Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Super Chicken! by Rebecca Purcell

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Chicken, in a blue sweater and shoes, builds a tower out of blocks. Turn the page, and she's SUPER CHICKEN rescuing a dragon from a castle! Each every day experience - building, bath and bed - turns into an adventure for super chicken.

There are a couple cut-outs in the book - on the cover (the black cape and title are actually shiny red) there is a star cut-out in Chicken's cape and cut-outs that give her pupils in her eyes. Small squares are cut out in the blocks that change to castle windows, and a larger cut-out turns the bathtub into a boat. An egg-shaped cut-out on the last page in Chicken's striped bed cover turns into a zebra's body in her dream. The book is a large square, about 8x8, with 8 pages overall.

Verdict: Cute, but the art didn't stand out to me and I'm not sure babies and young toddlers will grasp the superhero concept. I'd pass on this one.

ISBN: 9780545451703; Published 2013 by Cartwheel/Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It is night by Phyllis Rowand, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This has "toddler bedtime storytime" written all over it. In big letters, naturally.

In rhythmic prose the text asks and answers questions of where the animals sleep at night. Listeners can guess the answers before turning the page and giggle at the sometimes nonsensical answers. An example spread shows a fuzzy white bunny in a blue circle on a bright yellow background "A rabbit, of course, if he has his own way, will go hopping at night and sleep all the day...Where would be a good bed for a rabbit?" Turn the page and see the rabbit nestled deep in the rich greens of a cabbage, "In a cabbage. Except that he would want to eat it. And he couldn't sleep in it and eat it too." In the end, all of the animals, the train, the dolls, all have beds - but do they sleep in them? No, they sleep in the child's bed!

There's a childlike simplicity to the questions and answers and the narration as a whole that is very soothing and connects with both the listener and the reader. The ending is a gentle chuckle rather than an uproarious laugh that ends the story on a sweet note. Dronzek's rich colors and thick, blurred lines are the perfect match for this bedtime story. They make the animals look like comforting toys for a good hug, which indeed they turn out to be.

My only small quibble with this title is that, of the eight animals who are given gendered pronouns, only one is female (the cat). There's no reason the seal, duck or mouse need to be male, other than just naturally falling back on that pronoun. However, that's something I'd have no problem flipping in storytime. This is a new imagining of a classic text, so it's natural that it would have originally emphasized the default pronoun.

Verdict: This is a lovely story, perfect for groups or one on one and an absolute must for any library collection. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780062250247; Published 2014 by Greenwillow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 2, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The White House is Burning, August 24, 1814 by Jane Sutcliffe

This was published a few years ago but I just discovered it and am now eager to introduce it to fans of history, disasters, and fast-paced historical adventures.

Jane Sutcliffe presents a moment-by-moment account of the burning of the White House in the war of 1812. She includes eyewitness accounts from soldiers, civilians, slaves, and government officials. The story opens with a brief background of the war's causes and then takes readers on a tense, moment-by moment description of the British advance on Washington, the retreat of the American troops, and the burning of the White House. While the main emphasis is on the main actors in the events, Sutcliffe also includes the perspective of slaves and women.

Back matter includes a detailed bibliography, notes, and index.

Verdict: Even though this is a few years old, it's an excellent account of an important historical incident. Fans of I Survived will be interested in checking this out and it makes a great book talk. It's a fast read and holds the readers' interest.

ISBN: 9781580896566; Published 2014 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, April 30, 2016

This week at the library; or, One more busy week!

What's happening: in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Staff meeting, summer reading finalized, clearing off my desk. I am really glad this is the last week for the 3-D printer. The whining sound it makes is driving me insane! But people are crazy about it, so that's a positive, and it's not right next to my desk, fortunately.
  • Tuesday
    • Battle of the Books
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Elkhorn Youth Center
    • I arrived early to let in the volunteers - every year the district Battle of the Books is held at our library and it is an occasion! I am happy that we have the eggs here this year so the kids can see them incubating. Makes it more exciting. It's nice that they all pitch in to clean up and reset things afterwards, especially since we have classes every Tuesday afternoon now. Then I went out later in the afternoon and took pipe cleaners to the youth center for crafting, along with some new books. Lots of kids made themselves squiggly sort of crowns. Whatever floats their boat....I left extra pipe cleaners and my mixed beads for them to keep playing with. Then I went back to the library to prep for tomorrow.
  • Wednesday
    • 4K Outreach: Pete the Cat (2 sessions)
    • This is the third four year old kindergarten which visits me once a year. I tweaked the program a little this year and I think they all enjoyed it. I had more summer reading stuff to do and staff things and then I left early! To go pick up last minute items at Walmart for tomorrow. Oh well.
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • The library was closed for staff development. We had a staff meeting, brief training on dementia, discussed the strategic plan, and then visited the library system that is joining us this summer, Kenosha. Very cool new children's area!
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • I have finished the 600s! On to the 700s.
  • Summer reading materials all sent to the printer for an estimate.
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • Spirit animals (this section is getting really crowded)
  • sandstorms (I don't have anything)
  • fact books
  • horse books - need to get those new titles in soon

Friday, April 29, 2016

Small Readers: Happy Cat by Steve Henry

This is one of the few I Like to Read titles that I actually liked to read. It's not perfect - there are some better and definitely some worse - but it's perfectly acceptable.

