Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yay! I am worthy of Chester!

Somehow, my coupon code didn't get included! Lovely, lovely Kids Can Press is sending me a bag! I am worthy of carrying Chester! Woot woot!

Oh, Kids Can Press, how could you do this to me?

I love you so much. Because I have gone beyond mere love and am in deep adoration of Melanie Watt's Chester. Because I enjoy watching our Scaredy Squirrel books trot in and out of the library. Because of your Kids Can Do It series, which I discovered as a teenager and are still my go-to resource for crafts. Because you are imaginative and practical and exuberant and you do great things.

But you have caused me great sorrow. Perhaps it is not your fault. Perhaps there is some deep flaw in me. Perhaps the great Chester has deemed me unworthy and so...

I do not have a Melanie Watt Scaredy Squirrel and Chester bag.

I have been watching other librarians, librarians who do not appear to have any more inner librarianess than myself troop about with these marvelous bags at pretty much every conference I've been to in the past year.

Every time, I arrive too late to procure one for myself. I cannot find where they got them. Kindly exhibitors tell me sorry. But are they really sorry? Or are they secretly watching the Chester-meter and finding me wanting?

This time, I was really going to get one. I had a coupon. A coupon which I tenderly conveyed home from Boston. A coupon for a real Chester bag, if I only expended $39 upon marvelous Kids Can Press books online! I can do this, I thought. No Chester meter here, to measure me and find me wanting!

I bought Chester books for me, myself. I bought Kids Can Do It knitting books. I waited.

Today, I found a lovely large package reposing upon the dirty tiles before my door. I tenderly conveyed it inside. I opened it with expectant fingers.


Once again, I have been weighed and found wanting. *Sob* Oh great Chester, what can I do to be worthy of your presence? I have proclaimed your greatness to all who might be interested (and many who aren't but I told them anyways). I have read your epic life stories to all my 1st and 2nd grade library tours and visits, so that you might bask in the waves of laughter we generate. I have gently herded crowds of preschoolers through the fascinating meta-narrative complexes of your literacy experiences. What more can I do? How can I be a complete librarian without your approval, in the form of your fully licensed Chester bag?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Looking at picture books

I have a selection of picturebooks here....what do you think?

The Best Family in the World by Susana Lopez, illustrated by Ulises Wensell. This is a simple story of a little orphan who dreams about the amazing new family she's going to have....when they show up, they're not exotic or exciting or wildly indulgent, as they are in her dreams; but they're HER family and she loves them. I like the imaginative different families. The art isn't my favorite style - something about the faces perhaps? But that's just me and I do love the tigers!....This would be a fun one for a family storytime or maybe to read to an adoptive child. Or just for fun, to imagine the different kinds of families you could have.

ISBN: 978-1935279471; Published January 2010 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Boom Bah! by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Nina Rycroft. Oooooh, Miss Pattie, wait 'till you see this one! This is the PERFECT picturebook for a musical storytime with toddlers. Get out your noisemakers or do a craft making shakers and drums and then read this story and watch the delight erupt.....One by one, various animals find "instruments" in the kitchen, each one with a different sound, and create a band. I foresee hours of delight with the different pots and pans, the silly sounds, and identifying the different animals. Plus, the story is interactive! It tells you to play louder, softer, etc. and offers the opportunity to guess what's coming next. If you offer toddler storytime at your library, you MUST have this book!

ISBN: 978-1935279228; Published January 2010 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

One night in the zoo by Judith Kerr.  I first read Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit as a child and was blown away. Somehow, though, I never thought of her writing anything else. Well, a month or two ago I discovered The Tiger Who Came to Tea and was blown away all over again by the delightful story and art - why had I never discovered this classic? Happily, it is being reprinted and I have ordered our library a copy. And then, it happened's another book by Judith Kerr! At first, I was doubtful. Coming from The Tiger the colors seemed too muted, the text too short and simplistic. So I read it again....and again...and again....and I was blown away once more. The colors are the perfect hues for a nighttime adventure, drawn in colored pencils and glowing softly with life and gentle humor. The simple rhyming text is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers and easily adapted for interactive storytime, as children count the animals and guess each new crazy antic. Add this to your concept picturebook collection (you do have one, right?) and pull it out for storytimes about the zoo, counting, bedtime, animals, or just for fun!

ISBN: 978-1935279372; Published March 2010 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

My Father Knows the Names of Things by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Stephane Jorish. 
There aren't that many good dad picturebooks for older kids. Toddlers, yes there's quite a few of the "I love my daddy" variety (including Sebastien Braun's gorgeously tender books) but for older kids? Nope. Now, we have an excellent one. Jane Yolen's simple rhyming text accompanies Jorish's sparkling colors and energetic art to extol all the many things a child's dad knows, from the names of clouds to "which dinosaurs are meanest." Don't just pull this out on Father's Day, bring it out all year to enjoy. I'm looking forward to having the kids guess at the names of things in the many will they know? And how many can they make up?
ISBN: 978-1416948957; Published April 2010 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud by Frances Watts, illustrated by Judy Watson

I have a new beginning chapter book series from Eerdman's Press to preview today! We are big fans of Tim Kennemore's Alice stories, so I was excited to see another series from the same publisher.

Ernie is a big fan of superheroes, but he's never thought of himself as superhero material. So it's a big surprise when the local superheros tell him he's won a contest to be their apprentice! But the superheroes aren't as cool as Ernie had expected...and his sidekick, Maud the sheep, most certainly isn't what he had hoped for! Are Ernie and Maud superhero material?

Ernie is a realistic and likable character and Maud brings a dash of common sense and humor to a job that's less excited than Ernie had expected. The humor of the superhero society seems like it would appeal more to adults than children; I don't mean it's inappropriate, but more subtle. The conclusion falls a little bit flat - as a reader, I was expecting something more exciting and over-the-top, but perhaps that's the point of the story, that every day is ok too. The illustrations have the same slightly kooky but still realistic feel as the story and are a nice addition.

I'm not as excited over these stories as I was over Alice, but it's a solid beginning for the series. I wouldn't recommend these to kids who are interested in superheroes, as the story will probably fall flat for them. Rather, I'd give it to kids who enjoy realistic fiction and slightly wacky, more subtle humor.

Verdict: No strong opinion either way.

ISBN: 978-0802853639; Published February 2010 by Eerdmans; ARC provided by publisher at ALA

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Because I am bored and hungry and the other stuff I have to do today I have to do at my other desk

I am looking at the NYT bestsellers list. I check it occasionally anyways.

  • Lego Star Wars. Umm...this is NOT a picturebook. Non-fiction sort of.
  • Waddle. This is a boardbook mostly.
  • Listen to the wind for miniature minds is still here.
  • Family Huddle is still here. shudder.
  • Lion and the Mouse. That's nice to see.
  • Gallop. This is also mostly a boardbook. At least, that's where we shelve them.
  • Otis by Loren Long. I didn't like this one. Didn't buy it.
  • Nubs. This isn't really a picturebook either.
  • Skippyjon Jones, Lost in spice. Look, a real picturebook! Nah, we don't have it. Gonna be a while before I get through weeding and revamping my picturebooks and can start buying series-that-never-end
  • The little prince, pop-up edition. This is not a picturebook. It's not even based on a picturebook.
Obviously, the NYT bestsellers list needs a separate list for "stuff that parents buy for their kids instead of picturebooks but which aren't picturebooks". Best-selling book novelties is the title that spring to mind.

