Friday, December 9, 2016

Small Readers: You should meet women who launched the computer age by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen

I have to admit that until this year I was very skeptical about easy reader biographies. Do the kids who are still learning to read have the context to understand what they're reading? Why would they even be interested in low-level biographies of famous people?

I stand corrected. Two of the kids in my beginning reader's book club, Bookaneers, are absolutely obsessed with biographies - and they are both stellar readers that can easily devour a stack of whatever I hand them but especially love biographies. Do the kids really grasp the context and character of the personalities they're learning about? Eh, probably not - but it introduces them to historical figures they'll later learn more about.

So, naturally, I am finding as many biographies about overlooked people in history as possible! This new biography in the You Should Meet... series profiles six women who were the first computer programmers.

The story begins in World War II, when a group of six women were hired to program (even though nobody used that language yet) the first computer. The story is interspersed with information on the development of computers and computer languages. It ends with the recognition of male scientists and the six women being lost to history until 1985 when Kathy Kleiman discovered their important contributions. The book ends with a brief history of programming, more notes of women in computer technology, and discussion questions. The illustrations are cheerful, but not too cartoonish.

Although this is promoted as a level three easy reader, I would actually call it a beginning chapter book. It is primarily text, sometimes full pages, and paragraphs. While the font is larger than the typical chapter book, the density of the text and more complex sentence structure make this best for intermediate readers who can handle a challenge.

Verdict: If you are looking for more beginning chapter nonfiction and high level easy readers, this is a good series to consider. I am eager to introduce more diversity to my nonfiction, especially now that I am getting a lot of school requests for nonfiction for a new curriculum, so this one is definitely going on my list.

ISBN: 9781481470476; Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight: Borrowed from another library in my consortium


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 disaster in Dayton, Ohio by Lois Miner Huey

Beginning with the doomsday warnings of Andrew Fox, known as "High Water" Fox, the story of the 1913 floods of Dayton, Ohio begins on a note of impending danger. Huey follows the progress of the devastating floods through the experiences of several people. Mary Althoff, librarian, who was trapped with several others in the Dayton Public Library and chronicled her experiences. Clarence Mauch, a store clerk who escaped over the rooftops. John Bell, an employee of the telephone company who managed to call for help. Famous inventor Wilbur Wright and his wife Katharine who escaped from their home and John H. Patterson, founder of the National Cash Register Company on the outskirts of town who headed rescue and recovery efforts. Finally, and of most interest to me, is African American Bill Sloan who rescued hundreds of people in the poor West Dayton area.

Huey includes original newspaper accounts and personal reminiscences of the people involved to create a realistic picture of the tragedy and its aftermath. This is more than just the account of a natural disaster though. She concludes the historical account with the results of the flood, including how it was largely forgotten and its role in the creation of FEMA and the American Red Cross. She also discusses the continued influence of similar floods, such as Hurricane Katrina.

In the author's note, Lois Huey talks about the research process and the difficulty of finding original sources and information on how poorer families were affected by the flood and African-American involvement like Bill Sloan. A timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further information, and index are also included.

Verdict: Although there are a few drawbacks to the structure of the book; the picture book layout and extremely small print of the back matter, overall the strong writing and research of the book will make this a popular choice for readers interested in history and natural disasters. I especially appreciated Huey's effort to include those often ignored in these historical accounts. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781467794329; Published 2016 by Millbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

When I initially saw this title I was not impressed. I don't care for board books that are really written for parents or purport to "teach" very young children who should be playing, not memorizing facts or learning to read.

But then I actually read the book and it's awesome! So, never judge a book by its title! The first spread shows a child greeting a small blue bird. Using the bird, Spiro explains flight in simple, child-friendly phrases. "The engines help the plane go fast, fast, fast...then the wings lift the plane into the air." The book progresses from how the bird flies, to how the plane flies, to how a rocket flies, all in simple language and demonstrations that a toddler can understand.

