Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Max Spaniel: Dinosaur Hunt by David Catrow

Did I say I wanted books that were new and fresh? Here they are! It's been a while since I've seen an easy reader that broke away from the classic Frog and Toad form. (Cork and Fuzz, Mouse and Mole, Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, Houndsley and Catina, Elephant and Piggie, you get the idea). Not since Fly Guy, in fact. But here it is!

Illustrator David Catrow's first writing effort is a doozy - a plump and wiggly spaniel named Max, is not a dog. No, not at all. He's really....a great hunter! A DINOSAUR HUNTER! And with a little imagination and the right equipment, he finds dinosaur remains in the most interesting places.

Verdict: Funny, exuberant, and full of Catrow's signature illustrations, this new easy reader series looks like a winner!

ISBN: 978-0545057486; Published August 2009 by Orchard Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I learned whilst weeding the juvenile nonfiction

Not that I'm actually done, but what could happen between 973.99 and 999.99?

The quickest way to make an obscure topic popular is to weed it. Those how to care for your pet Chinchilla books from the 50s? Guess who just bought a Chinchilla. Dunebuggies in the Midwest? Guess who's moving to California. The only book on heraldry in the library, circa. 1920? Guess who's doing a historic heraldry project.

You can never have too many snake books. Or bear books. Or tiger books. Or animal books in general.

You can have too many Shakespeare books. And Colonial history books.

No matter how "cute" their pictures are, history books DO get outdated. Stories of the Western expansion written in the 1950s are not generally a good idea.

The most depressing - and irritating - books in the entire juvenile nonfiction collection, including the set on "feelings" are the Native American tribes set. All of them end with the assurance that this particular tribe is adapting well to modern culture and lifestyles while retaining their traditions and has great hope for a wonderful future. Optimism is all very well, and maybe people thought this was true in the 1980s. Maybe it is true for some specific tribes, it's not a subject I know much about. But all of them? Even children's books need some harsh reality once in a while. And we need a new Native American tribes set. Maybe in 2011.

Monday, September 28, 2009

June and August by Vivian Walsh, illustrated by Adam McCauley

Two creatures, June and August, meet in the dark night to admire the stars. They become friends and describe themselves so they can meet during the day. But will they be able to find each and are they too different to be friends?

This simple story of friendship and recognizing others' unique abilities and features is illustrated in a wildly surreal landscape of shooting stars, twisting jungles, and contrasting backgrounds.

I'm not sure how children will react to this story. The art and plot seem too complex, but even preschoolers should be able to grasp the idea of people's perceptions of themselves not always matching how others see them. They should also enjoy identifying the different animals.

Verdict: I'd like to test this on some actual children to see how they react. I believe there's been a lot of excitement over the art, but I'm a little doubtful about it.

ISBN: 0810984105; Published September 2009 by Abrams; Borrowed from the library

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Marshmallow Incident by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett; Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew Baek

Allow me to voice an unpopular opinion.

I've seen several reviews of the Barrett's newest book out already, and so far everyone seems quite happy with it. Well, I'm not. The art has the same grainy flavor as the previous Barrett classics, but the faces are stiff and lacking in expression and the additional digital color doesn't add to the illustrations. The many small speech bubbles are distracting and add nothing to the plot or story.

The story? Well, two towns are divided into left-handed and right-handed people. There is a large yellow dotted line down the middle of the town. Except this line is nothing to do with the right and left separation "The people didn't know who had done it or why". The Order of the Ambidextrous Knights guard the line and their marshmallows. Marshmallows? Yes, one of the knights won fifty thousand boxes of marshmallows several years ago. One day, someone falls over the line. The knights immediately go crazy and start firing marshmallows into the air. Suddenly, the knights decide the line is silly and should be removed. They have a town meeting, remove the line, and have a marshmallow party. "On the anniversary of the Marshmallow Incident" the towns have a marshmallow roast, supplied by the knights, every year. Umm, how stale are these marshmallows now? And, finally, the story is over.

Verdict: As you can see, the plot is meandering and illogical, with quirky details thrown in for no apparent reason and a sappy moral. Basically, a gooey sticky mess. Although some of the illustrations are humorous and the current popularity of the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movie adaptation will make this a temporary success, there's no staying power in the lengthy, confusing story.