More new books!

A nice big stack of new books today (or actually yesterday, but I just got to them) Lots of Young Adult and Juvenile
  • A new copy of Catherine, Called Birdy. For some weird reason we had a decent HB in the YA and a ratty PB in the J. I replaced the PB with a new HB and we'll just leave one in both spots. Whatever.
  • Tangled by Carolyn Mackler. I glanced through the replacement we also just got, Virgin Vegan Valentine, and it was really good. Wish I had time to read the whole thing. This one didn't sound so interested, but I've obviously got Mackler fans who will appreciate it.
  • By the time you read this I'll be dead. Another dead girl (well, almost dead girl. suicide anyways) book. Kinda disappointed when I skimmed through it. Oh well. Really irritated that it's about a girl trying to kill herself b/c of major bullying b/c she's fat. Girl on the cover? Practically anorexic. Grrr.
  • They never came back. More Caroline Cooney.
  • Claim to fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Could not figure where to put this on my reading lists. It's about a girl who hears voices, so kinda paranormal. It's also kinda got a mystery, that turns out not to be a mystery. It's about a girl who was an actress, but not really a Hollywood-ish thing. Whatever.
  • Shadowland by Alyson Noel. More for the Twihards.
  • Tempted by P. C. Cast. "A-ya, the ancient Cherokee maiden..." Choke. Why doesn't somebody boycott these? For the serious Twihard.
  • Captivate by Carrie Jones. I thought the music in the trailer was kinda corny, but I'm still planning to read these. Werewolfies! Plus, Carrie Jones has an extremely adorable dog.
  • a new copy of Bear Called Paddington! Gorgeous colored anniversary edition, and not at all expensive!
  • Peter and the Sword of Mercy. I thought the Starcatchers series was over, but I guess not.
  • Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick. I keep thinking I ought to do a mother-daughter book club with these...
  • Million-Dollar Throw. I know, I know, I ordered it a while ago, it only just came now.
Some new and replacement picturebooks and stuff
  • A couple boardbooks donated by a staff member, That's Not My Frog! and Busy Bear Cubs. Thanks Penny!
  • We got new copies of Leaf Man, Alexander and the Terrible etc., Where do balloons go?, When Sophie Gets Angry, Miss Nelson is Missing, Great Kapok Tree, Taback's There was an old lady, Crews' Flying, and Tudor's 1 is One. Replacement month!
  • Yay! Our copies of But Who Will Bell the Cats, Nanook & Pryce, and Waiting for Winter came! These are all lovely and/or funny books that I am very excited to show off!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War by Thomas & Roger Allen

The North's advantages in the Civil War didn't just include factories, manpower, and having an infrastructure already in place and running. A major advantage was President Lincoln and his progressive mindset towards technology. Throughout the Civil War, Lincoln encouraged inventors and often tested their innovations himself or forced reluctant generals to use them.

National Geographic Kids does some really excellent history books and this is no exception. It details the many technological advances during the Civil War, from new inventions to new uses for old inventions, such as ballooning, telegraphs, railroads, ironclads, weaponry, and more. Not only does it explain the uses and construction of the various inventions in a clear, interesting manner, it also relates them to the progress of the war, arranging the book into chronological order and including multiple timelines that show the progress of the war and how the technology of the day played a part.

Verdict: Hand this to patrons - young and old - who are interested in technology, history, the Civil War, weapons, or inventions.

ISBN: 978-1426303791; Published January 2009 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Random reading continues

I had seen a lot of glowing reviews for John Howe's Lost Worlds, but the only library in our system that owned it marked it missing practically as soon as it was on the shelf. So I borrowed it from ILL. I had the feeling it might have many small pieces and wanted to know before I bought it. It turned out to NOT have small pieces, but I've decided not to buy it anyways. The art is gorgeous and the text seems well-written, but the juxtaposition of real and imagined lost worlds makes me uncomfortable - is this fiction or non-fiction? It's a gorgeous book, but I don't think I have enough interest in the subject at my library to justify buying it.

Malice by Chris Wooding. Nice mix of black and white comics and text. Sort of creepy mixture of urban myth and horror. I don't often read horror and this one didn't really grab me. Too much atmospherics and not enough action, plus the jumping between characters at the beginning was kinda confusing. Plus the stand-out text and images on the cover will make it hard to shelve. I'm getting Tom Becker's Darkside series instead for our new horror series of the year.

Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty. Nice story about a girl dealing with grief with a little mystery in it. Why do stories about death always have flashbacks in italics? The fantastic nature of the flashbacks makes me a little doubtful about the appeal of this story. It doesn't have quite the realistic feel and emotional punch of Love Aubrey.

Ben and the Sudden Too-Big Family by Colby Rodowsky. Well-written and engaging story about blending and creating new families. Ben's character was built realistically and sympathetically and I appreciated seeing a story with characters who were a little more introverted - and that was ok, not something they had to be "cured" of. Very unfortunate cover though.

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by K. A. Holt. Don't often see genuine scifi for the elementary/middle grade reader. Plenty of science, mystery and heart-stopping action. Kids who like fast-paced adventure and science will really love this one.

Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. Don't often see ya mysteries that are this....wholesome for lack of a better word. Plenty of realistic action, some death, a thread of women's rights issues running through the story, but nothing too overtly violent, sexual, or depressing. Ever notice how many ya mysteries are depressing? Plus, this is a "real" mystery with clues, a tightly constructed plot, and the characters are believable.

I've still got a few library books to go, but that might be all my faster-than-the-speed-of-light reading for today....or maybe not. I've still got a cold or something and can't sleep when I can't breathe, so might as well stay up all night reading....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Village Fiction!

I tag "village fiction" a unique British genre that details life in British villages, usually from the viewpoint of an educated, but not upper class person, such as Miss Read (school teacher), James Herriot (veterinarian), Nicholas Rhea (village constable), and the newest series I have discovered, Fred Secombe (curate/vicar). I love the little details of the life, the gentle humor, and the cheerful, matter-of-fact approach to everyday life. Yes, there are tragedies. We sniffle a little and life continues. There are arguments and bad feelings. We smooth them down and go on. And there is humor in everyday occurrences and a little romance to make life glamorous. Sigh. Oddly enough, the main format I seem to find these in is large print, through inter-library loan. Apparently, they generally appeal to older people. So, either I'm wise beyond my years or I'm approaching early senility....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children by Andrew Clements

We the Librarian are disappointed.

So, a new series by Andrew Clements. Focused on the beginning chapter book audience, with fun sketches by Adam Stower, a mystery, clues, and likable characters.

There's just one problem.

It's boooooring. Sorry, but it is. I've read and enjoyed many Andrew Clements books and they're big favorites at my library, but this book doesn't seem like a beginning chapter book or the beginning of a series. It's like an excessively long prologue with a bunch of sailing information thrown in.