Chan's illustrations show a brown-skinned, gender-neutral child, smiling as they greet and watch the bird, plane and rocket. The pictures are colorful with small details but bold and simple enough for a baby or toddler's developing eyesight.

Verdict: Perfect for parents who want "educational" books for their babies or just delightful for every day reading. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580895415; Published 2016 by Charlesbridge; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Hungry Lion; or, a dwindling assortment of animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

I've been waiting eagerly to get my hands on this book - I'm always up for some eating animals action (-:).

"Once upon a time there was a hungry lion" the book begins, and then lists all the other adorable animals surrounding him. Oh wait, that's not quite right. Let's try listing those animals again. And again. And... where did everybody go? Surprise! Of course the lion didn't eat them all! It's a party! Um....they're going to eat the cake, right? Well....maybe not....

Call it my warped sense of humor, but I thought this book was hilarious. There are quite a few "a hungry animal is going to eat you no wait it's just a party" books and it's refreshing to see this one with it's triple-twist and giggle-worthy ending. The popularity of Klassen's Hat trilogy shows that kids will enjoy this kind of dry, slightly gruesome humor and hilarity is sure to ensue in your storytimes. Cummins' bright, colorful illustrations features an adorable assortment of animals - and a stoic lion with a glare that fits his naughty personality perfectly.

Verdict: Kindergarten and first grade will laugh hysterically over this book, as well as request multiple readings so they can catch all the details. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481448895; Published 2016 by Atheneum; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The story begins with mysterious tentacles slowly slithering up the page as the book muses over the mystery of the creatures we call Giant Squid. The book reads like a story, strong narrative text telling the story of a hungry squid searching for prey, of its strange and fearsome anatomy. There are many questions - how does it breed? Why does it change color? In a cloud of ink and a swirl of tentatacles on a folded out spread, we see the squid one more time and then...it is gone.

Rohmann's dark and mysterious pictures are a marvelous complement to Fleming's poetic text and both introduce readers to the few things known about the giant squid as well as its many mysterious aspects.

Back matter includes a detailed diagram of a squid, an author's note with more information, and an extensive bibliography.

Verdict: A stunning and eye-catching book about a mysterious creature, this title is sure to be a hit in storytimes and on the shelf. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781596435995; Published 2016 by Roaring Brook; Purchased for the library

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This week at the library; or, Madness Resumes

