Saturday, February 27, 2010

Miscellaneous Chatter

Yeah, I'm catching up on my reviews, in case you hadn't noticed. Last week was kinda busy. My computer was chomped by a virus, we installed a new computer system at work, ripped up the storyroom, and our adult services librarian went on maternity leave. Plus other stuff. So, a fun week all around!

So, um, that's me in Boston with the ducks. I hate pictures of myself, but it's the Boston ducks!! and I said I would post it, so I have.

I refreshed myself with a visit to the zoo this morning and now I am ready to post like crazy my shelf of review books, which I have already gotten a start on as you can see in my earlier reviews....

March is looking to be even crazier as we get used to our new software; so far I'm doing a presentation at the high school, cub scout visit (swore I'd never do another one, but what can I say? I'm dedicated), family resource fair (just attending, not in charge, thank goodness), and Olivia party for three year olds, which I haven't planned ANYTHING for yet! Plus my regular 5 programs a week and ending with Spring Break programming. Phew! Enjoy the posting while it lasts....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Passing by by Yona Tepper; Andy and Sam by Liesbet Slegers

I have two seek and find, or interactive picture books to present to you today!
First, Yona Tepper's Passing By. A little girl stands on her city balcony and watches the busy life of the city as people, animals, and vehicles come and go.
On the down side, the text in this picture book is very uneven, choppy, and flat "Who made that noise? Who honked its horn, 'beep beep?' It's the red car. It honked its horn and then it drove away." Reminiscent of Dick and Jane, isn't it? The pattern of questions varies on each page, making the text even more confusing. It's hard to tell if this is just poorly written or a bad translation - Hebrew is not an easy language to translate into English, in my limited experience. I wasn't able to find any other picture books by the translator, Dr. Deborah Duthman, to compare.

BUT before you cross this off your order list, there is good news! The reason why I am happy to add this to my collection, why I would recommend it, and why the text isn't actually "bad" that it is a perfect story for toddlers and preschoolers! If you think of the text as a list of suggestions for interactive questions, it makes much more sense. The illustrations are chunky and full of life and color and children will love looking for the different things passing by in each spread. I suggest skimming through the text before storytime to get an idea of questions to ask and then doing this book freestyle! If you'd like to try reading wordless books in storytime but are nervous about getting started, this story will give you a good idea of how to involve children in "reading" a wordless picture book.

Verdict: Recommended!

Passing By by Yona Tepper, illustrated by Gil-Ly Alon Curiel, translated by Dr. Deborah Guthman.
ISBN: 978-1935279365; Published January 2010 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

Next, we have an import from the Netherlands, a delightful seek and find picture book. We all know how much kids love searching for things in stories! Think I Spy and Where's Waldo....this is perfect for the younger crowd who aren't quite ready for the more intricate seek and find books but are tired of board books. Each colorful spread gives the reader an opportunity to find Andy's cat, Sam, and then offers a list of questions that include counting, finding colors, comparisons, and more! There is a collection of the various spreads at the back with colored dots on the different objects, if you really, really can't find something! Another nice thing about this book is the wide variety of objects and difficulty level, so the book can be enjoyed by toddlers through kindergarteners. This is a perfect book for one on one enjoyment or to absorb a bored child for a long, long time. This book is giving off series vibes to me and I hope to see more Andy and Sam books!

Verdict: Highly recommended!

Andy and Sam: Hide-and-Seek by Liesbet Slegers.
ISBN: 978-1935279358; Published January 2010 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hidden Boy by Jon Berkeley

The writing was so amazing I didn't realize until I'd finished the story that the plot had major holes in it.

That pretty much sums up my feelings about this whole story. The reader is plunged into the middle of a crazy world without any preparation, as the Flints are whisked away on a mysterious adventure, leaving behind their home to be attacked by the "Gummint". On the way to their adventure, Bea's little brother Theo disappears and she must learn the mystical Mumbo Jumbo to save him.