A beginning chapter book, even if it's one of a series, maybe especially if it's one of a series, should have a complete plot and a strong mix of action and character with smoothly blended illustrations to hold and encourage young readers.

Well, the illustrations look good.

The story see-saws back and forth between Benjamin Pratt's feelings and thoughts - about his parents' separation, his quasi-friendship with Jill, his love of sailing, and his conflicted reaction to Mr. Keane's death - and the "mystery" of saving the school from the Evil Corporate Developers Who Have Lots of Money. It being Clements, things are, of course, not so black and white. There's more nuances to the characters and the forces involved.

Even with Clements' trademark character development and open-minded perspective, the plot drags and extensive paragraphs on the art of sailing don't help. The story doesn't so much end on a cliff-hanger as on a "oh it's a cliff, blah blah blah I'll be back later said the plot".

Serious Clements fans will want to read this, but will probably be disappointed. I'm going to wait until more titles in the series have come out and see if it improves - if the plot tightens in further volumes, it might be worth buying for kids who can wade through the first story.

Verdict: Disappointed. May consider purchasing if the series improves

ISBN: 978-1416938866; Published April 2010 by Atheneum; ARC provided by publisher at ALA

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Awards

Snicker. I love Ms. Yingling's take on the awards. As last year, I'm just talking about the ones in which I have interest. There's a lot of shiny stickers and, while I am sure they are all wonderful books with great merit, a shiny sticker doesn't guarantee inclusion at my library. I got a budget, ya know.
  • Newbery Medal. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I haven't read this and have only mild interest in doing so, but I did purchase it for the library, considering the amount of buzz it was creating. We bought it in August and it has circulated 6 times and is currently checked out, which is pretty good circulation.
  • Newbery Honor. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. I read this a while ago when it won a National Book Award and found it fascinating. I ordered it because I like the combination of historical narrative and first-person quotes. It's not here yet and I'm not sure whether it will go in juvenile or young adult non-fiction.
  • Newbery Honor. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. I reviewed this earlier and purchased a copy for our library. I am not totally boycotting historical fiction and I will buy books that have a limited audience, which I would say this does. We've had it since last July and it's gone out 5 times, which I would say is due a lot to the excellent cover and I also posted it as a librarian pick on our bulletin board.
  • Newbery Honor. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. I've seen some buzz on this, but never read it and didn't really get a feel from the reviews whether or not it will "go" in our library. I've put a copy on hold from another library and will take a look.
  • Newbery Honor. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. I'm with Ms. Yingling on this one. I hate the cover and I can't think of any kids who will be interested in this one, although I admit that Freak the Mighty does circulate a lot. Then again, I think it's on several required reading lists.
  • Caldecott Medal. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. I thought it was ok. I'm not a hugeous Pinkney fan. We bought our copy in October and it's been out 7 times, but it sat on the new shelf for a loooong time before it went out.
  • Caldecott Honor. All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon. I loved, loved, loved A Couple of Boys. I was wary of this one at first, but loved it when I saw it. I just ordered it a little while ago, it's not here yet.
  • Caldecott Honor. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman. The reviews didn't incline me towards purchasing it. But I will borrow it from another library and take a look.
  • Batchelder Award. A Faraway Island written by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck. It's on my to read list, b/c I'm interested in Scandinavian history during WWII, but I don't see it having enough general appeal to add to our library
  • Batchelder Honor. Big Wolf and Little Wolf written by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Olivier Tallee, translated by Claudia Bedrick. I thought it was pretty weird. Not something I plan to buy or can see our patrons being interested in.
  • Batchelder Honor. Eidi written by Bodil Bredsdorff, translated by Kathryn Mahaffy. I loved Crow-Girl and have been eagerly awaiting this one. But I cannot see it having enough general appeal to justify adding it. Sigh.
  • Batchelder Honor. Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness Written by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano. Mmmm, I've seen a lot of buzz out it's popularity, but it just doesn't strike me as something that will circulate well.
  • Carnegie Award. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! produced by Paul R. Gagne, Weston Woods Studios, and Mo Willems. I don't generally buy Weston Woods movies, because they're expensive and don't circulate enough to justify the expense. But I will get this one, b/c it is Mo Willems and I have seen it and it is hilarious.
  • Geisel Award. Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!" written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes. Geisels now, Geisels I will buy. As it happens, we already own this one. At least partly because Geoffrey Hayes wrote or illustrated one of my most beloved childhood books, Patrick Eats His Dinner. Incidentally, we put our easy reader comics in the easy readers, instead of the juvenile graphic novels. Sort of. I am working on separating them. Not that there's much to separate. We've had it since May and it's only gone out 9 times, but that's b/c it was in juvenile gns and it checks out more now that I moved it.
  • Geisel Honor. I Spy Fly Guy! written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold. A very popular series here, I have them all! We've had this one since October and it's gone out 3 times.
  • Geisel Honor. Little Mouse Gets Ready written and illustrated by Jeff Smith. This one was put into juvenile graphic novels, but I am moving it to easy reader. We've only had this since December, but it's gone out 2 times and is currently checked out.
  • Geisel Honor. Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee. Classic animal friends model easy reader. I've ordered this, the latest, and we own the others.
  • Geisel Honor. Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day written by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R.W. Alley. We don't have all this series, but I'm working on it. This particular one is very funny. We got it in August and it's gone out 7 times.
  • Sibert Medal. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream" written by Tanya Lee Stone. I read it and it was interesting, but I don't need any more history in this area right now. Hope to add it someday, when I've filled in the other gaps in my nonfiction collection.
  • Sibert Honor. The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani. We've had this since October and it's gone out 3 times, very good for a non-fiction, especially a picturebook biography.
  • Sibert Honor. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 written and illustrated by Brian Floca. I bought all the space books my budget would allow but didn't get this one. Shrug.
  • Sibert Honor. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice written by Phillip Hoose. Already talked about this one.
  • Alex Awards. I thought Lev Grossman's Magicians was boring and pretentious and Gail Carriger's Soulless was hilarious, although the sex makes it definitely for older teens. Unless our adult svs librarian buys David Small's Stitches, it won't be in our library because I've got a long list of teen graphic novels to buy before I invest in other people's therapeutic art.
  • Printz Award. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. It sounds funny. Not my cup of tea though. We've had it since October and it's gone out twice, which is about average to good for a YA book.
  • Printz Honors. Don't own any. Might get Yancey's Monstrumologist. Might not.
  • Coretta Scott King Award. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Now this, I am thrilled to see. Finally, a history book about African Americans that doesn't include jazz, the Civil War, or Civil Rights and has an actual plot, not just a "concept picturebook". By concept book I mean stuff that doesn't have a plot. I am full up on all those subjects and genres and what we have barely circulates as it is. This I am buying. I reviewed it here.
  • Coretta Scott King Honor. Mare’s War by tanita s. davis. It looks good, but historical fiction just doesn't go well here.
  • other Coretta Scott King awards. See above.
  • Pura Belpre. All our bilingual books go in Spanish and I have no money for Spanish this year. It's not a highly circulating area.
So, that's my collection development stance on the awards. As you may gather, I'm not one of those who get real excited about the whole thing. Congrats to the authors though, as I said they're all excellent books with great qualities.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ALA Midwinter: The Books Edition

I got TONS of books. So many that, as you will note in my earlier post, I split my duffel bag. Here's what I got. I got an even 65 cool books, counting the one that's being sent to me. And I might have another one coming, I don't remember now.

  • Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr. I have yet to read the first one, but this is destined as a birthday present for my sister. Her scream of delight when I told her on the phone was shattering - I am sure it will be shared with her friends back in Austin as well.
  • The Brain Full of Holes by Martin Chatterton. I finally got around to reading The Brain Finds a Leg, an ARC from ALA last summer on the plane up here. I know, pitiful. It was hilarious and I giggled all the way here, so I was delighted to discover a sequel. Review coming soon!
  • They had no copies of A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis! Woe! But they promised to send me one! Delight! I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it last year.
  • Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson. I've read some Angela Johnson, she's good and stuff. This isn't for me, it's going to be a teen summer reading prize or maybe passed on to another librarian or something
  • Unfamiliar magic by R. C. Alexander. Looks like a fun middle-grade fantasy. I really cleaned up in that genre this year and it's one of my favorites!
  • Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West. Another excellently fun-looking middle grade fantasy!
  • Abby Carnelia's one and only magical power by David Pogue. And another! I heard about this a while ago, but couldn't form an opinion based on the reviews I'd read, so I'm glad to try it myself.
  • Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. And another...
  • Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements. His new series! Been a while since I read a Clements....
  • Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maude by Frances Watts. A new beginning chapter book series from Eerdman's press, publishers of one of my favorite chapter book series, Alice by Tim Kennemore. And they had a Cybils notice stuck in Alice's Shooting Star! Cool!
  • Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole. Can't wait to read his first novel....
  • Crunch by Leslie Connor. I wasn't interested in Waiting for Normal, although we own it. I think our director actually ordered it. But this one really grabbed me, I shall have to go back and read Normal first...
  • Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Carman. This title is for distribution to other librarians, summer reading, etc....I'm not a Carman fan.
  • Making toast by Roger Rosenblatt. This is an adult title. I got it for our adult svs librarian.
  • Sorta like a rock star by Matthew Quick. Another one not for me, although I might skim it...
  • Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus and Nathaniel Fludd: Basilisk's Lair by R. L. LaFevers. Squees of excitement! I did a little happy dance right there in Houghton Mifflin's booth when they gave me these.
  • School! the adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School by Kate McMullan. Interesting beginning chapter book.
  • Abigail Iris the pet project by Lisa Glatt. Another beginning chapter book.
  • Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R. A. Spratt. I thought this was a picturebook, but it's not. Huh.
  • Wide-Awake Princess by E. D. Baker. How did I miss this? She's got a new Frog Princess book out now that I totally missed. Did I forget to add her to my Author Alerts?
  • Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs by Ursula Vernon. Woot!
  • Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. Not for me. Don't like apocalyptic stories or zombies or dystopias. Teen prize probably.
  • Strange case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. This could be either really bad or really good in a weird way. Glad to have a chance to check it out.
  • Tilting house by Tom Llewellyn. Compares to Bellairs and I am a Bellairs fan.
  • Celestial Globe by Marie Rutkoski. Squee!!!
  • Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Butler. This is an actual book, looks like a very nice beginning chapter book
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter. I was really surprised they had ARCs of this. I liked the first Gallagher Girls although I had some reservations, so I will read this before passing it on.
  • Thin Executioner by Darren Shan. This is definitely not for me.
  • Spells by Aprilynne Pike. Neither is this.
  • Not-so-great depression by Amy Koss. This is one my order list - Koss is very popular at my library - and I'm pleased to get a sneak peek
  • Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle. This isn't for me.
  • Fizzy Whiz Kid by Maiya Williams. This looks good.
  • Vampire High: sophomore year by Douglas Rees. This isn't for me
  • Prince of Mist by Carlos Zafon. Neither is this. They kinda threw it at me.
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Werewolves!
  • Something like fate by Susane Colasanti. Not for me. What? I don't read that much YA. And I need more ya books for summer reading giveaways.
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I'll try it.
  • Kiss by Jacqueline Wilson. Huh. Just realized this is YA. Whatever.
  • Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller. I thought she had written another Kiki Strike book! Sniff. I don't know whether I will get over the disappointment and read this - sounds like just another paranormal shtick.
  • Anxious hearts by Tucker Shaw. not for me
  • Honey Bees: Letters from the hive by Stephen Buchmann. I will probably pass this on, although I find it intriguing. Probably read it later when it comes out.
  • Gone by Lisa McMann. Not for me....
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate. I entertained my friend with impromptu readings and we were both in hysterics. I thought the dialogue was hilariously bad, the parts I skimmed. But it's recommended by P. C. Cast so....anyways, it's a signed hardback and will be a VERY popular prize with our teens....*reads in loud swoony voice* "Was she scared? Of course not. She was with Daniel. Finally. In his arms. The truer question pulling at the back of her mind was: Should she be scared?" *snicker*
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I've heard interesting reviews about this.
  • Doodlebug: My book in drawing and writing by Karen Young.
  • Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland. Adult book. Not for me
  • Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. Uh, they kinda threw this one at me. Whatever.
  • Voices of dragons by Carrie Vaughn. I kinda liked a couple of her books, will try this one.
  • Drizzle by Kathleen van Cleve. more middle grade fantasy. great cover.
  • Animal Tales: pup who cried wolf by Chris Kurtz. mmm, might be good.
  • So punk rock by Micol Ostow. not for me
  • Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck. Realized afterwards it's another hard-boiled detective book for kids. This genre makes no sense to me. Not for me
  • How to ruin your boyfriend's reputation by Simone Elkeles. We don't have enough Elkeles. This is a real book. Nice!
  • Black is for beginnings by Laurie Faria Stolarz. mmm, I didn't really like this graphic novel, but I think you gotta read her other books first.
  • Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater. In case you hadn't noticed, Flux was giving away free, real books!
  • Dragons of Darkness by Antonia Michaelis. too high fantasy for my taste
  • Palace beautiful by Sarah Williams. The premise is intruiging, but I don't like the cover.
  • Fire opal by Regina McBride. Not for me.
  • Attack of the fluffy bunnies by Andrea Beatty.
  • Dragon Ball the adventure begins. a little chapter book. summer reading prize.
  • Fat Vampire by Adam Rex. Score! I will read anything he writes, even in genres or with plots I wouldn't normally read.
  • Melonhead and the Big Stink by Katy Kelly. I am soooo happy to have this! I loooove Melonhead!!
  • Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler. Yeah, I've already ordered it for us, but I love the cover....
  • Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. I've been assured the cover's not final, which is good b/c it's very not poppping and I totally missed it the first time I went to Harpercollins!
  • Perchance to dream by Lisa Mantchev. Not for me b/c I haven't read the first one.
Miscellaneous other loot:
  • LibraryThing t-shirt. The one I got at the last ALA has become mysteriously stained. Possibly because I loved it so much I wore it pretty much every day for months.
  • Posters. Some I will hang up at the library, some I will share with other librarians, some I will put up at home.
  • I actually scored an ARC of Calamity Jack, but I gave it to my fantabulous friend, b/c it's actually arrived at our library, just not catalogued yet.
  • A couple N Take tote bags. These were real life savers b/c I used them after my duffle ripped - I put all the books in them and knotted the handles and stuck them into the duffle bag. And they're every bit as sturdy as the salesguy claimed!
  • Shark vs. Train magnets!
  • Penguin temp tattoo!
  • Various buttons, including Vladimir Tod
  • Lots of bookmarks and discussion guides
  • January/February Horn Book
  • other stuff which is probably in the pile on my desk but I'm going to bed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Night Lights by Susan Gal

Do we really need yet another bedtime book?