This is Stuart. He hasn't bitten anyone. Yet.
What's Happening (with bonus overview of December!)
  This year I'm not offering our winter reading program - after we got Reading Explorer off the ground, interest in a specific winter reading program, never high, dwindled to almost nothing. I'll revive it someday at a different time perhaps (it's not season-specific). I added a Scholastic Book Fair, hoping to take advantage of all the community holiday programming that takes place this week (most of it happens in the library's community room or right outside our building). My book prize cart has gotten a bit sad and I wanted some new titles to spruce it up.
  Nobody leaves holiday decorating to me, because I'd just put facts about how snakes hibernate everywhere (and hedgehogs! Hedgehogs are super festive!) but Jess put lots of stuff up, mostly snow-themed. We haul all the Christmas books and movies out from the back of the stacks (every year I try to weed some of the older stuff - who needs that many Christmas books???) and add books on hibernation and snow into the display.
  Our circulation staff, who do most of the general library decorations, put up a tree in the open area in front of the children's desk and wrap bundles of books. Generally not Christmas books specifically, but picture books and easy readers. Patrons can check out a whole bundle and unwrap it at home (although some kids can't wait). We usually circulate about 300+ books with this gimmick (and I'm very grateful the circulation staff does all the wrapping!)
  Our programs are mostly over by the second week of the month and then we take a break from programming. Patrons do ask for programs later in the month, but I've found through trial and error that they won't actually attend anything after about the 15th. Our schools are only off for about 10 days.
  I always think of all these cool things I'd LIKE to do in December - like hafuboti's cool Decemberley decorating scheme, or outdoor stuff like snowman building and bird feeding stations. Realistically, when it comes to this point in the year I'm crazy with Cybils, planning next year, writing end-of-year reports, trying to finish all the projects, etc. This year I am not doing ANY outreach in December and it's a great relief.
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • It was cold and rainy. A good day for staying home in bed. Alas, we had to go to work. Humphrey II suddenly expired in the early afternoon and was hastily replaced by Stuart. Then a window started leaking. It was a typical Monday.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Board meeting for OPtions. Sorting picture books in preparation for shelving. Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling. I left at 3 since my hours are weird this week.
  • Wednesday
    • EAYC Outreach (Jess)
    • The book fair arrived in the morning. Sadly, our volunteer couldn't come in to help as she had a sick kiddo on her hands, but Jess got the basics up. When I came in at 1 (I was working a half day) I finished setting it up. Although I hesitate to call it a book fair, considering the lack of actual books. I am feeling a bit annoyed right now about that to be honest. It was a very annoying afternoon.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Holiday Ornaments
    • Teen Give a Gift (2 sessions) (Jess)
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • Phew, what a day! I decided at the last minute I really did need to come in and get things started, so I came in about 8:30 and got the book fair running and made sure our volunteer was set up. I went back home around 9, ate breakfast, and then back to work at noon, when I have a short desk shift, then misc. things to do, including huge hold stacks for book club and teacher requests, then vast amounts of glitter for the holiday ornaments - fortunately only 60 people came, I don't think we could have handled the 100+ people who came last year! We also had the high school choir singing in the lobby by the book fair and although last year nobody was interested this year tons of people came to that too! Jess had continuous middle schoolers and teens at her two Give a Gift sessions upstairs (note to self - next year make it clearer where the program is - several teens came to Messy Art Club instead by mistake) and then we did clean up and other things until closing at 8. The girls (my aides) played with the new hamster. He does not bite!
  • Friday
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • I came in at noon and got misc. things done as it wasn't busy until near closing time at 6pm. Kids came out and got me to answer reader's advisory questions which warmed my heart. I also realized that I am a horrible salesperson, b/c when my patrons ask if this is a book they should buy 3/4 of the time I say no, I have a better one in the library you can check out...there was a parrot.
    • We closed at 6 and I buckled down and got most of my monthly report written until a staff member attending the Santa reception used her key to get into the library and tell me the people were here now! I did brisk business until things started winding down at 8, but stayed open for some of the people running the reception who wanted to buy things and then helping shift furniture and stuff back into place. Finally left about 8:40. My feet hurt.
  • Saturday
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • I came in to run the book fair. We had more stuff to put back from last night and I did some reader's advisory and help with the kids. It wasn't very busy, so I got some reports written and other work while I went back and forth. Finished the financials and was done at 3! It's been a long week.
Reader's Advisory
  • nonfiction author studies - Seymour Simon, Gail Gibbons, and Jean Fritz were requested, but many of those are out of print (or outdated). I suggested Steve Jenkins, Nic Bishop, Nicola Davies, and Jim Arnosky
  • Wimpy Kid
  • Peep and the big wide world
  • Pokemon gotta-catch-em-all handbook (checked out)
  • Stella Batts - checked out and had read them all, recommended Clementine
  • Dragon chapter books - Dragon Masters
  • Who Was series
  • penguin picture books
  • read-alike for Pip's Guide to Magical Creatures - Suzanne Selfors' Imaginary Veterinary
  • Josh Lacey's Island of Thieves for fan of Patterson's Treasure Hunters
  • Wimpy Kid
  • Pete the Cat multiple requests (kids saw it in the book fair)
  • Book fair titles we need - more Pokemon handbooks, Disney comic books - Finding Dory
  • I have been informed that Lego Ninjago is still popular and the kids don't really care about Nexo Knights - yet.

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