Friday, February 15, 2019

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends, even though they don't seem to have much in common except being stuck on an out-of-the-way space station in the far corner of the universe. Sanity is a brilliant inventory and genius, who doesn't always think before she creates. Tallulah is an imaginative, sweet girl who's not so good with the whole "science" thing. Their parents are scientists, sort-of-ex smugglers, and directors on their isolated space station.

SPOILERS

The story begins with the two getting into trouble, yet again, when Sanity creates, as Tallulah's mother says, "a carnivorous animal in the laboratory and has been feeding it out of my budget." But, protests Tallulah, Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds is super cute! Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds also happens to be a three-headed kitten. But really cute! When she gets to know you. From genetic experiments, to being grounded, to a life-threatening situation on board their space ship, Sanity and Tallulah stick up for each other and get in and out of trouble together. There are hints to darker and more serious issues (beside the whole "nearly dying" part at the end) but in general this is a ship that is a happy family. There are arguments and disagreements, power struggles and emergencies, but it's primarily a family of strong, confident, and capable women and men who work together well.

The art is primarily in shade of pink, navy blue, and gray. Sanity is black, as are her parents, and a bit on the skinny side. Tallulah is short and red-haired, not looking much like her white-haired father, a double-amputee but more like her short and curvy mother who runs the science lab. Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds is an adorably fluffy three-headed kitten (no matter what size she gets to, being fed on genetically enhanced meat).

After the breathless conclusion, which wraps up not only the storyline but also shows the strong bonds of family and friendship among the stations' residents as they work together and trust Sanity to save them, there are hints of future adventures!

Verdict: A wonderful new graphic novel series, sure to fly off your shelves. This will appeal to all graphic novel fans, especially readers of Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781368008440; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Will Sheep Sleep? by Hilary Leung

Any parent or caregiver who has tried to get a lively toddler to sleep will appreciate this book.

"Sheep has been playing all day and now he is tired.../... but will sheep sleep?" As anyone can guess, the answer is no! A bedtime drink, evening routines, all are quickly turned into a new game until finally Sheep's exhausted friends dress up in sheep suits and start a countdown. The only question left is, "Will Sheep snore?" and you can guess the answer to that one!

Bright, digital cartoons show a creamy sheep with dark brown face and legs, toothy crocodile, smiling ladybug, and other animal friends.

The only drawback to this title is that it's not very sturdy; instead of the usual thick cardboard pages and binding of a board book, the pages are thin, shirt cardboard, the kind that's found in folded dress clothes. The binding, especially the hinge, also seems thin.

Verdict: A fun addition, but add some extra reinforcement and don't expect this one to last too long.

ISBN: 9781338215625; Published May 2018 by Cartwheel Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mabel and Sam at home: One brave journey in three adventures by Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

This quirky (and lengthy) picture book is a delightful excursion into the power of the imagination and the relationship between siblings. The story begins with Mabel and her little brother Sam watching a diverse group of movers hauling in a collection of furniture and other belongings at their new house. Mabel invites Sam aboard the Handle with Care (a box, obviously) and they set off to sail the seas. More adventures follow after the blue-themed sea journey; a walk through a yellow museum, and a dark green journey into space.

Eventually Sam gets tired of Mabel's big sister bossiness and the two quarrel, but when it's time for bed they make up - and get permission to spend their first night sharing a bed like they used to share a room at their old house.

Each adventure has a color theme and a tilted perspective that jumps easily into the imaginative aspect of the story. Readers don't get a really good view of the new house, but they do get a fun look at how Mabel and Sam, both with dark skin, Mabel with curly hair and Sam with straight, become acquainted with their new home. Some of the text is hard to read, being placed against a colored background.

Verdict: If you're looking for longer picture books or something for siblings moving into a new home, this is a nice addition to the genre.

ISBN: 9781452139968; Published June 2018 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 11, 2019

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster

I read this twice before I figured out the secret of the textures on the animals! In other words, this book has surprises.