The writing is wonderful and beautiful and the characters are entrancing, but the plot is bewildering. I suppose parts of it, like the Gummint, will be explained in future volumes (it's a serious, of course) but other parts of it, like what happened to Mrs. Ledbetter, seem to need more explanation. Doesn't Bea have any issues dealing with what she did? It seems unreasonable that everyone just accepts it and everything fits together perfectly at the end. Besides, the whole mystical magical powers thing seems rather cliched.

But....the writing was gorgeous and I couldn't put it down.

Verdict: Read it and make up your own mind?

ISBN: 978-0061687587; Published February 2010 by Katharine Tegen Books; Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wishing for tomorrow by Hilary McKay

A sequel to Little Princess? Oh, the horror! Is nothing sacred? Ah, but's Hilary McKay! Welllll, maybe we will read it. If at least one other person thinks it is safe. Ah, my trusted bloggy friend, Charlotte's Library, has given it her stamp of approval.

So I read it. Now I want it too, to read over and over...the key word to describe this story is satisfying. We always wanted to know what happened to the miserable, unhappy girls, left behind in the miserable, unhappy school, with two miserable, unhappy women. True, Burnett says that Miss Amelia is a little more self-assertive. But really, does one want Miss Amelia in charge of anything? I think not.

Hilary McKay gently fills in the background of characters Ermengarde, Lavinia and Lottie. Not only do we come to understand them better, we see them grow and change as they discover a world outside Miss Minchin's rule. McKay's attempt to humanize Miss Minchin is less successful and she becomes something of a dark shadow, hovering in the background. Pitiful, yet still frightening. One wonders how Ermengarde and Lottie will fare with the alcoholic and possibley mentally disturbed Miss Minchin when Lavinia has achieved her goal of Oxford. The final dramatic catastrophe is a little over the top, and yet fits perfectly in the theme of release as the students and teachers escape into a happier life.

Verdict: For anyone who wanted to know what happened next....

ISBN: 978-1442401693; Published January 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kat & Mouse (series) by Alex de Campi

I don't remember where I discovered Alex de Campi's Kat & Mouse, but I eagerly devoured the first three volumes after borrowing them from other libraries. And then....nothing. I couldn't find the 4th volume anywhere! So....I bought all four for my library. I thought kids would enjoy the first three as much as I did and crossed my fingers that the fourth would be good.

In the first story, Kat has just moved from the Midwest to the East Coast. Her dad is the new science teacher at an exclusive private school and she's excited about meeting new friends and starting a new school. Unfortunately, the new kids aren't as happy about meeting her. She quickly falls to the bottom of the school dog pile and only makes one friend; Mouse. In addition, someone is blackmailing her dad! Can Kat & Mouse solve the mystery?

The second story is almost all mystery, involving a stolen painting and Mouse's crush on a new teacher.

The third story moves back to friendship and school as Kat and Mouse try to decide what to wear and whether or not they even want to go to the school dance. When they do, several awful things happen.

The fourth story, which I carried home in my hot little hands last night, tidily zips up all the plot lines. But I'm still not satisfied. I want more! Also, the last book felt a little rushed and there were a few things that didn't make any sense to me. For one, what does he mean by "I'm going to divorce my parents"? Running away? Emancipation of a Minor? But I'm still very happy to find out what happened in general.

If you dig around online a little, you'll discover that Alex de Campi originally intended these to be much longer, more teen-focused stories, as well as having many more of them. Here's hoping more will show up some day!

I had a long discussion with myself of where to put these graphic novel "readers". On the one hand, the general plot and artwork does seem to fit into Tokyopop's given 8-12 age range. On the other hand, some of the bullying and plot lines seem a little old for 8 year olds, although there's no romance other than a crush on a teacher. I'd personally recommend them for 11 - 13. So I guess they're going into juvenile and we'll see.

Verdict: These have checked out, not amazingly so, but enough that I'm happy I purchased them. Sadly, they are not really in print. I don't think. They have a weird publishing history.

