Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day at the library

8:30 am.
Walk to work. Freezing!

Read e-mail and blog reviews. Add stuff to order list. Make poster for teen program next week. Prep for preschool storytime. Talk to colleague who does toddlers about possible grant for buying baby toys and about new books. Work on stats. Now that I know what our annual report needs, I'm updating all my stats worksheets.

Preschool storytime. Small group, just 8, all boys!

Keep working on stats.

On desk. Sample questions:
How do I get this contact thing to go away in my yahoo mail? Answer - I don't know. Try settings or help.
I don't understand this brake diagram in the Chilton handbook? Answer - sorry, I can barely put air in my tires.
Where are books on writing resumes? Hey, I can answer that!

Adult services librarian stops by who's driving to the middle school at 1? Not me, I walked. Oh, well I carpooled this morning.
Walk home to get car.

Adult services librarian and I meet middle school librarian. Ooh and aah over cool library. Talk about school assignments (our adult services librarian buys teen and adult nonfiction). Ooh and aah over wall of playaways.

Grab some lunch. Set up for family storytime. Called out for various questions. Check displays. Go over stuff to do with aide. Look thoughtfully at list of all the nonfiction we should have and decide we can't afford any of it. Call puppet business in Texas that I think might be the place which makes the Old Lady Who Swallows a Fly puppet I've been looking for. Stop procrastinating and call Jim Gill to set up final arrangements for concert and workshop in April! (I detest making phone calls, even to someone as nice and helpful as Mr. Gill)

3:30 - 4
Grab as many kids as I can find in the library and herd them in for family storytime. Comes out to 5. More than last time!

New books! Mark them off order list. Add them to new book list. Put on new stickers. Put removable tape over the new stickers. Search for covers and add them to the blog. Create catalog links to individual covers. Type isbn into link. Decide I am tired and hungry and can finish the new books tomorrow. Take coolest ones home with me!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers

She's back! Prickly, lonely, blindingly intelligent, and unorthodox to her core, Theodosia Throckmorton has been cast into a new adventure.

Another ancient Egyptian artifact is in the hands of the Serpents of Chaos, and it's up to Theodosia to save the world, yet again. Unfortunately, this time she's not only forced to fight a deadly secret society, more hampered than helped by the vague assistance of the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers. This time she faces an even worse danger than living mummies, Egyptian curses, and foreign spies....governesses! Grandmother Throckmorton is determined to find a governess who can mold eccentric and unladylike Theo and preserve her from her unfashionable parents.

Will Theodosia save her father from prison? Can she defeat the Serpents of Chaos yet again? Is Will really on her side? Who are the mysterious hooded men following her? Will she spend the rest of her life doing sums? Read Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris to find out!

Verdict: Fans of Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike, Harry Potter, and Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant will love this series! It takes a little booktalking to get kids past the Victorian setting, but it quickly grows on them.

ISBN: 978-0618927647; Published November 2008 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mothstorm by Phillip Reeve, illustrated by David Wyatt

Having defeated giant spiders, moobs, and mind-controlling hats, not to mention finding their millenia-old mother and restoring her to health, you would think the adventures of Art and Myrtle would be over. But they're not! The plucky young boy and his refined elder sister are back, this time to save the British empire and the known universe from giant moths, an insane demi-god, and alien invaders.

For fans of neo-Victorian fiction, Lemony Snicket, Howard Whitehouse, humor, and steampunk, this is an excellent finale to the Larklight trilogy.

Verdict: It is an enduring sorrow to me that there aren't more fans of this delightful trilogy *pout*. I have plenty of Snicket fans, but I am woefully short of fans willing and eager to read Snicketish books. Sigh. If you have the fans, buy them!

ISBN: 978-1599903933; Published October 2008 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, dark energy, and black holes by Ellen Jackson, Illustrated by Nic Bishop

This next installment (not particularly chronological, just next that I bought for our library) in the amazing Scientists in the Field series does a good job of explaning a somewhat confusing and dense subject. The subtitle, "Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes" is pretty much what the book covers as far as facts.

However, the flow of the narrative is focused on the career of astronomer Alex Filippenko. Ellen Jackson's style is simple and uses many analogies to make vast concepts accessible; every word counts and she packs a multitude of ideas and theories into 58 pages. I was especially interested to see how she explained theories versus scientific fact, and how and why scientists support different theories. Her unbiased approach to a sometimes touchy subject gives this book a broad appeal to a variety of readers.

Nic Bishop's photography and illustrations are, as always, amazing. They perfectly complement the text and help make some of the more difficult concepts clear.

Verdict: While The Mysterious Universe is more difficult to grasp than Science Warriors, it's well-worth the effort and students interested in space, astronomy, physics, or just science will find themselves engrossed in its fascinating pages.

ISBN: 978-0618563258; Published May 2008 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My take on the award-winners (like you need to hear one more)

Newbery - Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Cool that a fantasy won. Been meaning to read this, will someday.

Newbery Honors
Underneath by Kathi Appelt
I haven't read this b/c although the cover looks appealing, the reviews I've heard make it sound rather dark and harrowing. I don't really like dark and harrowing.

Savvy by Ingrid Law
I don't normally like spunky Southern heroines, but this was a sweet book.

I haven't read Surrender Tree or After Tupac and D Foster. I don't think either will be of much interest at my library so won't be purchasing them.

Caldecott - The house in the night ill. by Beth Krommes written by Susan Swanson
Somehow I totally missed this. I have never seen it and I don't remember anybody blogging it. I think I will get it for our library, as it looks good!

Caldecott honors
A couple of boys have the best week ever by Marla Frazee
SQUEE!! I love this book!! There are never enough funny books and this is an ultra-funny one!! Besides the cool illustrations, and the excellent story and so on.

How I learned geography by Uri Shulevitz
Our library has this one - it's ok, not a style of illustration I like, personally.

River of words: the story of William Carlos Williams ill. by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
It's on my to-order-sometime-if-I-ever-get-enough-money-in-the-budget, but you can only have so many beautifully illustrated picturebook biographies, and this one is low on my list, I'm afraid.

I'm not familiar with most of the Belpre awards, except Francisco Jiminez. I'll be keeping the list by me for when I order more Spanish/bi-lingual books probably.

Geisel Award - Are you ready to play outside by Mo Willems
Yay Elephant and Piggy!

Geisel Honors
Chicken said Cluck by Judyann Grant, ill. by Sue Truesdale
This one has gone out several times already at our library (I only got it last month) and Sue Truesdale is one of my favorite funny illustrators, ever since I read the Golly Sisters when I was little.

One boy by Laura Seeger
I haven't really looked at this yet, but we've put it into picturebooks. May have to take another look. It looked intriguing.

Stinky by Eleanor Davis
Haven't got this one, but I have great faith in the Geisel and will order it right away.

Wolfsnail: a backyard predator by Sarah Campbell
Hadn't really thought of this as an easy reader, just put it in nonfiction. It's a great read-aloud; it's difficult to find good read-aloud nonfiction for the younger ages and this was perfect.

Sibert - We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson
I read this recently, as I only just got a copy for our library. I'm a little doubtful as to its appeal - it hasn't checked out yet. We shall see.

Sibert Honors

Bodies from the ice by James Deem
I'm not sure if we have this yet or not, but we will at some point since I am working on acquiring all the uber-excellent Scientists in the Field series. Can't wait to read it!

What to do about Alice by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
I really liked the illustrations, but was less than happy with the story, as I said in my review

Printz - Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Might add this just for the pretty cover. Haven't read it and don't think our teens pay much attention to awards....

Printz Honors:
Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing II. The first wasn't really popular here, so I didn't bother with the second.

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
I wasn't really excited about it, but I finally got it into (or out of) my budget and it seems to be circulating well. On the other hand, it wasn't stolen like my last batch of new YA so maybe it's not so popular after all...

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Haven't read it yet. I like Pratchett, but have a sneaking suspicion this is not as fun as his other books.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Umm...I just thought this sounded really, really weird. Not as freaky as Madapple but close. But as the good reviews mount, and I do have a group of girls who like really tragic/awful sort of family stories, it might be popular...

Random thoughts on the other awards

Very cool that Anthea Bell's translation of Tiger Moon won an award. She's an amazing translator!

Probably won't bother with the Odysseys. I usually go for audiobooks of really popular books, since I have such a small budget and they don't check out much.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snow Day by Komako Sakai

I was intrigued by Elizabeth Bird's excitement at the approaching publication of this book and added it to the slew of snow books I purchased for our library.

I'm definitely glad I added this one - it feels like it has the possibilities of a new classic. In some ways, I'm irresistably reminded of Jack Keats' Snowy Day - the simple wonder of a small child experiencing snow, the quiet, almost isolationist feel of the story, the reflective quality of the prose. However, this is not a copy-cat tale by any means. Sakai's little rabbit is much more vocal than Keats' character, and the illustrations are in strong earth colors, showing the quiet emptiness of snow days. Little rabbit is not alone, but with his mother. Together they experience a peaceful day alone, then go outside to play in the snow at night. This will be a perfect story for snowy days, quiet days, and times in-between when you need a calming story-friend.

Verdict: Highly recommended, a definite must for your picture book shelves.

ISBN: 978-0545013215; Published January 2009 by Arthur A. Levine; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Spettecake Holiday by Edith Unnerstad

I have recently been reading the works of Edith Unnerstad, a Swedish children's author from the 1950s and 60s. Far from being outdated, her works are as cheerful, comforting, and fascinating as they were when she first wrote them. With the trademark style of translated Scandinavian works from that period (a rather upbeat swing to the rhythm, frequent exclamations, and a general lilting feel - a linguist could probably explain it better) Unnerstad tells simple but heartfelt stories of everyday life.

Her most recent story I've read, The Spettecake Holiday, is a perfect bedtime story. Each chapter is almost complete, there's enough tension to carry interest, but not enough to keep you awake! and the whole story feels like a pleasant summer dream. Six-year-old Pelle-Goran's mother is in the hospital and he responds by misbehaving. The older reader easily realizes that she is in no real danger, but sympathizes with a small child's misery. Pelle-Goran is sent to the country to stay with his grandmother, where he is joined by his orphaned older cousin Kaja. Together, they have many pleasant adventures, from listening to the thatch-maker's stories, to saving a friend from snake-bite and reuniting an estranged old man with his family.

For a peaceful evening read, or if you need a little relaxation, stretch out with Edith Unnerstad and enter a world of hot summer days and innocent adventures.

Verdict: I occasionally take the time to painfully regret the media-infused life most children lead which causes them to expect and demand books that are basically tv scripts with nonstop action. In other words, if you can find a kid who isn't allowed to watch tv, they might enjoy this. Otherwise....if you find a used copy you might as well pass it on to me. Nobody else under the age of 30 will want it.

ISBN: N/A; Published 1958 by Macmillan (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Mikela Prevost

I don't normally read/review "issue" books. I just don't do the whole bibliotherapy thing. But I do think, sometimes, reading books about "issues" can help, if they are well-written. Trouble Talk is an excellent example of the type of materials I hope to include in our library's new "Tough Topics" collection - books that parents and children can read and discuss together. It's sometimes difficult to know where to start talking to a child about a problem, and this kind of book can help there.

Trouble Talk is about two girls - Maya and Bailey. At first, Maya really likes her new friend Bailey. She's funny and likes to chatter. But Bailey doesn't know where to stop - she can't keep secrets and she tells people things that should be secrets - or that aren't even true! With help from adults, Maya confronts Bailey and repairs her relationships with her old friends. There's no easy solution - Bailey is still a gossip, and her "friends" still feel hurt. But Bailey isn't demonized; Maya admits she wishes they were still friends and hopes someday Bailey will learn how to be a friend. The illustrations are realistic, especially in portraying the characters' faces, and add depth to the narrative.

There's an excellent introduction and afterword to explain the story, questions for discussion, and further resources. This is a good example of a story that teaches about difficult issues - gossip and bullying - without patronizing or over-generalizing.

Verdict: Recommended. It would be best in nonfiction or a special parenting type section, but could also go in picture books.

ISBN: 978-1582462400; Published May 2008 by Tricycle; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven

"Lizzy loved her apple tree". So begins a peaceful story of friendship and seasons. Throughout the year, Lizzy's apple tree is there, adding beauty, inspiring imagination, and making the perfect place to play. But then Lizzy has to go to school. She tries to take her apple tree with her in the shape of an apple named Susanna, but, hurt and embarrassed by the other children's taunts, she takes her back home. Lizzy has a lonely time at school, hurrying home to Susanna and never noticing another lonely little girl...until Lizzy's mother offers a way to keep Susanna forever and Lizzy finds she has something special to teach her whole class.

This is an excellent story of learning to make friends - and apple dolls! The illustrations are bright and exuberant, marking each season and showing Lizzy's transformation as she learns to adapt and make friends.

Verdict: An excellent first school story. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0374303808; Published July 2007 by Farrar Strauss & Giroux; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Princess Gown by Linda Leopold Strauss, illustrated by Malene Laugesen

Now in contrast to the simple beauty of Henry Cole, here's a picture book where everything depends on the tiniest of details.

Strauss' The Princess Gown is a princess story from another viewpoint - a little like Megan McDonald's The Hinky-Pink.

Hanna is the youngest child in the House of Abraham. She knows the wedding gown they are sewing and embroidering for the princess is vital to her family's future success and she really was very careful....but somehow it gets RUINED. But Hanna has an idea and Grandma has the skills to make it work! Will the princess choose their dress out of all the others?

This is a warm and loving story of family, cooperation, and creativity. The exquisite gowns and tiny "surprises" hidden on them in the final spread are gorgeous and worth spending time examining. And in the end....Hanna has clearly found her own role in the family business!

Verdict: A great story to hand to princess-obsessed girls - it has the beautiful details and royal elements, but a much deeper story with family and creativity interwoven. Recommended.

ISBN: 978-0618862597; Published September 2008 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Friday, January 9, 2009

Trudy by Henry Cole

I love complex picturebooks - the ones with all the cool little details and funny little quirks. But sometimes simple is good too. Not necessarily minimalism, but simple story, simple pictures.

Trudy by Henry Cole is very simple. The art is realistic and comfortable, the characters likable and interesting. Esme's grandfather has promised her an animal at the country fair. After rejecting several (my favorite - "an assortment of ducks") she finds a free goat, Trudy. Esme bonds with her new pet, cares for her responsibly, and is thrilled to discover Trudy seems to be able to predict the weather! But when her popularity is at it's height....Trudy fails her fans. Or does she have an even better surprise?

Henry Cole's simple story of friendship and responsibility and his cheerful, spare, and elegant illustrations make this a modern classic.

Verdict: No surprises or awards here, just a warm and excellent story that will be cheerfully devoured by children for years to come. Recommended.

ISBN: 978-0061542671; Published January 2009 by Greenwillow; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Wild Swans by Hans Anderson, retold by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Anyone who is familiar with Amy Ehrlich's and Susan Jeffers' fairy tale adaptions will be thrilled to see that at least one has been republished, The Wild Swans. Amy Ehrlich's adaptation is excellently suited to its audience, without dumbing down the story or losing its beauty. Susan Jeffer's illustrations are exquisitely detailed and the full-page spreads are just....beautiful.

But....why the new cover? This is not a pink story. At all. And I am rather upset that they took Amy Ehrlich's name off the cover - the story is as much hers as Susan Jeffers', after all. Take a look at the original cover. A much better representation of the haunting beauty of the tale.

Verdict: But the beauty inside is worth the new cover! A must for fairy tale collections!

Original edition
ISBN: 978-0803793811; Published January 1976 by Dial; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library (not by me! I was not alive!); Added to my personal wishlist

New edition
ISBN: 978-0525479147; Published November 2008 by Dutton; Borrowed from the library

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

Gulp! That's how I read Faith Erin Hicks' latest, The War at Ellsmere. It's a classic plot, mean girls against new/downtrodden girls, boarding school,, well maybe not that last.

Comics Worth Reading has an excellent in-depth review of the book (including the artwork, which I don't know diddley-squat about, just that I like it!) I don't entirely agree that the "fantasy element" was "completely unnecessary". Sure, I would have been perfectly happy if either Cassie had continued to defy the evil Emily and totally beat her up or if Jun had come to Cassie's rescue and...violent? who, me? Well, anyways, you could also say the unicorn is very symbolic of Cassie's inner strength.

But it only says one thing to me - a sequel is now mandatory, under the rules of authors-who-introduce-unexpected-characters/twists/elements-at-the-end-of-fabulous-stories. Hear that Ms. Hicks? I am now waiting on your doorstep in spirit for that sequel!

Verdict: Interesting art, lovely plot turns, definitely recommended. Might need a little extra booktalking for teens who aren't familiar with Hicks.

ISBN: 978-1593621407; Published December 2008 by SLG; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reflections on programming and going freestyle

Programming starts again next week! I've had about a month to think over and plan everything - and I have lots of new ideas for the spring.

Last fall my first "regular" programs (summer doesn't really count) were two preschool storytimes, family and evening storytime, gaming (board games) and Teen Advisory Group. (I consider myself immensely blessed to have a local parent-educator from the school district who does wildly popular toddler and baby storytimes).

I had a couple regulars at the gaming program, but it's hard to play board games with only two kids and we won't be continuing that program this spring. I didn't have any clear direction for TAG and nobody showed up so....Despite several people asking for evening or after work storytimes, I had very low to zero attendence for that also. The family storytime was small but growing and preschoolers averaged about 20 attendees! (That's lots for us - we are a small library).

So, this spring, I am adding and dropping programs and also restructing. I've kept TAG but made it a monthly meeting with a "project" for each meeting. I'm adding a DIY (i.e. craft) program a couple times a month for ages 8 and up and a monthly puppet program, as we have a very cool puppet theatre in our storyroom which I've never used.

Finally, I'm doing two afternoon family storytimes and two morning preschool storytimes. They'll be roughly the same thing, just different days. Last fall I had different "themes" for every storytime and crafts for the family storytime and different art projects for the preschoolers....I can't think of any more themes. Blah. Plus, it is feeling a little rigid. So, I am going to stick with my themes for the family storytime and a specific craft, but the preschoolers are going freestyle! New books, books I just like or pick up that day, books that went over well in the family storytime, songs and rhymes I've gathered throughout the year, and I'm going to stick more firmly to the "open art" i decided on for the preschoolers last fall - paper, crayons, markers, glue, and whatever I find in the cupboard!

I think our programs for younger kids will continue to be popular. I'm working on more advertising for the programs for older kids but I may have to change the format or time again. We'll see how it goes....