The oversize book offers the skeletons of 10 animals. The first spread lists facts about the animal and its skeleton, then a picture of the skeleton. This spread is in black and white with a light dusting of color. Readers can guess the animal before turning the page to a colorful spread showing the animal, its skeleton raised in light texture against its body. This picture is accompanied by a brief narrative. With a bright light the skeleton will show up through the page - it matches the skeleton on the reverse side. It's not glow-in-the-dark though, even though it feels like it!

The animals profiled include a blue whale (biggest bone), Etruscan shrew (smallest bone), reticulated python (most bones), giraffe, elephant, peregrine falcon (lightest bones), bumblebee bat (thinnest bones), Alaska moose (fastest-growing bone), regal horned lizard (spikiest bone), great hammerhead shark (fewest bones), and the special bones of a human.

An afterword from the author explains how they chose the different animals, the relative sizes and weights of bone, and how science changes as scientists discover new things. There is also a list of further reading "at the library" and online and a glossary.

Verdict: A fascinating and beautifully created look at skeletons - perfect for a non-scary storytime at Halloween or for poring over any time of the year. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780714875125; Published September 2017 by Phaidon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, February 10, 2019

RA, RA, Read: Rick Riordan and mythic fantasy

Since I originally wrote this post, in 2017, Rick Riordan's fantasy series has grown exponentially, expanding to an imprint as well as Riordan's own books.

Riordan's series start with the original five Percy Jackson books, expand that world into multiple series, break out into Norse mythology (Magnus Chase), and there is also a trilogy based on Egyptian mythology. Copious companion volumes, collections of mythology, etc. are also included. Riordan draws kids in with an emphasis on Greek mythology reinterpreted with lots of fantasy, adventure, and strong characters as well as a strong sense of humor.

More Mythological Fantasy
  • Rick Riordan Presents is Riordan's imprint to showcase a diverse range of mythologies by #ownvoices authors, written in similar style as Riordan's books but unique to each author.
    • Aru Shah and the end of time by Roshani Chokshi
    • Storm runner by J. C. Cervantes
    • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
    • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (2019)
  • Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    • Celtic mythology. This is the first book in an older series and I've found circulation varies.
  • Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong
    • Norse mythology.
  • Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
    • Indian mythology - more violent than Percy Jackson and includes demons, which makes some parents uncomfortable
  • Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
    • The first book is technically Over Sea, Under Stone but it's a more old-fashioned fantasy quest. You can start with Dark is Rising. Tell kids to ignore the awful movie; this series brings together aspects of Celtic and Arthurian legend with some truly chilling moments and lovely language.
  • Serpent's secret by Sayantani Dasgupta
    • Bengali mythology
  • Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
    • Egyptian magic and myth. Theodosia is a snarky young Victorian girl who finds she can use ancient Egyptian magic.
  • Flame of Olympus by Kate O'Hearn
    • Greek/Roman mythology. First in a series.
  • The gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
    • Middle Eastern - a group of friends find themselves in a deadly board game.
  • Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu
    • Greek mythology, but a heavier emphasis on fantasy than the mythic aspects.
Mythology
  • Anubis Speaks; Hades Speaks; Thor Speaks by Vicky Alvear Schecter
    • Funny and informative, told in first-person by the god and discussing culture, religion, and mythology
  • Olympians by George O'Connor
    • Series of graphic novels; each features a different Greek god. O'Connor does an excellent job of retaining the sense of the myth while giving readers points to think about and not emphasizing the more inappropriate aspects.
More Fantasy Adventure Titles (featuring contemporary protagonists)
  • Revenge of the Shadow King by Derek Benz
    • Grey Griffins trilogy. Monster-fighting.
  • Lightning Catcher by Anne Cameron
    • More a Harry Potter read-alike; a group of children discover the ability to control the weather. First in a series.
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
    • Yes, the author of Hunger Games. This is her series for younger readers. Gregory travels underground to save his sister and encounters a strange and sometimes frightening world.
  • Ingo by Helen Dunmore
    • Harry Potter with Mermaids. First in a series.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
    • This is a longer, more dense series. It features book characters and worlds come to life.
  • Secret of the sirens by Julia Golding
    • The Companions' Quartet is a gentler read, featuring protectors of magical/mythical creatures.
  • Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis
    • The Seven Wonders series. A bit like a cross between 39 Clues and Percy Jackson.
  • Keeper of the lost cities by Shannon Messenger
    • This massive series is a bit of a hard sell, but my high-level readers are crazy about it. The protagonists find themselves in an adventure that involves protecting lost cities (Atlantis, Shangri-La, etc.)
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
    • This series is of a fairly hefty size, but is a quick read. It features a reservation for magical creatures and keepers protecting them.
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer (out of print)
    • There is some Celtic mythology and a lot of humor in this duo of books about a girl whose parents are ghosts and who goes on a quest.
  • City of Fire by Laurence Yep
    • This trilogy features various aspects of Asian and Hawai'ian mythology.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

