Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Look! Birds! by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Puy Pinillos

I got to see a lot of new board books from little bee publishers at BEA last year, and this is one that went on my list for the engaging illustrations.

The words are sets of verses on each page. Their quality varies - some have interesting imagery and some are more drab. For example, "When flamingos are young/they are gray or white./But when they grow up,/some turn pink - what a sight!" is pretty blah but "Hop, little sparrow./Getting clean is a must! One bathes in water - the other in dust." has a better ring to it, to my mind. The final spread has a lengthier paragraph of text talking about how birds are important to the environment and opens out to show a wide spread of different kinds of birds.

The real draw for me was the vivid illustrations of various birds, all performing different activities. The toucan grabs a fruit, with a nervous-looking worm peeking out while a frog watches from a nearby leaf. Tickbirds hop up and down a giraffe's neck, their beaks bull of bugs. A penguin splashes through the water in a white sea with accents of blue fish, a pink jellyfish, and a chunk of blue ice.

The illustrations are smaller and more detailed, which along with the longer text will make this more suitable for older toddlers or younger preschoolers. The book is a sturdy 6x6 inch square and the pages are thin cardboard.

Verdict: While this isn't necessarily a stand-out choice, if you're looking to freshen up your board book section with fun, new books with colorful illustrations this is a great addition. It's been popular in our library and I plan to purchase other titles in the series.

ISBN: 9781499801149; Published 2016 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Into the Snow by Yuki Kaneko, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito

I wrote this review as I looked at several inches of snow (and falling) outside my window. Perfect!

A small child enjoys the wonders of the snow. In first person narrative, they get dressed, grab their sled, and enter the snowy world. They build snowballs and find icicles, ride their sled in an exuberance of delight, and finally, wet and cold, return home. The wonderful day ends with warm cocoa.

The simple text captures the beauty and excitement of snow for a small child, the thrill of sledding, and the exploration of a frozen world. Saito’s art is not my usual preference, being more conceptual and splashy, with few to no lines, but it caught my interest and I fell in love. Against the white background are colorful splashes of rich, textured color. The child’s hat, the yellow sled, splashes of red and pink berries on the snow, and the child’s green coat and pink cheeks. Movement of the child and snow are shown in swirling lines of color and splashes of white snow.

Verdict: This isn’t your typical snow and seasons book. A small child’s delight in the snow is perfectly captured in stunning art and simple text. Perfect for toddler and preschool storytimes, to spur conversations about snow, and inspire children to paint their own snow masterpieces. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781592701889; Published 2016 by Enchanted Lion; Purchased for the library

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman

This book is full of sea otters. Squeeee!!!

Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's also full of fascinating science! Newman explores sea otters, seagrass, and the scientific method through the research of marine biologist Brent Hughes. After introducing the basics of the scientific method, the extreme cuteness of sea otters, and the place where the research is centered, Newman follows Hughes' investigations step by step.

The main narrative is Hughes' investigation of the unusual healthiness of the seagrass in Elkhorn Slough. One by one, he tests out different theories until he discovers the secret - sea otters! There's more than just a simple retelling of a scientific experiment here though; the history of pollution and treatment of sea otters, information about the various creatures that live in the area, and pivotal questions about environmental concerns are all included in this fascinating science mystery.

Back matter includes activities like creating your own science experiments, discussion of ways to be involved in environmental cleanup and studying varying viewpoints on environmental issues, source notes, glossary, and bibliography.

I love the Scientists in the Field series, but they're often too difficult for my lower level readers who are interested in science. This book hits a great in-between point between beginning readers and those who are more fluent. It's accessible and challenging, an interesting topic, and also includes practical applications for kids to explore their own science.

Verdict: This is a great read on its own, but I can also see so many applications for it; it fits in well with our new curriculum requirements in the school district, would make a great book club choice, and also fit in with a science program or some of the garden programs we're planning for the future. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781512426311; Published 2017 by Milbrook; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, February 25, 2017

This day at the library

Yes, I only spent one day at the library this week. I took Monday - Thursday off and left my awesome staff in charge of Lego Club, storytimes, Winter Wigglers, and with lengthy instructions for the huge number of holds for remote collections that were coming in while I was gone.