If it's Susan Gal's Night Lights, then yes, we do. The text is a simple list of lights at night; from streetlights to lightning, flashlights, fireflies, moonlight, and starlight. The illustrations are full of love and tender humor, as a little girl arrives home in the evening with her mother and enjoys the wonders of night lights.

I love the contrast between the sketchy, shadowy art and the bright patterns on the walls and furniture, although my favorite spread would be the marshmallow-stealing raccoons caught in a porch spotlight. Or maybe the cozy reading in bed scene with homage to Gene Zion.

Verdict: Delightful and perfect for winding down to bed with a young child or calming night-time fears.

ISBN: 0375858628; Published November 2009 by Knopf; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Sunday, January 17, 2010

ALA Midwinter: my notes, experiences, meanderings, and lots more detail than you probably want but I'm putting it in anyways

It occurs to me I should have borrowed my friend's computer and written up my ALA notes earlier, because I felt wonderful all weekend, even though my friend's roommates have a cat (which I am allergic to but it must have been a hypoallergenic cat b/c I had practically no reaction at all) and then when I finally got on the plane to come home, I thought "hmm. I am sick." and so I was. I don't know how that happened. Anyways. Here is my ALA adventure, minus the books which will come later.

  • I successfully navigated the Milwaukee airport and the Boston subway system, which is pretty cool, and arrived at my friend's apartment in Dorchester. Very cool top floor flat, like being in the Little Princess' attic! Much more comfortable, of course. I spent most of the afternoon wandering around Dorchester and doing a little knitting. Interesting town.
  • We both trooped off to ALA Friday evening and seized tons of book loot.
  • I met Melissa Walker! I thought I'd blogged about her fascinating and excellent book, Under the Snow, but I guessed I just raved about it to my colleague, Miss Pattie. Anyways, we have ordered a copy and I was delighted to discover she has a similar book about rain out now and a frog book coming soon!
  • Random fact: One of my friend's roommates works for Sarah Beth Durst! Is that not the ultimate in cool? She says she's very nice.
  • We went to a Cape Verde restaurant for dinner, which was definitely new to me but delicious.
  • The big one! Sarah (my other library Sarah friend - I have several) took me on the subway to the Boston Public Library....what can I say? My childhood dreams were shattered. When I was a teenager, I used to imagine working at the BPL. I picked out the branches that looked the best. I browsed their catalog. I later applied to Simmons, but it was too expensive and for many other reasons I ended up going to library school in Champaign/Urbana. Which was good. Anyways, back to the BPL. The entrance was grand and imposing, the reading/reference room was gorgeous (and oddly similar to the reference room at UIUC). The general library....was so sad. I was so disappointed, especially in the children's room. Books piled higgledy-piggledy on shelves and on top of each other, dingy, worn, and icky-looking, antiquated and humongous spine labels covering half the spine, the whole children's area was just so.....sad. The teen room was much nicer, probably because it's newer. It felt a lot shinier and there were a couple friendly librarians in there (not that the children's librarian wasn't friendly. she was.) and it looked like they had quite a few programs. I guess they are having budget shortages probably and don't have enough pages or money to replace books. And my friend said lots of the neighborhood branches are really nice. But it was a cherished dream....broken. Sniff.
  • So, to cheer me up, Sarah took me to find the ducks in the Boston Public Gardens. They still had their Christmas bows on and I got pictures of me and the ducks!
  • Then we zipped down to the conference and I got into the HarperCollins preview just in time. It wasn't really new to me, because I read Betsy Bird's account of the preview on Fuse 8 and I'd already spent a lot of time at the HarperCollins booth, but it was interesting to hear their take on the books and made me take a second look at some I had dismissed earlier.
  • More books
  • Delicious Thai food cooked by my friend's roommate.
  • I went with my friend and her fiancee and her roommates to church. It's a very interesting building, a converted old Bostonian house, where different churches and groups meet on each floor. Very friendly people.
  • Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch. My culinary experiences were widened quite a bit on this trip!
  • Now is when things start getting sticky. After much cogitation and consultation of the post office online, I decided it would be cheaper to pack all my books into my duffel bag and pay to check it, then shove the books that didn't fit and my pajamas into my smaller canvas bag as a carry-on. However, I knew it was supposed to rain/snow on Monday and didn't think I could manage to get it all on the train, to the conference center (where I had decided I simply had to go on Monday for reasons I will explain later) and back onto the train and to the airport. So, my solution was to take my duffel and poster tube down on the train, check them into the bag check overnight, then come back Monday morning, mail the tube, grab the things I needed, and lug everything to the airport.
  • Only one problem: my bag split on the way down there and the bag check didn't allow you to leave stuff overnight. What???
  • My amazing friend, who is, as her fiancee says, Always Right, actually drove downtown and picked me up. Sniff. She was so sweet. We patched my bag with packing tape and staples and watched the second half of Elizabeth Gaskell's the Return to Crandon on Masterpiece Theater which I had never heard of but found fascinating.
Monday: In which a carefully planned operation mostly works
  • So, I got up early and stuck my bags in Sarah's car. I then took the train down to the exhibition center and camped out in front of the doors for about half an hour until they opened, at which time I hurled myself towards the ABDO booth.....b/c I had been told on Saturday that they would be selling their massively excellent $20 library bound comics for $5!!! I achieved my goal and snatched the Scooby-Doo set....and they told me they weren't selling them until noon! Wail! Sad Puppy Dog Eyes! Sweet ABDO rep found another set to put on display and sold me the whole 8-volume set. Yay!
  • I mailed my poster tube. I hastily bought socks. Hey, they were stripey! I ran for the bus. I missed it. I waited. I got on the bus. It started. It stopped. The driver got out. The driver got in.
  • In the end, Sarah (with my luggage in her car) and I dead-heated each other to the airport and managed to hook up. I zipped up to the ticket counter, checked my taped and stapled bag, and the very nice lady said since I was intending to carry on my large canvas carry on I could check it for free (I never question falling out of the sky things like this) and....the flight was delayed.
  • and delayed
  • and delayed
  • I finally got back a couple hours late, missed the program I was supposed to be doing, but my aide did an excellent job of covering for me, and now I am home, as I said, somewhat sick, and digging into my book bags!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This week at the library; or, complaints and digressions

This was a very Alexanderish Monday. My internet at home is down and I spent almost an hour on the phone only to be told that everyone's internet is down (why couldn't they just put that on the hold message? srsly?) and my car ran out of window washer fluid (it's hard to fill up. trust me) and I DAMAGED A BOOK!! A library book! I'm in shock. And the copier went down, and my computer at work is soooooo slooooooow I can't even back it up and it takes forever to do anything and....
  • So, for my first tween favorites book club, I had one attendee. But this is very good! It was E, a girl who (along with the family who picks her up after school) has been coming to my family storytimes for over a year. She's getting a little old for this though, as she's almost 9, so I am very happy to see her "transition". This is what I want to encourage kids - and parents to do. Not stop coming to the library after they turn 3 and show up again when they're 65 for computer classes, as my colleague complained (-:). Plus, E's mom is a 3rd grade teacher and I gave her some brochures for her class. E and I chatted about books she had read (Junie B. Jones, Ellie McDoodle, Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Clementine) and I showed her some of the new stuff that just came in - she and her mom took our newest Lunch Lady and Rapunzel's Revenge. We also tested my crayon melting project for next week, which was good b/c I had somehow completely overlooked the fact that the easiest way to shave crayons is with a pencil sharpener....
  • This is turning out to be a very Alexanderish week. If catch those dratted boys who turned the computer screen upside down....
  • Started with a visit to the dentist. See what I mean?
  • Had our first Wednesday Gaming - Strategy Games this week! I had originally ordered a Risk and Castle Panic, only Castle Panic went out of stock as soon as I placed my order and Risk doesn't work well for a small group of mixed ages. So, on a Walmart trip to get misc. needed craft supplies, I got Parcheesi (hey, it's a classic!) and Stratego, which looked like a more interesting version of chess. We had 3 middle school/high school boys. They're our regular Wii players. They played Parcheesi for about an hour; I had to show them how to do it though! They don't make the classic game anymore, only a cheap version with corny plastic pieces. A younger boy came in later and joined in. My oldest attendee was interested in trying the Stratego (he's a chess player) but the other boys went off to use the computer and go home, so maybe we'll start with that one next time.
  • Lots of drama and stuff today, as our booksale started and we had some....patron issues.
  • I am sure Miss Pattie had lots of attendees at toddler storytime....
  • She also covered preschool storytime for me, since I was in Boston! Somehow people mysteriously know when she's coming and she gets big crowds. Or, possibly, she just talks the toddlers into staying....
ALA Midwinter and I finally get to go to Boston!
  • Thursday night I had, of course, obsessive punctuality jitters. I only fly about every three years, and I'm always worried about being late, or taking the wrong thing, or....sigh. If I wasn't constrained by time, I'd definitely go Greyhound always. No worries, if you miss your bus you take the next one, no security worries....
  • Friday morning I got up at 4:45, drank some milk, took a last forlorn look at the map, and took off. Besides my penchant for getting lost anywhere, anytime, regardless of how often I've been to a place before (and I've never been to the Milwaukee airport) I also have execrable night vision, so driving in the dark involves a white-knuckled grip on the wheel and a continuous stream of muttered prayers and multiple minor corrections as I try to follow the dimly glimpsed road.
  • The Milwaukee Airport turned out to have really good signs and I made it without getting lost once! I even found the super saver parking!
  • My ALA adventures coming soon!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I am Jack by Susanne Gervay

[I'm reposting this as I've gotten some more feedback. Scroll through to the end, if you're interested.]

Just so you know, this is going to be a very thorough summary (with spoilers) and a long review. With lots of question marks. Because I've been thinking about this book for quite a while and still can't decide what I think.

Jack is a normal eleven year old kid. He does ok in school and has a couple friends he hangs out with, he gets along ok with his younger sister Samantha. He's good friends with his neighbor Annie, even though they never acknowledge each other in school. He's not sure how he feels about his mom's boyfriend, Rob, but since his dad walked out on them years ago it's kind of nice to have another guy around. Jack likes photography, playing ball with is friends, and making jokes.

But sometimes his jokes get him into trouble.

Like the time he made fun of his friend Annie and she wouldn't talk to him for days, no matter how much he apologized. Or when he makes a joke at the expense of the big, dumb school bully, George. He knows George is going to come back and get him.....and he does. First it's just a few bad names. But suddenly the whole school is calling him names. His friends won't talk to him anymore. Every school day becomes a misery as he tries to avoid random shoves, name-calling, and worse.

Jack tries to ignore what's happening at school, but he feels sick whenever he thinks about it. His mom is too busy working long hours to listen to him and he doesn't think telling anybody will help. Sometimes he can forget what's happening when he spends a weekend at the beach with his family, or talks to Nanna. But it's getting worse and worse.

Finally, Annie decides it's too much. She's tried to make the girls stop teasing Jack, but it hasn't worked. She tells Jack's mom and Rob and her own parents. They're horrified and take action; they talk to the school principal and Jack's teacher Mr. Angelou and tell Jack he can leave school and start over somewhere else. But Mr. Angelou has another idea and it's up to Jack to decide if he's tough enough to go back to school and stick up for himself, reporting bullies to the teachers.

With the help of a photography competition, support from adults, and the return of his friends who were too scared to stand up for him, Jack goes back to school. The bullies still try to torment him, but he's not alone now and he and his old friends stand up for themselves.

Ok, so the good: The author does an excellent job of building Jack as a character. He has a family, interests, failures, and successes outside of school and his profile as a bullying victim. The story has a slow, gentle pace and although there are small hints we don't really see anything of his problems at school until midway through the book. It shows perfectly how things get out of hand until suddenly they're horrible; and nobody's quite sure how it happens.

What I'm not so sure about is the ending. The big, dumb bully seems very much like a stereotype. As Mr. Angelou helpfully shows Jack, George can barely write and is, well, stupid. He also has unspecified problems at home We're never told exactly what the anti-bullying campaign does, except for telling students to report every name calling to teachers and putting up posters belittling bullies, such as "What's the difference between the flu and a bully? The flu makes you sick. The bully is sick." Jack and his friends, near the end of the book, fight back against the bullies by....calling them names. Huh? how is this helping? Why can't the bullies report Jack to the teachers?

The message that bullying needs to be stopped, that victims should talk to adults is good. The "issue" of the story isn't emphasized to the loss of the characters and plot and kids who are suffering from bullying may be encouraged by this story to seek help. But the "happy ending" and the downfall of the bullies just feels like wishful thinking to me. The author's foreward says that both she and her son were both bullied. I wonder, is this an example of an actual anti-bullying program? Does it work?

This book was only recently published in the US, but has been hugely popular in Australia and is apparently used in anti-bullying campaigns and programs. I'd like to hear from teachers or school librarians who work with such campaigns in their schools - does this sound like something that would be helpful? It's not something I deal with much in the public library, other than a very firm policy on no name-calling - I've kicked out at least three kids for this after a warning and I've made it VERY clear that the library is a "safe" place. If you can't get along, you get separated or you leave. I'm interested in seeing the sequel, when it comes out in the US. Does Jack really win out over the bullying? How does his character develop? I'd also be interested in seeing a book from the bully's perspective. How does George feel about Jack? What's his life like? Does the anti-bullying campaign make any difference to him?

I'm hoping to pass this on to a couple other librarians and teachers and see what they think, hopefully I'll have some follow-up comments to post in the future.

S. from another small library near my library said: "I didn't like the disjointed, stream-of-consciousness style of writing. The mother's interference and the administration's capitulation to her demands felt too pat in the end. Jack wasn't a sympathetic character and his teasing his friend at the beginning bothered me. Mr. Angelou's about-face from uncaring teacher to concerned adult felt forced and unrealistic. I felt that Jack himself had bullying tendencies that weren't addressed and the sudden antagonism of every single other student was unrealistic."

Verdict: Undecided

ISBN: 978-1582462868; Published October 2009 by Tricycle Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A collection of picture books and some obsessive worrying

I'm cleaning out my stack of picture books from the library in an attempt to calm my pre-flight jittery nerves. Not working. No, in case you're wondering, I'm not scared of flying. I'm scared of:
  1. My alarm not going off and me oversleeping and missing my flight and then what will I do?
  2. Getting lost on the way there
  3. Getting lost finding the parking lot
  4. Figuring out how to check in. I only fly every couple years and everything is completely different each time.
  5. Being late and missing my flight.
  • Hooray for Fall by Kazuo Iwamura. This is one of a series of season books featuring a cheerful family of squirrels. Each one has a funny motif - in spring, it's what birds eat, in winter it's being cold, in fall it's changing colors. Sweet and funny.
  • Tiger who came to tea by Judith Kerr. Now this is a classic. Vivid colors and a delightfully silly but logical story of a hungry tiger.
  • Cool Cat by Nonny Hogrogian. Lovely wordless story of a cat creating a lush, living landscape out of the barren earth.
  • In my dreams I can fly by Eveline Hasler and Kathi Bhend. Odd story of a worms, a caterpillar and a grub underground during the winter. Somewhat charming pictures, but a confusing - or innovative - plot. I'm not sure which.
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri, illustrated by Maja Dusikova. The illustrations are lovely, soft pastoral landscapes. There's no info. on who abridged the story, but I found it choppy. It's hard to squash a fairly lengthy novel into a picturebook.
  • Gumdrop: the adventures of a vintage car by Val Biro. An Australian friend recommended this to me. Charming, with vintage illustrations that are still bright and attractive. Lots of details of the car which would definitely catch the eye of machine-minded children.
Still jittery....I am going to try to get some sleep you'll hear from me on Monday!
Unless I oversleep and get lost and miss my flight and never get there at all!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker

I've ordered the first Missile Mouse for our juvenile graphic novel collection, but couldn't wait to read it anymore, so borrowed a copy from another library to preview it!

Missile Mouse is an agent of the GSA - Galactic Security Agency. He's courageous, fast, and tough. But maybe not so smart...when his last mission ends in disaster, he's saddled with a newbie agent to keep an eye on him. Together, they're sent out on a dangerous mission. If they fail, the galaxy is doomed!

Along the way, Missile Mouse will have to battle weird space creatures, crooks, betrayals, and his own past to save the galaxy yet again.

This story has all the classic sci-fi comic elements, strange creatures, an evil organization trying to take over the galaxy, tough loner who wants to fight it out alone, and even an eager apprentice. But Jake Parker throws in some plot twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes and Missile Mouse's past makes him a sympathetic and more dimensional character.

The's my favorite part! Clean lines, glorious color, crisp, snappy action, hilariously imagined baddies, even funnier good guys.....I mean, Missile Mouse is....a mouse. With huge ears! The bad guys are....sharks. *snicker*

Verdict: This is definitely going to be veeeery popular at my library and the kids will be clamoring for the next book in the series! Get drawing, Mr. Parker!

ISBN: 978-0545117142; Published January 2010 by Graphix; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking forward to my first ALA Midwinter!

I went to my first ALA last summer (just the exhibits). Now I am going to my first ALA Midwinter (just the exhibits). Hey, that's the good part, right? Plus, my budget just doesn't cover the actual conferencey part. This is partly a trip for the coolness of ALA, partly b/c I have always wanted to go to Boston, and partly to see some old friends, who are kindly letting me camp out at their place for a couple days. Otherwise my Boston dream would have to wait....oh, say 8 years into the future when I'd paid my student loans. Things I am hoping to do and see and get:
  • A visit to the Boston Public Library. It was one of the places I dreamed of working at when I was a teen. Although I decided a big system wasn't for me (and sheesh, who can afford to live in Boston?) I still am very excited to see it!
  • A visit to Terri Schmitz's book store, The Children's Book Shop. I read her articles in the Horn Book when I was a teen and decided we were kindred spirits. I am secretly hoping to see her in person! Maybe have her sign something....I tried to find a copy of the issue with my favorite of her articles "Safety in Numbers" but no luck.
  • Lots of snazzy new posters. The ones I collected at ALA this summer are looking kinda dingy or kids have ripped them as they strolled by. I learned from last year and am taking a poster tube.
  • I am hoping to snag an ARC of Dawn Lairamore's Ivy's Ever After. Sounds like a great debut fantasy but it's hard to tell just from publisher's descriptions....I want an ARC b/c, after I have reviewed it, it would make a perfect prize for a program I'm planning.
Other than that, I am just going to let things happen! (hopefully not things like getting lost when I drive to the airport at 4am, or when taking the Boston public transport to my friend's house, or....yeah, I get lost a lot)

Monday, January 11, 2010

All the world by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

When I first started seeing reviews for this, I was thinking, Marla Frazee, what have you DONE? Kids don't like inspirational goop, it's just for the parents. We need picture books with solid PLOTS! I've already been suckered into buying All in a Day (hey, it was Cynthia Rylant! My director wanted it! It's boooooring!)

So I x'ed this off my order list. is Marla Frazee, so I thought I'd better borrow it and take a look.

Oh, Marla Frazee how could I ever have doubted you! You picked a lovely writer to illustrate and a story I can proudly hand out to parents and kids. The simple text marches through a day from a visit to the beach, farmer's market, playing by the lake, storm, dinner at a family restaurant, family evening at home, and bed. The text has a peaceful chant, perfect for bedtime stories or family repetition on a long drive.

And, of course, Marla Frazee perfectly complements the text, putting together the simple words into a story and capturing every aspect of the world in the glowing colors of the earth and sky.

Verdict: Utterly satisfying, highly recommended

ISBN: 978-1416985808; Published September 2009 by Beach Lane Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Ames by Kelly Easton, illustrated by Greg Swearingen

I added this book to my reading list after seeing Book Aunt's delightful review. Of course, it then sat on my shelf, and was renewed, and sat on my shelf, and was renewed, until somebody put a hold on it and I gulped it down last night!

In a Dahlesqian world, Liberty Aimes is a miserable Cinderella, cooking huge piles of fried foods for her monstrous mother and trying to stay away from her nasty and evil father, Sal. But one day a series of events inspire her to break the rules and try something new and scary and she manages to live up to her name for the first time in her unhappy life. She'll encounter magical potions, mutated animals, sweet-talking villains, and more before she finally finds her happy ending.

Verdict: With villains of Dahlesquian proportions, editorial asides a la Snicket, and a suprise around every corner, kids who like realistic fantasy with a wacky flavor will love this story. Pair this with Suzanne Selfors' Fortune's Magic Farm and pass out to fans of Dahl and Snicket!

ISBN: 978-0375837715; Published June 2009 by Wendy Lamb; Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nighttrap by Tom Becker

This is the third in the Darkside series, tales of an alternate London: Jack Ripper's London, where all the worst of the 19th century survive.

Nighttrap takes place mostly in Lightside, the "real" London, where Jonathan Starling is on a race against time to save his friend, Miss Elwood. Every chapter is a cliffhanger and there's enough edge-of-your-seat adventure to satisfy even the most hardened adrenalin junkie. Laced with horror, stirred with adventure, and sprinkled with secrets, this is a satisfying addition to the series. I had to find it through inter-library loan and I'm still waiting on the fourth, which i'm not sure has been published in the US yet.

Verdict: If you can find it, definitely worth adding to your collection

ISBN: 978-1407102870; Published June 2008 by Scholastic; Borrowed from the library

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Top Ten Chapter Books

Betsy Bird, over at Fuse 8, is doing a 100 best chapter books poll! Yay! Here are my choices. Mind, I don't necessarily think these are THE top ten of all time, or even my top ten favorites or whatever. They're just sort of the top ten that I found browsing my personal library shelves and skimming from the top of my mind. Yes, I am one of those people who detests the infamous, "what is your favorite book?" question.

  1. The River at Green Knowe by L. M. Boston. Although this is not the most critically recognized of the Green Knowe books, I place it at the top of Boston's works for its sense of wonder and exploration and the growth and magical independence of the characters. (and wherefore am I qualified to speak on this? well, I spent most of my four-year degree in English literature studying L. M. Boston's works, finishing up with an Honors thesis on said topic. For whatever it's worth...)
  2. Look Through My Window by Jean Little. This is the first of Jean Little's books I read and will always be my most beloved. Her story of friendship, poetry, and family shines with warmth, exuberant humor, and beauty.
  3. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. The first in Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest chronicles, this classic fantasy stands fairy tale conventions and stereotypes on their heads while producing an exciting, hilarious, and delightful story. The original Trina Schart Hyman covers add extra points!
  4. Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue by Astrid Lindgren. Astrid Lindgren took a variety of classic genres in children's literature and added her own subversive flavor while maintaining the appeal and structure of the story. Bill Bergson works within the frame of the juvenile detective story with humor, adventure, and realism. (Why, yes, I wrote some papers on Scandinavian children's literature too. How could you tell?)
  5. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I love this story best of all the Oz stories, from Dorothy's plucky common sense to the first appearance of Tik-Tok the Clockwork Man, the story is full of the logic, magic, and sly humor that characterizes the first truly American fairy tale genre.
  6. Serial Garden by Joan Aiken. I think this is the best of the various Joan Aiken short story collections and I'm so thrilled it made the finals for the Cybils this year!
  7. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. There are lots of "classics" I could add to this list, but I think this one is the one most likely to continue to survive and appeal to children. I own the Ernest Shepherd edition as well as the Michael Hague, but I grew up with the Hague so it is my favorite.
  8. Cricket Winter by Felice Holman. I love this story as much for its lyrical writing and layered themes as much as I do for it being the first book for which I wrote a "real" critical review. I wasn't able to find the original cover, but this one is nice too. Here's Part I, Part II, and Part III of my original review!
  9. Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones. Yes, I know it's a sequel. But this has been my favorite of Jones' work since I first discovered her. The hilarious mix of school story conventions, magical philosophy, and romantic friendships is delightful. I admit there are some similarities to be drawn between it and Enchanted Forest, but I love them both very much and we need more funny fantasy!
  10. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. This is a new favorite for me, discovered only a few years ago. Presumably most Australian kids know this famous food-focused classic.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bad News for Outlaws: The remarkable life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

There's a discussion going on about "race, publishing and Cybils". One of the things mentioned was that all the Cybils nonfiction finalists featuring African-Americans were about slavery and/or civil rights. I'm sort of paraphrasing, go look at the discussion yourself for all the ins and outs.

Anyways. This is something that's driven me nuts - I have a small, fairly homogenous community, a small library, and a small budget, but I do want diversity in my collection so kids can learn about other races and cultures. But there's a limit to how many books about the same topic I can - or will - buy, no matter how good. For example, I don't care how many awards/reviews/stars it's gotten, I absolutely refuse to buy one more book about African-Americans and jazz. Enough is enough. So.....I was very excited when this book I had heard about popped up from another library in our consortium.

Bad News for Outlaws is a rip-roarin', excitin' tale of the Wild West - and it's all true! The story of the amazing, bigger than life Bass Reeves is a tale of amazing feats and courage. The author has written it with a Western twang and flavor and included plenty of background information and further resources. I am definitely marking this to nominate for Cybils next year!

Verdict: Highly recommended!

ISBN: 978-0822567646; Published November 2009 by Carolrhoda Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, January 1, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Usually, I do my YA collection development with a mixture of reviews, blogs, patron requests, and publisher's catalogs. Occasionally, I'll take a stack of books and skim through them for highlights. Sometimes, I'll take some ya books home, skim through them, take them back to the library. I'm just not a YA person, excepting the occasional fantasy.

I took Into the Wild Nerd Yonder home to skim quite a while ago. Being in the throes of clearing out my crammed library book shelf, I scooped it up to skim. I skimmed. I went back to the beginning and read it cover to cover. I went back and read my favorite parts aloud to my sister, who is spending the weekend with me (we are having a wild party here, including chinese food, walks in the freezing snow, movies and books, and a trip to the zoo in the offing. we socialites are hard to keep up with).

Jessie is getting ready for the first day of her sophomore year. In the past, she's had two best friends, Char and Bizzie, who aren't the super popular girls but they are the super cool girls. She and her friends have spent the summer hanging out with her brother Barrett's punk band friends at Denny's, even though Jessie secretly would have preferred to spend the summer dreaming and sewing her collection of novelty-fabric skirts. Jessie arrives at school the first day....and discovers that her friends have decided to Go Punk and suddenly her long-time crush from her brother's band is paying attention to her. She doesn't really want to like him, she knows he's not a Nice Person, but....and then things....happen. Jessie decides it's time to find new friends and a new clique. But does she really want to hang out with the nerds?

Jessie's voice is perfect. Wanting to fit in and be cool, but hating herself for caring. Feeling invisible and talentless, but mad that people don't recognize the things she can do. This is a witty, funny, sometimes sad, excellently crafted look at labels, growing up, and friendship.

Other things I loved about this story were Jessie's sewing, her relationship with her family (especially her brother), her growing discovery that people can't be dumped into categories, little bits of romance but not too much, and the hilarious renfaire ending.

The story is about older high school students and does involve references to sex and some bad language, but nothing gratuitous. In other words, if you're a high school student you've heard worse.

Verdict: I loved this story and highly recommend it.

ISBN: 0312382529; Published September 2009 by Feiwel and Friends; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library