This week at the library; or, Back to work

I helped her do her first sewing! I did point out to her mom
that she's a nurse, and it's no different than stitching up skin,
but she did not believe me lol. She got the hang of it
quickly and sewed most of the outside edges and stuffed it!
Happening at the library this week
Projects and misc.
  • After all the Weather Drama and time off last week.... we had more weather drama. Ice and more ice and then melting snow that froze into yet MORE ice! School was cancelled, programs and outreach were cancelled, but I finally managed to clean off my desk and mostly catch up, although I still have a lot of bills and other stuff to do. And I just feel really... off. I need to set aside some time when I'm not interrupted with questions, running a program, answering questions, supervising volunteers (or doing all four simultaneously) and get things planned and organized.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Little Red Rodent Hood by Ursula Vernon

I would just like to pause here to address something I've noticed over the past few years. Kids have shorter attention spans, struggle to read, and fewer kids read for pleasure. This has been shown in various studies. More and more young adult books, massive fantasy tomes, and lengthy books are being published. This is just my observation. When you try to offer a shorter book to a middle grade student (remember middle grade is ages 9-12 or 3rd to 6th grade) the response I almost always get is "that's a baby book" or "that's too easy for her" or "he needs to read something challenging". Even if the kid hates to read, struggles to read, or would rather do pretty much anything else. Basically, why does it have to be 400 pages long to be a "real" middle grade book? Where are the short books? Where?

Well, here's one of them! In Princess Harriet Hamsterbone's latest adventure, she meets a sweet, helpless little hamster in a red cloak who is being menaced by horrible weasel-wolves! Naturally, Harriet is ready to help, even though she finds the little girl (Red is her name? Really?) to be rather annoying. But there's something funny going on with the weasel-wolves, the "helpless" little girl, and her mysterious grandmother. Harriet is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery - after all, she only attacks bad people (except for that one time with the really realistic dragon costume and everyone apologized so it was ok). But just who is the bad person?

With a blend of art, comics, and wit, Vernon presents a story that, on the surface, is about a princess who does her duty (especially when it involves sword-work), and enjoys a good fraction or three-fifths. Underneath, there's a repetition of the themes in the previous books; not judging by appearances, realizing that people all have different strengths and interests, and taking time to understand different people. However, this book adds some interesting notes about acknowledging and accepting your own identity. This has never been a problem for Harriet (naturally, she's awesome and she knows it!) but there's a whole thing about if you've been turned into a were-wolf-weasel, you have to accept it and move on, or at least get some tactful therapy from Prince Wilbur, who is good at that kind of thing.

Verdict: I think Whiskerella might still be my favorite, but this is a strong addition to an excellent series. Buy them!

ISBN: 9780399186585; Published September by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher and donated to the library (I also bought a library copy and another copy for myself!)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Wild Fairies: Daisy's Decorating Dilemma by Brandi Dougherty, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

Incidentally, this is actually a cheery, bright
orange-red and the title text is glittery
yellow. This isn't the best picture.
Finally! I was so excited about Rodale's new imprint for children's books but I've been disappointed by every book I've read so far. They look so cute, but the writing quality is just not very good. However, this beginning chapter book was delightful!