Kat & Mouse vol. 1 Teacher Torture
ISBN: 978-1598165487; Published July 2006 by Tokyopop (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Kat & Mouse vol. 2 Tripped
ISBN: 978-1598165494; Published January 2007 by Tokyopop (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Kat & Mouse vol. 3 The Ice Storm
ISBN: 978-1598165500; Published September 2007 by Tokyopop (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Kat & Mouse vol. 4 The Knave of Diamonds
ISBN: 978-1427811752; Published September 2009 by Tokyopop (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Whaling season: A year in the life of an Arctic whale scientist by Peter Lourie

I have been waiting with thinly-veiled impatience for the newest Scientists in the Field book to arrive in my library system. It's finally here!

This is not just the story of an Arctic whale scientist (who just happens to be Jean Craighead George's son) it's also the story of the Inuit people who live in Barrow, Alaska, and whose lives revolve around the bowhead whales.

Peter Lourie details the everyday life of the Inuit and of John Craighead George's life as a whale scientist. We learn about the life cycle of a bowhead whale and how Inuit culture and economics are centered on these huge and fascinating creatures. We learn how "Craig" became a scientist and how he came to study whales in Alaska; a job he's been doing for twenty years. We even discover something of the way whales were studied in the past and how scientists now listen to the native peoples' insights and knowledge of the whales, built over centuries of hunting and living with these giant creatures.

And for reluctant readers, I have only one final thing to say: bloody whale eyeball the size of a softball. What more do you need?

Verdict: Highly recommended

ISBN: 978-0618777099; Published November 2009 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophia is a witch - and she's not very good at hiding it. Somehow, no matter how much she tries, something always seems to go wrong....and finally, something goes very wrong indeed and she finds herself sentenced to a reformatory for supernatural creatures. Hex Hall is a miserable, gothic ruin and Sophia is not happy about being there, especially when she makes enemies of the most powerful witches and finds out she's rooming with the school outcast. Not to mention someone is killing students....

I scooped this ARC up at ALA rather on a whim, when I was in my "collecting paranormal ARCs for summer reading prizes" mode. But the description sounded kind of interesting, so I gave it a chance. I liked it! There was some romance, but it wasn't the main focus of the story. There was some mystery, but no searching for clues and the mystery is "solved" rather suddenly at the end. The main focus of the story is Sophie's growth as a person as she gains confidence in her powers and learns that she has a dark side and will have to decide how to deal with it. Of course, there is plenty of action and excitement - and humor! The exhibitor said it was funny and snarky, and she was right! Very funny, very snarky. Sophie isn't too polished and urbane to be believable, but she has a witty remark when she needs one.

The only thing I'm really grumped about is the cover - the ARC has a rather bland white cover with the title in a fancy black font. I just checked out what appears to be the final cover on the book on Amazon and...first of all, why the cat?? Sophie says specifically at the beginning of the book that she's allergic to cats and doesn't have one. The ghost is supposed to be wearing a green sweater over a flowered dress, not a green dress. And both models look older than 15 or 16.

Oh, and it's a series. More series? Moan.

Verdict: So, I liked it but I'm not sure about whether the cover will appeal or not, plus I have soooo many paranormal books on my list I really want to begin another series? I'm putting it on the "see how much money I have at the end of the year or maybe wait for the paperback" part of my order list. Hey, I'm organized!

ISBN: 978-1423121305; Published March 2010 by Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher at ALA

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Muppet comics

Muppet Peter Pan by Grace Randolph and Amy Mebberson

As a fairly new but dedicated fan of Boom! Studios (why did I never hear about these people until last December?) I have been happily aquiring some of their children's comics for the library. Two of our newest aquisitions are Muppet Peter Pan and The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson.

Muppet Peter Pan is part of a series that retells classic stories and legends with the Muppets. We already own Muppet Robin Hood and it's quite popular. Not as popular as, oh, say Star Wars comics, but you can't have everything. Peter Pan is a little more introspective, with Kermit as the selfish Peter Pan who refuses to leave his dream world. I adored Miss Piggy as Piggytink and the storyline of Janice was excellently woven into the plot. This won't be as popular as some of the other Muppet comics, but still lots of fun.

ISBN: 978-1608865314; Published March 2010 by Boom!; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson by Roger Langridge

The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson is part of the Muppet comic series which sets new stories in the classic Muppet theatre background. There are spots of the usual Muppet features, like Pigs in Space as well as several minor and funny plot lines in the background. Finally, there is the backstage drama of Peg Leg Wilson and the rats' desperate efforts to discover his secret treasure. You really have to have at least a general familiarity with The Muppet Show to follow the story, but fortunately we have quite a few Muppet movies, so no excuses anyone!

ISBN: 1608865304; Published February 2010 by Boom! (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Verdict: These will be most popular in a library with lots of Muppet fans, but some booktalking will convince even non-fans to try them out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, retold by Eric Shanower, art by Skottie Young

I finally got a copy of this to look at through ILL and I am definitely buying it for our library! Our ancient but beloved Oz books still check out, so there will be interest. I consider Eric Shanower to be the only contemporary truly "Ozzy" author and so I am not surprised that his retelling perfectly captures the flavor of the original story and keeps all the best bits! The art recreates the creepy and weirdly logical world of Baum (although I found the Scarecrow's eyes a bit over the top freaky) without being flavored by the movie. I can't wait for the next adaptation!

Verdict: If you have Oz fans, go for it - if you don't, this is likely to make some!

ISBN: 978-0785129219; Published September 2009 by Marvel; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Joel Stewart

This story has been recommended to me by several sources (sorry, I've forgotten what they were). A beloved red teddy, owned by a cheese-loving little girl, has been lost. Unlike the sad and depressed other lost things, Red Ted is determined to find his beloved Stevie again and takes a few friends along with him. Together, they brave dangers and explore the outside world until there is a joyous reunion for Red Ted and Stevie, a new home for Crocodile and cheese for the singing cat.

This graphic novel picture book is presented in panels and dialogue, although most panels are wordless. It's best suited for one-on-one reading, but I'm going to read it in storytime anyways, because I want to sing the cat's little song! The panels are in soft, washed-out colors, while the characters stand out brightly, which I think will make it easier for storytime listeners to follow the action.

Verdict: Recommended. A sweet story with intriguing illustrations

ISBN: 978-0763645373; Published November 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Spies of the Mississippi: The true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers

Most of the Civil Rights Movement books I've read are ultimately up-beat in tone. They are, of course, children's books. The specific struggles they address were ultimately won; the Montgomery bus boycott, the removal of segregation. They focus on the courageous people who struggled for freedom and equality.

This book is different. Reading Spies of the Mississippi makes the reader wonder how the Civil Rights movement ever won. How a large group of people, often uneducated, mostly poor, and downtrodden all their lives managed to defeat the government.

The government? Yep. This is the story of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and how, using both white and black informants, detectives, massive government funding, and terrorists, it attempted to maintain the status quo: blacks beneath, whites above.

This is not a pretty story. It's not a simple one either. Paper trails, complex political maneuvering, financial corruption, it's all here.

Verdict: The book is text heavy with only a few historical photos and extensive documentation and resources at the end. It's not a casual read for a child interested in history. But it's a great resource for students studying the Civil Rights Movement and for middle school and high school students interested in this time period. The author throws in as much drama as possible to hold his readers' interest, so adults may find some of the language a little over the top, but the convoluted and dark story is fascinating on its own.

ISBN: 978-1426305955; Published January 2010 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snipesville Chronicles: Don't know where, don't know when by Annette Laing

Sometimes, I just can't make up my mind about a book. Like Selene Castrovilla's historical picturebooks, which I loved but wasn't sure would circulate well - they have! or Gervay's I am Jack; I felt lukewarm about it, a neighboring librarian strongly disliked it, and it's currently meandering around our school district. By the law of averages, someone there will love it.