If you're looking for a strong picture book about overcoming differences, I suggest taking a look at Matthew Baek's Panda & Polar Bear. This gentle and simple story, although written for a younger audience, will resonate with all ages. Separated by a high cliff, the panda and polar bears have never played together. But one day, a little polar bear slips over the cliff and tumbles down into the mud. With a little dried mud here and there, he becomes a roly poly panda bear and becomes friends with the little panda bear. The two enjoy playing together until the polar bear accidentally washes off the mud. He's afraid the panda bear won't want to play anymore - but the panda is excited to learn about a different world and when the polar bear becomes homesick, he helps him get back to his family. The final spread shows the new friends and places the panda and polar bear have yet to explore.

Verdict: Soft and comforting art in greys, greens, browns, and blues illustrates this simple but concisely written story of friendship and exploration. Highly recommended for storytimes on friendship or bears and for fans of roly poly baby bears.

Marshmallow Incident
ISBN: 978-0545046534; Published August 2009 by Scholastic; Borrowed from the library

Panda and Polar Bear
ISBN: 978-0803733596; Published June 2009 by Dial; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On our way home by Sebastien Braun


A little bear tells all the wonderful things he does with his daddy on their way home. Short, sweet and simple.

The text is large-type, perfect for an early reader or for reading aloud in storytime. The story is simple, a list of all the things a little bear and his daddy do, but it's a beautiful simple, every word perfectly chosen.

The pictures are, well, gorgeous. Apparently, they're made "using thin layers of matte acrylic on thick hot press watercolor paper." This means nothing to me, except that somehow the colors are richer, deeper, and more glowing. From forest to mountain, streams of light, flowing water, it's all brighter and more beautiful because little bear is with daddy.

Verdict: This is a perfect winding-down story for a rowdy storytime and an even more perfect story for bedtime. Cuddle up and prepare to read this every night for the next couple years.


ISBN: 978-1906250591; Published May 2009 by Boxer Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Mosquitoes!


A little collection development exercise today! I'm working on weeding the juvenile nonfiction - so far I've weeded somewhere between 500 and 1,000 items. That's a LOT for a collection as small as ours (five full-length shelves). Why so much? Well, I've been told at least one of the previous directors at our library did not allow weeding. At all. Also, I believe several of the previous children's librarians were part-time and simply did not have time to weed. But, happily, I have an excellent director and I am full-time, so the time has come. I've dumped computer books from the 80s, books in horrible condition, nonfiction from the 50s, and a surprisingly large number of adult nonfiction books. Possibly they were somehow missed when the juvenile and adult nonfiction was separated years ago. Now well into the 500s, I'm looking to see what needs to be replaced - and it looks like we need more mosquito books! We have one outdated and icky book from the 70s and one newer book that's checked out. I looked at my nonfiction catalogs (I'm mainly using Bearport and Scholastic right now) and Bearport had a mosquito book in it's No Backbone! series. Then I checked the library catalog and requested a couple of the newer mosquito books from other libraries.

Bloodthirsty Mosquitoes by Meish Goldish is from the Bearport No Backbone! series. It's obviously intended for a younger audience, probably 5 - 8, with large type, simple text, and plenty of pictures of the mosquito's life cycle. There's a short glossary, index, and further resources in the back. This book is mainly about the mosquito, with only a few brief mentions of how it affects the world and attacks people.


The other mosquito book I found is from the Bloodsuckers series by PowerKids Press; Mosquitoes: Hungry for Blood by Barbara Somervill. This is directed at an older audience, I'd say 8 - 12, and focuses on the mosquito in context. There's a page each on the mosquito's body, breeding habits, and habitats, then the rest of the book discusses how it chooses who to eat from, the creatures that prey on the mosquito, and how it carries diseases and is controlled. There's a good glossary, index, and a link to a regularly updated list of links on the PowerKids website.

Verdict: So, conclusion? I think we need both these books, but I can't buy both! I'll wait for the other mosquito book we have to come back, and see what it's reading level is and how it compares to these and which one we need more - a specific book on the mosquito's life, or a more general book for older kids. I'll also be checking PowerKids Press out to see what other materials they have.


Bloodthirsty mosquitoes
ISBN: 978-1597165853; Published January 2008 by Bearport; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Mosquitoes: Hungry for blood
ISBN: 978-1404238022; Published August 2007 by PowerKids Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, September 18, 2009

Missing Magic by Emma Laybourn


Imagine always feeling a little different. Knowing there's something out there you're missing. Living a hard but not too bad life with your parents on a lonely farm. And then, one day, your exciting "uncle" sends you to a marvelous school. A school for magic! In a town where wonderful, magical things are always happening, despite a dark menace only hinted at in whispers.

Sound slightly familiar?

But wait, there's one problem. You're at a marvelous magic school but...you're the only person with NO MAGIC. In fact, everyone in your world has magic - except you.

Welcome to Ned's world. In a fast-paced, quirky, funny, and sometimes scary fantasy, Emma Laybourn flips the now-familiar young-hero-with-magic-powers plot on its head and produces an unlikely hero with suprisingly ordinary friends and everyday heroism from the least-expected places.

My only complaint is that the last couple chapters felt hurried and "oh gosh there's at least another book's worth of action but we're not planning on a sequel, so cram it all in." But I've lately become so exhausted by series (srsly folks, I can't possibly buy a sequel to EVERY SINGLE FANTASY) that I am perfectly ok with it. Plus, it's well-written, just a little hurried.

Verdict: Fans of Christopher Golden's Outcast series and Harry Potter will enjoy this fantasy.

ISBN: 0803732198; Published June 2007 by Dial (out of print); Borrowed from the library

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Even More New Books!

It's Christmas! I love, love, love, playing with my new books!

What my girlfriend doesn't know; One of those hideous books where the mother dies by Sonya Sones. I swear, you guys, if you steal these ONE MORE TIME I am unleashing the librarian zombie in the basement. The one with the rabid bat in its mouth. Srsly.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I didn't really get into it, but it's going to be (well, is!) crazy popular. But I loved, loved, loved the trailer. I love ALL Maggie Stiefvater's trailers! And I have no problem spelling her name.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. Killer Unicorns. Need I say more? I am, btw, totally on team unicorn. Oh, and if you're searching for the cover, don't put in the title by itself. Ahem.

Psych major syndrome by Alicia Thompson. Good reviews, we thought it might be adult, and I talked our director into ordering it on the adult account, but turned out not to be. Hee hee.

Monkey High 7 by Akira. This is one of the good manga choices I've made - very popular. Thanks Comics Worth Reading!

Faceless ones by Derek Landy. MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE

More New Books at the Library!

A couple kids came up while I was checking these in and nearly had a fist-fight over who got Al Capone Shines My Shoes first...I had no idea this was a popular book until I casually mentioned to a school librarian that a new one was coming out while I was at school visits - and some kids overheard me and start jumping up and down and yelling!

Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley. Fairies for the girls who have outgrown Rainbow Magic and Disney Fairies. Gorgeous cover, this was another one the kids at my desk snatched up right away. I have an ARC that I actually haven't read yet. I'm savoring the anticipation, ok?

Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs. Yay! This one's going home with me. I just HAPPEN to have chocolate, and Runaway Princess so I can reread and then read the sequel.

Secrets of a lab rat: no girls allowed by Trudi Trueit. Fun-looking cover, sounded like a good weird school adventure book.

Thea Stilton and the dragon's code by Geronimo Stilton. Can't keep these on the shelves...

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers. I really liked this when I read it as an ARC. I think it will be enjoyed.

Stage Fright by Meg Cabot. Newest Allie Finkle.

Alien Expedition by Pamela Service. Latest in the Alien Agent series. Hilarious beginning chapter book, this one's going home with me for a quick and happy read tonight!

Wyrm King by Diterlizzi and Black. Latest in the series. Surprised there's no hold on it.

High School Musical: Poetry in Motion. I made an exception for my "no ephemeral books" rule and got these chapter books for our series. By the time they fall apart they won't be popular anymore, so all's well.

Marvel Adventures: Avengers: Heroes Assembled. I have some of the Marvel Adventures in individual library-bound editions from ABDO, but we can't afford to get that many and I'd thought I'd see how the paperback holds up. Plus...I like the Avengers.

Canned by Alex Shearer. I fell in love with the back cover - "Everybody has an expiration date" and then a nutrition facts label with "serving size: 1 finger" Heh heh heh.

Dear Dumb Diary: Let's pretend this never happened by Jim Benton. I got this for us from Bookmooch - these are very popular and keep falling apart!

Fancy Nancy: Pajama Party by Jane O'Connor. Nice easy readers.

Case of the troublesome turtle by Cynthia Rylant. Someone recommended this series to me when I was looking for easy reader mysteries a while ago, but it took me some time to find any still in print.

Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. I thought it was a picturebook until it came. And I can never spell dicammilo.

Stone Rabbit: Deep-space disco by Erik Craddock. Fairly popular comics. This one is actually pretty funny.

Zack Proton and the wrong planet by Brian Anderson. Just the latest in one of our popular series...

Gabriella the Snow Kingdom Fairy by Daisy Meadows. I have a deal. I buy all the new Rainbow Magic - but I don't replace the old ones. That way our library does not become simply a repository for glittery fairies.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements. I kept taking this off the order list b/c there was something else I wanted...finally got it on there.

And that's the first installment. Yep, there's MORE!! I get most of my books in a big bunch at the middle of the month.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

Everyone at school feels sorry for weird Belladonna Johnson. Her parents were killed in a tragic car accident last year and she lives with her grandmother. At least, that's what they think. Actually, Belladonna's inherited power to see ghosts kicked in right after the funeral - and she lives with her parents, same as always....except for the drifting through walls thing. Belladonna is terrified that someday she'll start talking to someone, realize they're a ghost and no one else can see them, and be forever branded as the ultimate school weirdo.

 But suddenly that's no longer a problem: all the ghosts are disappearing. With the help of Steve, an incipient juvenile delinquent, Elsie, an old school ghost, and her own mysterious and unexpected powers, Belladonna must try to save the ghosts - and the worlds of the Living and the Dead.

This was a fast-paced, enjoyable adventure fantasy with plenty of humor. It has lots of little British "bits" slang and little cultural things for anglophiles to enjoy. While in some ways it's fairly predictable; female outcast becomes powerful sorceress heroine, amiable but apparently useless boy becomes warrior hero, etc. etc., the writing is seamless and Stringer easily blends two separate and familiar plots, the classic fantasy quest journey and the newer paranormal abilities theme, into a fun adventure. The ending felt a little hurried, with the sudden introduction of various powerful goddess-type characters like the Nomials, but it fit in with Belladonna's relatives never telling her anything. There were a lot of loose ends, like Aunt Dierdre's involvement with the Hunt, Steve's mother - what's going on there? but presumably they'll be addressed in the next book.

Verdict: Recommended for fans of Harry Potter and the many new ghost books coming out.

Some favorite funny bits, mostly about Steve.

"Steve took it all in stride with a 'this-too-shall-pass" attitude that made it all but impossible for anyone to motivate him to do anything at all."

"'Considering how often you're in trouble, I would've expected you to put up a better show,' said Belladonna, walking away. 'There's not usually any point,' explained Steve. 'I reckon it's better to just fess up, take whatever they're dishing out, and get on with things. Explanations usually just extend the agony.' 'Oh, well,' said Belladonna sarcastically, 'at least you've thought about it.'"

"Just....you know, minor infractions."
There was silence for a moment, then the braziers flared up, the orange flame turning red.
"Such as the explosives on Mr. Morris's shoes?" boomed the voice.
"Or the spiders in Philip Jones's desk? Or the treacle in Sophie Warren's shoes? Or the mass release of the lab mice?"
Steve began to smile in happy recollection as his greatest hits were recited.

ISBN: 0312387636; Published September 2009 by Feiwel and Friends; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall Programs Begin!

Our fall programs at the library begin today!

My lovely colleague, Miss Pattie, without whom I would be in dire straits, is doing two weekly toddler storytimes and one weekly baby storytime. She's also doing a toddler/baby combined evening storytime every other week. My evening storytime last year was a flop, but Pattie has great community connections and considerable energy (unlike me, who is dead in the evening) and I'm sure they'll be a success.

I'll be doing two weekly preschool storytimes (at 11am instead of 10:30am) and a weekly afternoon family storytime.

I also supervise two hours of Wii Gaming every Wednesday (the sound of Mario Kart was driving me nuts by the time we ended last summer!)

We're having a four-week Baby Sign program in October (which Miss Pattie arranged).

We're having birthday parties for newborns, 1-year-olds, and 2-year-olds on three different Saturdays (another arrangement with Miss Pattie. See what I mean? Totally lost without her would I be!)

We're having a Storywalk, which I promised to Pattie last year when I came

Goosebumps party in October! People are already signed up!

Three 5th & 6th grade bookclubs (first one next Monday - nobody has signed up)

Three craft programs for 8 - 12. Nobody has signed up. Sigh.

Anyhow, for a small library we have a good selection of programming, I think. Nothing specifically for teens - I tried last year and was unsuccessful, so I'm concentrating on the middle school and upper elementary crowd (although that's not looking too hopeful either). Teens are invited to the adult bookclubs and programs, we've had a few sparks of interest but no actual attendance in that area.

Onward to programming!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

Nicola Davies takes a somewhat complex (at least to me) mathematical concept and explains it simply and intriguingly for all ages. Why are big animals big and little animals little? Why can't bigger animals fly? How do small animals perform amazing feats of strength? Neal Layton's cartoonish illustrations are humorous without being confusing or detracting from the text. Davies and Layton have produced other fun nonfiction picture books focusing on similar odd and obscure topics, such as animal survival in extremes of heat and cold and parasites.

Verdict: Kids - and grown-ups! - interested in animals, math, or just obscure facts to astound their friends, will enjoy this fun and informative read.

ISBN: 0763639249; Published July 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Library Happyness


  • Telling people they can get a free library card with their ID. Took a little while, because they didn't speak much English, but when they figured out what I was saying they were very happy!

  • A little girl running up to the circulation desk carrying as many Pony Pals and Rainbow Magic books as she can hold, followed by her brother clutching all the Star Wars comics he found on the shelf.

  • One of my little girls from storytime, who likes to come to the library in her princess dress, showing me the puppets she's going to check out.
All this balances the guy who wanted to know why we weren't open all day Saturday, why we weren't open all day Sunday, etc. etc., the fifteen people we practically had to shove out the door so we could close, and the lady who told me about her mother killing her grandmother. TMI!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) brave shrew by Ursula Vernon

I bought this for the library last fall, based on somewhat conflicting reviews. It checked out a few times, nothing phenomenal, and I stuck it on the shelf and forgot about it. But then I read Dragonbreath. I was hooked on Vernon's slightly wacky humor and fresh style and knew I had to read Nurk. So I read it. I loved it!

Nurk has always dreamed of adventure, but he doesn't think he's really brave. Besides, adventure might involve cold, wet feet, and other perils. So he dreams of being as brave and daring as his grandmother, Surka the warrior shrew, and meanwhile he stays at home in his willow tree. Until one day, a letter arrives, begging for help. Does Nurk rush off to the rescue? No. He finds a boat, cleans it out, makes sure it's waterproof, packs all essential items, including plenty of clean socks, and sets off downstream, arguing with himself all the while. And thus begins a strange, wonderful, sometimes completely insane, and always completely hilarious adventure. I leave you with a quotation from Surka's journal:

"Most adventures begin at home. You don't really want them to, but they do anyway."

ISBN: 978-0152063757; Published June 2008 by Harcourt; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank


Finally. Finally!! A story involving homeschoolers who are not members of a cult. Ex-members of a cult. Raised by ex-hippies. Raised by nouveau hippies. Complete social outcasts with no social skills whatsoever. And....it's a GOOD story on top of that!

Kaity (or Katya, as she now prefers to be called) has had a wonderful summer. Summer camp was wonderful. Summer camp was all about science. Summer camp was everything she dreamed it would be and more. But now she has a problem. It's time to go back to school - and she doesn't want to. School has suddenly become unbearably petty, boring, and generally miserable and she's not proud of her behavior towards her teachers. Why can't school be like summer camp? Why can't learning be exciting and, well, interesting?

But Katya has a plan. She's met this really cool boy who turns out to be homeschooled. Homeschooling? That would be perfect! It would be just like summer camp. But when Katya finally convinces her parents she's truly miserable at school and homeschooling is a good idea, their version of homeschooling doesn't match up with what she had in mind. Sometimes, she's not even sure what she wants, but she knows it's not school.

Ah, where to begin. First, the characters. No flat stereotypes here! Katya's friends, both schooled and non-schooled, are layered, realistic middle-schoolers. Katya herself is no plaster saint; she acts out and regrets it, but can't seem to stop doing stupid things. She's not always as studious as she plans to be, and she's not a genius, just an average girl with a passionate interest in the world around her.

And, as mentioned before, no homeschooling stereotypes. {Seriously, if you can name me one other book that has managed this, I will....well, I'll stop telling people how much I hate Stargirl. And mouthing off about why Cammie Morgan (of the Gallagher Girls) would pass for no homeschooler I've ever met, including myself}. There's no perfect ending here; Katya's parents will always be "school people" and what she gets isn't exactly what she wants. But she (and her friends) all get workable compromises at the end and come to a point where they're happy with what they're getting.

Then there's reality; does homeschooling work for everyone? No. Would some kids prefer to be in school? Of course. Do kids ask to be homeschooled because they want a better education? I knew at least two - and that's not counting those who visited a "real" school classroom and decided what they had at home was infinitely better. Are there lots of options? As Katya discovers, yes! Lucy Frank obviously did her homework.

On top of all this, it's definitely a page-turner. Katya's increasingly convoluted lies, issues with her friends, and struggle to get the education she needs and wants never descend into didacticism or predictability. It's definitely popular at my library - we've only had it a month and it's circulating briskly.

Verdict: Add this - and Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook - to your library collections for those teens who'd like to think a bit more deeply about their education and what they want to do with their life. Or just want a good story to enjoy.

ISBN: 0803732309; Published July 2009 by Dial; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, September 7, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Marsh Morning by Marianne Berkes illustrated by Robert Noreika

From the morning's first light to setting sun, birds in the marsh create a symphony of sound. Each rhyme introduces a species of bird (or marsh animal) and a musical or theatrical term. I'm not generally a fan of rhyming picturebooks; I find them difficult to use as read-alouds and I think rhyming is often unnecessary. I think this nonfiction narrative would have been better as straight prose; I found the rhymes flat and pedestrian. "As dawn appears, a heron stands/Motionless offshore./He spears a fish and gulps it down/And waits to get some more." But the imagery of birds as an orchestra is interesting and there are several nice turns of phrase "A sparrow trills an aria." A glossary of musical terms and a list of all the birds mentioned is included in the back, as well as a brief bibliography of bird books.

The illustrations are lovely, swirling watercolors perfectly capturing the misty early morning in the marsh and the various birds throughout the day.

Verdict: I haven't found any other books specifically on marsh birds for young children, so this is a good filler for that gap. I think the anti-rhyming is just me, and this book will fit perfectly well in most collections.

ISBN: 978-0761325680; Published January 2003 by Millbrook Press; Review copy provided by author

Friday, September 4, 2009

Who's afraid of the big bad book? by Lauren Child

Book care, Lauren Child Style

There are plenty of how-to-take-care-of-your-books-dear-children picturebooks out there - most in varying stages of maudlin didacticism. But Lauren Child has a new and wacky take on the idea. A small boy loves books. Unfortunately, he loves them - literally - to pieces. He enjoys them in all possible ways, including with food, scissors, and glue. But one night....

He falls into his book and discovers the fairy tale characters are not happy with what he's been doing to them. A little book repair (and a few small adjustments to the story) later, everything is as it should be and his books will have a better life in the future.

Verdict: Funny, fresh, and entrancing, but sadly out of print


ISBN: 0786809264; Published September 2003 by Hyperion (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelucci

This is an ok anthology. Some of the stories I really liked, some I really hated, and some were kinda....meh. Which is what anthologies pretty much are! I did really like the little comics in between stories, by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley. Although I would like to digress to say that based on reviews I bought all the Scott Pilgrim gns - and they've hardly checked out at all, which is a big deal in a collection as small as mine. I still think if we had an adult gn collection they'd go out, but I haven't convinced anybody else yet. Oh well.

Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. This one was great - and hilarious! It perfectly captured how costuming (I don't know all the right geek words, sorry) can give you a different persona; and can take over your life. It's also a very sweet falling in love story. And funny.

One of Us by Tracy Lynn. Ultra-cool cheerleader approaches ultra-geeky geeks to teach her about "geek stuff" so she can relate to her ultra-cool football captain boyfriend who like sci-fi. This one was excellent, especially in avoiding stereotypes and typical endings. Yeah, the football captain turns out to be kinda a jerk, but not any more than any normal teenage boy. And not all the geeks are pure as the driven snow.

Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfeld. Umm, I think you have to be a gamer to understand this one and I'm not. So I'll leave it to someone else to say if it's any good or not.

I Never by Cassandra Clare. It was ok, about meeting online personalities and things (of course) not turning out as you expected. A little predictable.

The King of Pelinesse by M. T. Anderson. This one didn't really grab me and I barely skimmed it. Fans of old fantasy pulp would probably like it.

The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Even though I'm not a Buffy fan (never watched any) I could get the story. Funny and heartwarming, all about sisters and growing up. And it was cool to recognize places in Austin, my old home!

Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan. Well, the narrator was kind of an unpleasant person, but I also agree that the whole thing was pretty pointless. Nothing wrong with the story, just wasn't for me.

The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix. Story about fantasy role-playing moving over into real life. Very nice.

Everyone but You by Lisa Yee. Ah, really clever story here. One school's popular is another school's dork.

Secret Identity by Kelly Link. Didn't grab me and I didn't finish it. Too long and too internally-monologu-ish.

Freak the Geek by John Green. Excellent, of course. Nice points about tradition and blaming the victim.

The Truth About Dino Girl by Barry Lyga. Ok, this was the one I really hated. I read it twice to make sure. Basically, science-geek girl has major crush on ultra-popular boy and kinda also on ultra-popular boy's girlfriend, ultra-cool meangirl. Ultra-cool meangirl finds out, tells science-geek girl she hasn't got a chance in the meanest way possible, and tells ultra-popular boy, who appears to be embarrassed by the whole thing but doesn't tell anyone else. Science-geek girl posts nude photoshopped pictures of ultra-cool meangirl all over town. Ultra-cool meangirl becomes school slut, ultra-popular boy breaks up with her, and she is now the school pariah. I get the anger and humiliation but....overreaction much?! They're both equally nasty girls, in my opinion. Science-geek girl should have gotten over the embarrassment - is that how she's going to react every time someone is mean to her? She has a good future ahead of her, but her obsession with revenge and the "in-crowd" isn't going to do her much good.

This is my audition monologue by Sara Zarr. Just not for me - my sister, who's into theater, would probably like it.

The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass. Awww, sweet. Nice story about stepping back to enjoy your obsessions.

It's Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray. I don't really like stories set in the 60s. Or 70s or that general time period. Rocky Horror Show fans might like this - I wouldn't know, I've never seen it.

Verdict: So, as I said, some good, some bad, some mediocre but overall a fun anthology. I checked this out from my system, but I can't think of any readers for it in my library - so I'm recommending it to the next town over, b/c they do have an audience for it.

ISBN: 978-0316008099; Published August 2009 by Little, Brown; Borrowed from the library

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee; Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris van Dusen

Why does no one ever tell me anything? I thought Chris van Dusen's first picture book was Circus Ship. In fact, I think I even said it was his first picture book in my review and nobody corrected me. Of course, it turns out he has written the Mr. Magee books as well. Probably something else also, so I am not going to commit myself until I find out otherwise.

The brisk rhyming stories feel more like an easy reader than a picturebook, but van Dusen's gorgeous colors springing off the page make these a fun experience. I didn't find either as funny as the reviews I'd seen had described them, but I enjoyed the rhythmic stories and van Dusen's artwork.


Verdict: These would be good selections for a child learning to read who enjoys picture books and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Camping Spree
ISBN: 978-0811836036; Published May 2003 by Chronicle Books; Borrowed from the library

Down to the Sea
ISBN: 978-0811824996; Published February 2000 by Chronicle Books; Borrowed from the library