Daisy and the other wild fairies are going to host the Blossom Bash this year! Daisy is very excited to be in charge of the decorations, but she's also worried - how will she come up with a theme to make everyone happy? What if it rains? As she checks in with all the other fairies, she gets more and more worried - they are all ready with entertainment, food, and more but she's not ready at all. Fortunately, in the end she realizes it's not about being perfect, it's about friends being together and celebrating nature. They all work together to make the decorations and have a wonderful festival, even if it's not exactly as they envisioned.

Kurilla's colorful art is plentiful throughout the book. All the fairies are female, except Thistle. They are mostly flowers (Poppy, Daisy, Dahlia) but some are more general (Lily is a mermaid, Indigo has blue hair). Daisy has light-brown skin to go with her curly yellow hair, Indigo is all shades of blue and purple and likes to build and tinker with things, Thistle has spiky pink hair and light pink skin. There are cute birds, bugs, and flowers throughout the book.

There is also a lot of back matter included; There's a section on honey (which builds on the storyline in the book where Daisy suggests Thistle eat honey to cure his allergies. Spoiler: I've tried this and it didn't work. But honey is still tasty!) and a recipe for honey cakes. Another section describes each wild fairy and their critter companion, and there are drawing guides and games included as well. There is more text in the book than, say, a beginning Branches chapter book, but it's broken up with frequent illustrations and the text itself is fairly simple, perfect for a beginning chapter book. It's also under 100 pages, including the back matter.

Verdict: Not a necessary purchase, but sure to be a popular addition. Hand to your fairy and graphic novel fans, since they will enjoy the illustrations.

ISBN: 9781635651324; Published 2018 by Rodale Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animal Opposites by Jane Cabrera

Cabrera has created many excellent books for toddlers and this board book fits nicely into that oevre. The book cover has a square window; turn the page and you will see a swashy blue background with a cat and a bird in a cage. The window is labeled "out" and the cat is labeled "in". Other spreads show a curly grey dog and, behind a lift-the-flap bone, a small dog for "tall" and "short," a tortoise and hare in the desert, red fox in the night and hedgehog in a tent for "dark" and "light," and so on. The final spread shows a black cat against a green background labeled "in front." On the opposite page, a yellow bush lifts to reveal the word "behind" and an orange bush, which lifts to reveal a blue bush, and finally a small black cat who says "boo!"

The flaps are not ideal - they are thin cardboard and you have to hook a finger into a little half-moon cut-out to get them open. However, the rest of the book is very sturdy and with some additional reinforcement (and a fair amount of luck) it should be ok. The night-time picture, showing the hedgehog in a tent, might actually be a tipi, but the dark picture makes it possible to assume tent which is what I'm going with. It's not uncommon to see things like that in books originally created in Britain. I'm trying to be more relaxed about buying more board books with moving parts and I think this is a good choice.

Verdict: If you are expanding your lift-the-flap and concept collections, this is a fun addition that toddlers are sure to enjoy.

ISBN: 9781499806304; This edition published August 2017 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

If Wendell had a walrus by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Matt Phelan

This imaginative picture book morphs from daydreaming into a solid friendship story.

Wendell, a white boy with a bright orange cowlick, happens upon a cloud one day that looks like a walrus and he starts thinking... what if he had a walrus? He's soon deep in his fantasy, asking his pet-store owning uncle to sell him a walrus and imagining all the things the two could do together. But he doesn't notice another boy in the background who seems to be having a similarly disappointing time. When the two inadvertently connect, throwing invites into the ocean, they decide to wait together. Curly-haired Morrell is waiting for a whale, but in the meantime... they become best friends, doing all the things they had imagined. A final picture shows gives readers a last giggle - maybe that whale and walrus aren't imaginary after all?

Phelan's watercolors show a lonely beachfront town with two boys gradually connecting and exploring their small town together. Expanses of blue sea and green turf are interspersed with pictures of small, cheery houses and a vaguely nineteenth century vibe - Wendell's uncle has a handlebar mustache and vest, and their neighbor Mrs. Quimby is wearing a hat, apron, and full-skirted dress.

Verdict: This attractive book is both a fun look at imagination and also a gentle exploration of how friendships can form and grow. A nice addition to a picture book collection.

ISBN: 9781627796026; Published April 2018 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium