popular than they have been in the past, and the publisher capitalizes on that by placing reef-dwellers front and center. The book introduces readers to the major oceans and their general layout and then jumps right into the creatures that dwell there. They are separated into coral reefs, sharks, marine mammals, whales, marine reptiles and birds. The book ends with ocean habitats like the Galapagos and mangroves and then lists ways readers can be involved in conserving and improving ocean habitats. There are several additional sections not listed in the table of contents; weird ocean animals, extreme ocean environments, and other facts.

There are also credits, acknowledgements, an index, and glossary. The gorgeous photography of National Geographic's titles is expanded in this oversized volume, showing a little of the scope of the huge underwater world the creatures live in.

Verdict: Whether or not you are looking to update your ocean animals sections, this is a strong addition to any library. It will catch the interest of a wide variety of ages and Rizzo's accessible and knowledgeable text is a great introduction to the underwater world. I was happy to expend a little extra money on a library-bound copy, but it's also available in paperback.

ISBN: 9781426325069; Published May 2016; Review copy provided by publishers; Purchased for the library

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cybils! Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Panelists and Judges

In case you missed it, the announcement of the few, the brave, the determined has been made and the panelists and judges for Cybils are official! In a few days you'll see the category descriptions - there are exciting changes in several categories, including my own beloved nonfiction, so stay tuned!

Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Round 1 Panelists
These people have bravely volunteered to wade through 100+ books, haunting their local libraries and bookstores for copies, discussing the anatomical details of head lice at the dinner table, and plunging into discussions to choose the mighty shortlists come December.

Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Round 2 Judges
To this group falls the task of choosing the one book that rules them all, the best of the best, the chosen one from the shortlists. They have only a few short weeks to read deeply, discuss thoroughly, and wade through the volume of emails their category organizer produces (me).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This week at the library; or, The summer refuses to end

What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
    • Autism Support Group cancelled
    • Promised storm did not appear, probably because I went around checking that all the kids had rides home. Self-regulation was the word I was trying to think of when explaining why I use the ABC Stop song on my first school visits! We finally fixed the hole in the hamster's tube - my aide went next-door and got some new tubes. I like small town life.
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • We realized we were disorganized and stressed.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Mad Scientists Club: Bubble Science
    • We attempted to assuage our disorganization. A fair number of people came to bubble science. Even more biting gnats came. We sacrificed an aide to the gnat cloud. She earned peanut butter M&Ms.
  • Friday
    • Outreach Storytimes (2 sessions)
    • It was supposed to be a half-day but I messed up the schedule and ended up with two outreach visits in the morning and then working the information desk until 2. My own fault. Fortunately, the kindergarteners were very cute and they all hugged me. I swear I have a sinus infection, not a cold. I went home to take lots of suphedrine and commence my vacation.
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • The YA weeding is done but the section still needs cleaning - old paid-discards that remained in the system, long-overdue titles to be replaced, duplicates, etc.
  • I cleaned off my desk
What the kids are reading, a selection (i.e. what I can remember afterwards)
  • Perfectly Poppy - don't have any
  • easy readers
  • storytime kids in love with Chalk - gave them Typewriter
  • read-alouds for younger kids - down girl and sit, digby o'day, my father's dragon
  • books with science - i have a list!
  • lego books
  • easy readers about bugs
  • hardy boys easy chapters
  • old macdonald had a truck - should get another copy of this!
  • Echo - checked out put on hold
  • space books for a four year old

Friday, September 23, 2016

Haggis and Tank Unleashed: All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks

This new Branches series features two kooky dogs and the art of James Burks, author of Bird & Squirrel and other fun books.

Haggis the terrier is bored. Tank the Great Dane is not. Tank has lots of great ideas, including being pirates! She's sure it will be lots of fun, but Haggis isn't so sure. Using their imaginations and some creative recycling, the two set sail on a wild adventure.

There's a lot of wordplay in the text, which mostly takes a back seat to the colorful graphics. Burks' trademark square corners and surreal humor shine through in the wacky adventure and Young's silly dialogue and easy text make a good combination.

For Branches I'd say this is intermediate - it does not have a lot of text, but the combination of simple sentences and dialogue would confuse a beginning reader and the font is smaller than the average easy reader. The wordplay will also be challenging to a reader who is not fluent or doesn't have a decent vocabulary.

Verdict: Fans of Burks' Bird & Squirrel and kids who like funny books but aren't quite ready for full-length chapters will be the ideal audience for this. It would also make a fun read-aloud for younger children. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545818872; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg and Lucas Turnbloom, color by Guy Major

Ben's dreams have been getting more and more vivid lately - and he's discovered he has the ability to "jump" into other people's dreams. His one friend, Jake, thinks there are great possibilities here and even his crush, Kaylee, is intrigued. But bigger things than Ben's school drama are happening. More and more children are falling prey to a mysterious disease that traps them in a nightmare world and Ben must take on his fears and fight back if he wants to save them.

As the set up for a series, this book contains lots of hints and bits of plot. Ben's father's mysterious disappearance, the presence of dream jumpers, the villains, etc. are all introduced although there's clearly a lot left to explain. The art (and story) are what I think of as Scholastic Graphix style. Very cinematic, colorful, with lots of action and drama.

Unfortunately, there's lots of stereotypes too. Ben, the ordinary middle class white boy, is naturally the hero. Although his crush is Asian, she's also in need of rescuing and has very little agency or presence, other than as an inspiration. Ben's sidekick, Jake, is the stereotypical "fat boy" a little dumb and babyish, mostly there to be made fun of and to stick to Ben no matter what.

This isn't a "bad" book per say; there's just nothing about it that stands out. It doesn't have the emotional depth of Amulet, the developed characters of Zita, or the twisty plot of Alabaster Shadows. More importantly, it brings nothing new to the genre and follows the same stereotyped characters used in a gazillion other kids' fantasy books and comics. In fact, I can pretty much predict the rest of the plot from the first book (I'm guessing his dad turns out to be the villain).

Verdict: Kids will happily pick this up, read it, and forget it. It's fine as an addition to your collection, but I don't expect it to get a major fan following like Amulet, Zita, or Bone. The story and characters have been told many times before; it's time to see something new.

ISBN: 9780545826044; Published 2016 by Scholastic Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Small Readers: Stinky by Eleanor Davis

[Digging through the archives...]

This is the only Geisel winner/honor our library doesn't have, so I thought I'd check it out! It's on the classic and pervasive easy reader theme of friendship. A slightly lonely, but generally happy monster in a swamp, and a new kid in town. At first, Stinky doesn't think he could ever be friends with a HUMAN! They like to eat yucky things like cake and take baths! But maybe they're not so different....

It's a fun and engaging storyline, easy for children to predict, but familiar and humorous. The comic panels are excellently designed for the early reader experience and the art is clean-cut and elegant.

While the story defaults to male, both characters could easily have identified as female, adding a little diversity to the swamp. This is a more challenging easy reader, almost a chapter book, with the combination of art and text requiring a fairly fluent reader. It's one of the earlier Toon books and a particular favorite of mine. It's funny, child-friendly, and engaging and at a nice level for readers not ready for chapter books yet.

Verdict: Definitely an honor winner! I'll be adding this one to our collection and I suggest you do the same.

[Revisited: Over the past few years, our easy reader collection has shifted to work more towards emergent readers and lower level readers. Meanwhile, Toon has gotten more and more sophisticated. We have 3 copies of this and it circulates regularly, but not heavily. I still love it, but if you missed it the first time it came out I wouldn't feel the urge to go back and purchase it.]

ISBN: 978-0979923845; Published September 2008 by Toon Books; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field

I'm not generally a fan of rhyming books, or picture books with a moral, but this one just kind of grabbed me.

A little mouse is tired of being scared and small. So, he decides to risk it all and ask the lion to teach him to roar! The lion is the king of beasts and also quite likely to eat the small mouse! Nevertheless, he perseveres, only to discover, after a difficult journey, that the lion is scared of...him? The two become close friends and realize they are better together than apart.

The plot, taken down to its bare bones, is not particularly unique or surprising but the presentation is delightful. The silly rhymes bounce along, rather like a Dr. Seuss book.

The illustrations, however, are what really caught my eye. Bright, creator of the Love Monster series, connects with a new illustrator, Jim Field, who branches out into a brilliant palette of golds and browns and a classic style that will remind readers of Gus Tenggren and other Little Golden Books artists. The giant-eared mouse, solemn lion, and all the other animals are set against a background that seems to pulsate with heat and color.

Verdict: A fun addition to storytimes; I look forward to seeing more from this artist/author duo.

ISBN: 9780545873505; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: What's the Buzz? Keeping Bees in Flight by Merrie Ellen Wilcox

I really like Orca Footprints, but sadly they don't circulate much for us. However, I have high hopes for this title.

The book is divided into four chapters. The first explains different types of bees, their habitat and behavior. The second chapter, "Bees at Work", explains their vital contribution to pollination and how they fit into the various life cycles of their habitats. The third chapter talks about how bees function and how beekeepers work with them. Finally, "Keeping the Bees in Flight" discusses the perils facing bees and how kids and adults alike can get involved and help.

Resources include books and websites, acknowledgements, glossary, and index. The book throughout is illustrated with photographs and some drawings.

Beekeeping is a hot topic in our town right now - the city recently gave permission for people to keep bees within city limits (no chickens yet though) and we've had several very well-attended programs on keeping bees. I was looking for more updated information to add to our pet section for kids on keeping bees and this is the best I found. It includes more information on how bees work than on how to keep them, but my understanding is that beekeeping is more of a hands-on thing, not something you learn from books.

Verdict: If you're looking for updated resources on bees and beekeeping with a children's perspective, this is the best recent title I've found so far. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781459809604; Published 2015 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This week at the library; or Reaching Out

Horrible bushes have been removed!
What's happening in my head and at the library
Projects in progress and completed
  • YA fiction crisis weeding - COMPLETE
  • Juvenile nonfiction weeding through 800s - COMPLETE
  • Updating field trips and outreach storytimes
  • Finalizing programs for the fall
  • Missing list - COMPLETE
  • Collection development - building order lists of true emergent readers for next year
  • Still working on the last bits of the Parenting collection
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • looking for a new fantasy series - reading Crown of Three from summer reading cart. Recommended Jessica Day George
  • Apples
  • I spy
  • pond life
  • mammoths
  • Swiss family robinson on audio
  • dance picture books
  • easy readers
  • Dork Diaries