Cat is shivering with cold in a snowy city. He drops in through a basement window and goes up through an apartment building, meeting new friends along the way. On each floor he sees a different apartment and a different animal and gets a present until he finally finds a cozy corner for himself and his new treasures.

The art is cheerful and cluttered, much like the different animals' apartments. Each animal's apartment is crammed with books, paintings, and other signs of their particular hobby.

My main concern about this title is that the minimal text is in a fairly light font and a different position on each page. With the busy art, it tends to disappear into the page and you have to search for the words to read. For a very beginning reader, this is not ideal.

Verdict: As I'm looking to purchase more beginning easy readers and more titles in this series, this is just fine for my needs. Otherwise, I'd say it was an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9780823426591; Published 2013 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hamster Princess: Of mice and magic by Ursula Vernon

Oh Harriet, I do love you so. So, after her original adventures, Harriet has successfully ended the curse on herself and the castle and things are back to normal.

Harriet is extremely bored.

She's also very annoyed that she can't go cliff-jumping anymore, now that she's no longer invincible. So, she sets out for adventure by offering to help out a kingdom that has a little problem with mysteriously dancing mice. The king turns out to be very strange, and things are much more complicated than some unsupervised evening dances, (not to mention the whole color-coding thing) but Harriet has a solution, even if things get a little.... iffy at times.

These are the best and I desperately want to start a summer program solely to read aloud to kids just so I can read these aloud.

" 'You can't go into another color room. If someone in blues goes into the pink room, they'd clash. The king would be very upset.' It occurred to Harriet that she was dealing with a very peculiar sort of mind."

"A Poncho of Invisibility is not quite as good as a Cloak of Invisibility, but they're cheaper and easier to sew."

"The paint was brilliant purple, the color of a radioactive grape."

Sigh. So completely satisfying. Harriet is unfailingly practical, has a sense of humor, and is determined to go about things her own way, never mind what anyone else thinks. While the story follows in a long line of fractured fairy tales, Vernon's unique style and wicked sense of snarky humor make it stand alone.

Verdict: It's awesome. Buy it now.

ISBN: 9780803739840; Published 2016 by Dial; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Silly Dilly Duckling by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Jane Chapman

This is a fun book for toddlers ready for a simple story in their board books.

Dilly is with her Mommy Duck and three siblings when one of her feathers blows away and she hurries off to catch it. Dilly meets several friends who try to help her get her feather, a hedgehog and a mouse. Finally she gives up and goes home to Mommy Duck, who explains that those are just her baby feathers - soon she will have grown-up feathers like her mother. Dilly happily swims off with her family, knowing she doesn't need those baby feathers anymore.

Chapman's soft, glowing illustrations will be familiar to fans of Karma Wilson's popular Bear books and they are a good fit for the sweet, cozy feel of the story. The book is a little wordy for a toddler audience, but for that small group of children who will sit still for a longer story it's an excellent choice.

The book is formatted with a padded cover, one of the things I irrationally hate. I don't know that they're actually less sturdy than ordinary books, but I hate the feel of them and feel that the hinges disintegrate more readily.

Verdict: If you purchase padded board books and need more on the longer side, this is a good additional choice.

ISBN: 9781589255784; Published 2004 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Abracadabra, it's spring! by Anne Sibley O'Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal

I've been wondering sadly when Susan Gal was going to do another book - I absolutely adored her Please take me for a walk and Night Lights (both sadly out of print) and so I was thrilled when I saw she was doing the illustrations for a new seasonal series by Anne Sibley O'Brien.

Each gorgeously illustrated spread poses a question and a magic word "How could twigs turn into pillows? Presto chango!" then once you've lifted the full-page flap, you'll see the answer "Pussy willows!" Buds and leaves sprout, birds and other animals appear, and spring is in full bloom by the end of the book, when you toss away your winter boots and "Abracadabra! Now it's spring!" with a joyous group of multicultural children playing outside.

The one drawback is the "magic" words used. They include "mumbo jumbo" which has a racist history and is (thankfully) no longer used and some more obscure words that I'm reluctant to use without googling them first, like "alizebu". However, it's simple to just substitute abracadabra for the different words. Yes, I know that means it won't rhyme but I don't care much for rhyming words anyways - the kids will be much more excited about having a word they can shout each time you lift a page!

However, the real draw, for me, is Susan Gal's joyful explosion of color in her artwork. A swirl of yellow denotes the sun, an explosion of green and pink is a tree in bloom, a single red-breasted bird and a red kite against a blue sky with a drift of green. Turn the page and a flock of colorful birds explode across the page, all wide-beaked as they sing enthusiastically.

Verdict: Hopefully the issues with the "magic" words will be fixed in the next title in this series. Until then, I'll happily purchase it and change it myself and look forward to classes of enthusiastic children shouting "abracadabra" as we welcome the spring.

ISBN: 9781419718915; Published 2016 by Abrams/Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: My first guide to paper airplanes by Chris Harbo and Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

I had reservations about some of Jump's new imprint, Pogo, but they sent me a second round of books and I have quite different feelings about these! As soon as I saw this title and flipped through it, I knew it was exactly what I have been looking for - and the perfect companion to my new easy guide to paper airplanes!

Early Physics Fun uses simple language and bold photographs to explain the basic principles of aerodynamics and physics to young readers. Once you've learned about thrust, drag, lift and gravity and how it affects paper airplanes, you can apply these ideas to your design as you experiment with paper airplanes.

A glossary and index is included.

Of course, if you're going to thoroughly test your new knowledge of physics and aerodynamics, you need a good starting point for paper airplanes and there's nothing better than Chris Harbo's detailed instructions. He has a number of books for a wide range of abilities, but this is a very beginning title, perfect for kids who are just learning to make paper airplanes, or for those who want to concentrate more on the science and less on the design. The book explains basic folding symbols and materials, then has instructions for nine airplanes. Each plane takes up on spread, so the instructions are kept to a minimum, but are still clear and simple. There are also flying tips for launching the different planes.

Verdict: These books are the perfect pairing for a science program or lesson - kids will be able to easily absorb the clear explanations in Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes and then apply them in the hands-on projects in My First Guide to Paper Airplanes. This is a winning combination and one no library should be without!

Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes
ISBN: 9781620313176; Published 2016 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

My first guide to paper airplanes by Chris Harbo
ISBN: 9781491420478; Published 2015 by Capstone; Purchased for the library

Saturday, April 23, 2016

This week at the library; or, It's farm time!

What's happening in my head and at the library:
  • Monday
    • I had several meetings/discussions about the garden plans as well as a presentation for a potential donor. Then I worked on summer reading. Then I finished the last of the "to think about" books I had set aside and got to work on the 641s!
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • I came in late so I could help cover the desk in the evening, help with set-up for the big party tomorrow, and keep an eye on things so they didn't get dismantled before we closed. Are there any costume books that do not include racist ethnic costumes? Do parents/kids even make costumes anymore? I went home around 9, leaving the bunny in control of the library.
  • Wednesday
    • Down on the Farm
    • This is THE event of the year at our library. We had approximately 300 people in about an hour and a half. The bunny had a crisis of nerves and had to be relegated to a study room to calm down. The six-day-old calf was thrilled with the attention (and extra feeding). The chicks, who could tell? One of the most popular stations was the "feed bins" - Pattie had collected a bunch of corn and soybeans and we dumped them in pools for the kids to scoop and pour. We also had pool noodle horses to ride, mini tractor races, crafts, face paint, farm breakfast, and ice cream. Phew! It takes the combined input of Pattie, myself and Jess, and our three four year old kindergartens, not to mention additional community groups, to get this running each year.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lego Club
    • I am grateful to have an amazing associate. She helped out at the front desk so I could pull materials for a teacher, whip through a list of marketing and other things for summer, and then Lego Club. It was a little different, since it was the community meeting for our strategic plan. I only had about 25 people at Lego Club, but kept it open past 5:30 as childcare for the kids for the meeting. Which turned out to be one kid. He got bored with Legos after about 30 minutes, so he helped me clean up from Lego Club (I have to haul all the Legos across the hall and back to my office), we fixed a 3-D printer creation, took cardboard out to the recycling bin, etc. Somewhere around our second trip hauling stuff to the basement, he looked at me and said "Now I know that being a librarian is HARD WORK" so very, very true.
    • My feet hurt.
  • Friday
    • I took the day off (for a number of complicated reasons which basically coalesce to I'm working practically every Saturday in April, my PTO hours turn over soon, and I just wanted to). I had a huge to-do list. I took out the trash.
  • Saturday
    • Science Saturday
    • This was a program for all ages at our middle school. I brought along my aide and we set up tables and brought science to the world! It was a wonderful event, but exhausting. Phew! Yes, that makes 2 events with approx. 200 people in one week. It's like summer!
Projects in progress and completed
  • Collection development. Finished the last shelf of books I had put aside to look at, got through the 640s and am ready to tackle the 700s.
  • Working on summer plans
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • One of my voracious readers loved Simon Bloom - finished the first book over the weekend and was ready for the sequel! I also recommended Tunnels.
  • One more basket requested for high-level readers before school ends.
  • Vietnam war. We have...1 book. I'm not up to the 900s yet!