I would like to say I did something exciting on my vacation but actually I mostly slept, listening to Kerry Greenwood audiobooks, and read old mysteries and trashy romance. Oh, and weeded my personal paperback collection and binge watched Rocky and Bullwinkle.

I did get a lot of reviews written, mostly on Flying off my Bookshelf, worked on several articles I'm writing, read books for later review, put together some pictures and jewelry, and finished all the work for my two online classes.

Friday I had the Storyroom open all day for Craft-o-Rama, we had a staff meeting, I wrote up my section of the newsletter, cleaned off my desk, requested materials for more remote requests, book clubs, and next month's outreach, and worked on the teen comics/magazines.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

This is pure snark from beginning to end. A hyperactive wolf has decided he doesn’t want to be a bad guy anymore and he collects some other famous villains; a great white shark, rattlesnake, and piranha to form a club to do Good Deeds. It’s an uphill struggle, first to rescue a kitten and then dogs from the pound, but the Bad Guys eventually decide they are up for this Good Deeds stuff, in their own, sharp-toothed, style.

Black and white pencil sketches fill this beginning chapter graphic novel with partially-eaten rap sheets for the various characters and their distinct personalities. Beginning with Mr. Wolf’s manic enthusiasm, the story introduces cool, sardonic Mr. Snake, sinister Mr. Piranha, and dim but volatile Mr. Shark. Their bulbous eyes and toothy smiles bring out the personality of each and readers will giggle along as the club starts out in their classic car, looking cool, and searching for good deeds to do.

Verdict: Hilarious fun. If you really wanted to you could parlay it into a lesson about not judging by appearances, but since none of the creatures are exactly innocent…. It’s probably better not to. Just enjoy the snark and share it with readers who like the wit and humor of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I won’t be adding this until next year, as I only purchase new beginning chapter paperbacks in January, but it’s definitely on my list for 2018.

ISBN: 9780545912402; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The girl who could not dream by Sarah Beth Durst

I don't like to admit how long it's been since I really got into a good middle grade novel. I have been focusing on nonfiction and younger titles for a long time and nothing seemed to grab me. However, I'm coming to the end of selections for my middle grade book club that I've read and I determined to try some things. I went through several and still didn't get into them and then I picked up this one and fell right into it.

Sophie (which is an awesome book name - my book club readers have been quite vocal on "weird" book names) doesn't dream. What makes this even more frustrating is that she's surrounded by dreams. One illicit venture into her parents' dream shop and she acquires a companion - Monster. Life continues after this brief adventure, hiding from normal people, distributing dream catchers at school to collect nightmares, but then Sophie is seen by a client and the next thing she knows she's on a desperate venture to save her parents from the mysterious Mr. Nightmare. Can Sophie use her talent to make dream creatures real to avert tragedy or will everything be devoured by nightmares?

Sarah Beth Durst is an excellent wordsmith and she creates a tapestry of magic, humor, and fear, catching Sophie's emotions and Monster's personality, the chilling flavor of nightmares, and the wonder of the dream shop in her net. This is a pure comfort read, with plenty of fantastical details to light the imagination and intrigue the mind and a satisfying ending with just a hint of unresolved plots to keep the reader dreaming.

Verdict: I like the paperback cover (pictured to the right) better than the original and I look forward to introducing this to my fantasy fans and my book club.

ISBN: 9780544935266 (pb ed.); Published 2015 by Clarion (pb edition 2017); Purchased for the library

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Elephants Spray by Rebecca Glaser, design by Deb Miner

This board book is super simple and yet, that's just what I look for when filling my shelves for the youngest of my patrons.

Each spread features a photograph, covering three quarters of the opened book, which shows an elephant performing an action. A soft peach column is the background for the accompanying text which describes the action and the reason. An elephant walking through the forest with trunk lifted high is accompanied with the text "Sniff, sniff!" in large, white text and in smaller letters, "He smells food."

The book is a simple, sturdy square and the soft colors are offset with simple designs of squares and small stripes.

This is part of a series featuring animals performing various actions, including lions, dolphins, monkeys, and more. There are also sets with machines and farm animals. My one quibble is characterizing the animals as "he" - that seems to be the default in board books and picture books featuring animals and it's unnecessary (and often inaccurate) but hopefully the other books mix it up a little.

Verdict: Affordable, sturdy, developmentally suited to infants and toddlers, this and the other titles in the series are a great investment in your board book section and will fill your shelves nicely.

ISBN: 9781681520681; Published 2016 by Amicus Ink; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Tiger Tail (Or what happened to Anya on her first day of school) by Mike Boldt

I'm usually skeptical about first day of school books, or books that use heavy-handed metaphors to show tolerance and diversity. But this one just really clicked with me, for some reason.

Anya wakes up on what seems to be a normal day. But it's not. Somehow, she has....A TIGER TAIL!! Of course, it just has to be her first day of school! She tries everything she can think of to get rid of the tail or get out of going to school, but there's no escape! She's frozen on the sidewalk when the bus pulls up, the kids jump out and....she runs into another kid. With bunny ears! Hmmm, the next thing she knows it's time for a class picture - and she's not the only one who's just a little different.

Boldt's colorful, digital illustrations are cheerful and attractive. Curly-headed Anya and her fuzzy tail are cute and her classmates are a diverse group, sporting everything from sensory headphones to koala ears.

From a purely adult viewpoint, this isn't likely to really introduce kids to tolerance and diversity. It would take an adult to draw the connection between the children with real-world differences - physical abilities, skin color, etc. and the fantastical additions of animal tails and ears. There's no explanation for where Anya's tail comes from and her parents' lackadaisical approach is odd. It's also somewhat odd that the author seems to be drawing parallels between kids who apparently wake up one morning with an animal appendage and those with cultural, racial, or physical differences.

Verdict: But for a book meant to reassure kids about being different or sticking out there first day of school, it works just fine. It's funny and sweet and kids are unlikely to think that deeply about it. Not a first purchase, but if you're looking for additional school-themed books to reassure first-timers this is a nice additional purchase. Also, I just like tiger tails.

ISBN: 9781481448857; Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Space Explorers: Space Stations by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

I've been looking for new space technology books for the past few years, ever since I weeded most of our titles from the 80s (please don't ask me about the 90s). Unfortunately, it seemed like space had had its moment and no new titles were being published.

So I was delighted to see this new series, focusing on space technology, from Pogo. I was sent Space Stations for review and it was exactly what I've been looking for. In a few chapters the book covers the basic definition of a space station, several historical stations, and the International Space Station. There is a glossary, index, and activity in the back.

The series includes titles on rockets, satellites, rovers and spacecraft. It's intended for grades 2-3 and has a limited amount of text and lower level reading but enough information to interest the reader.

Verdict: If, like me, you are looking to update your space section this series is just right.

ISBN: 9781620314135; Published 2016 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teen area transformation part 2

In part 2, we move materials and computers and set up new furniture. We had to get someone out from our consortium headquarters to fix the data jacks - they were originally made to have one internet data jack and one voice/phone jack. Why I do not know. One of my colleagues helped me haul the unwieldy and rather filthy desks and computers around and then our consortium IT person fixed the jacks. Then we (well, mostly my colleague who is awesome) crawled around on the floor to reconnect everything. I vacuumed and wished I'd brought a clean shirt to change into.

This is now the "official" teen lab. All two computers of it. This is supposed to be the area for teens who want to study or talk quietly.

We have all our soft seating back in this area, four tables (they fit together to create two big tables) and 12 chairs. We'll be able to have programs and after school activities on these tables.

See the nice tables? And the kids are enjoying stacking cups. You can't do the actual cup stacking thing with dixie cups, incidentally, because they squish, but you can build towers with them.

The new hang out and chat arrangement

We moved all the ya audiobooks upstairs to the adult audio room. It's mainly adults who listen to them and we had run out of space, especially since I had a batch of playaways donated by the school library. We spread the graphic novels out to have more display space. Our graphic novels don't circulate as much as I would like, but maybe the new display area will open it up.

So, there it is. Now all we have to do is use it!