So, the first book in the Snipesville Chronicles by Annette Laing, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When. Three modern children travel back in time to World War II. They have to find a missing child before they can return to their own time.

The good: detailed, engrossing, realistic view of life in England during World War II. Many of the historical fiction books I've read emphasize the "they're just like you only wearing different clothes" school of historical thought (a certain large doll company springs to mind) but this book did an excellent job conveying the different mindsets, social conventions, and culture that existed less than a hundred years ago.

The characters had realistic reactions to their confusing surroundings and didn't just happily adapt to a completely different time and place as many time traveling culture-shock immune characters seem to do. While there were many aspects of the children's characters which weren't likable, their flaws fit into the story.

However, I felt confused by the different threads of the plot and the Professor's character, especially at the beginning, was too Snicketish for my taste. The story seemed to drag for a while before there was any action and I felt like the plot was too lengthy and could have been tightened.

But. Obviously, a lot of kids like Snicket! And the beginning may draw them in. If they're interested in historical fiction, history, and daily life, they may be fascinated by the minutia. As I said before, the historical aspect of the book is excellent. I would have liked to see some further resources or maybe a bibliography, but how many kids really look at those?

Verdict: So, as I said, this is going to be one where I reserve judgement. I'll see how it circs and what responses I get from our library patrons and repost in a few months! [Update: A few kids checked it out, but it didn't get much interest]

ISBN: 978-0979476945; Published August 2007 by Confusion Press; Review copy provided by the author

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ha! I win!

My "I've only read 3 books in my life" kid was back again today....obviously, Alex Rider didn't work for him. Too long. He spends almost every afternoon here - mostly sleeping. "You can't sleep here" I told him firmly. "I'm bored!" he said. "Read a book. There are thousands of books around you." "Reading makes my head hurt." "I will find you a book that does not make your head hurt."

Indiana Jones comics? No.

Josh Elder's Mail Order Ninja. No.

I had to go to storytime. I stuck my head out again....and he was reading Mail Order Ninja.

We all win!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Muppet Robin Hood by Tim Beedle, etc.

I've been hearing some really good things about Boom! Studio's comics and they looked good at ALA so I was very excited when the first one I bought was catalogued and I could take it home to enjoy!

I wondered if Muppet Robin Hood would be a straightforward retelling of the legend with muppets as the actors.

Of course, it is not. It is a hilarious, insane, completely Muppet-ish approach to the story, which pretty much disappears after the first page.

Spoilers of much hilarity follow:

Robin decides he misses home and leaves the crusades. He arrives home at the Locksley family swamp, only to discover it has been turned in a miniature golf course. All over England, Prince John is creating horrible attractions and charging outrageous sums. Robin joins a band of outlaws, who previously joined a medieval hippie living in the woods and try to do some of the robbing the rich to feed the poor thing. Meanwhile, Prince John's fool is tricked into spying on Robin's band as a friar, Maid Marian wants Prince John ousted so they can have some decent parties, and King Richard's band *snicker* is having trouble at their gigs.

The story is full of these and many other outrageous characters and plot twists, as well as the characteristic Muppet ability to blend the conventions of the story and the real world around it. I am eager to see if we have enough Muppet fans to appreciate these comics. Other than a couple typos, which I guess are standard in any comic, the style is very readable. The art is sometimes a little squashed, but generally good. By squashed, I mean, sometimes Kermit looks too tall. Hey, I watch the complete Muppet show almost every Christmas. I know what Kermit is supposed to look like!

Verdict: A great purchase if you have lots of Muppet fans. Otherwise, buy it for yourself. You know you want it.

ISBN: 978-1934506790; Published November 2009 by Boom!; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Random Library Tip

To remove melted crayon from scissors, knives, and other surfaces: Boil water. Dip the item in quickly. Wipe off with paper towel. It works!

More a collection development musing than a review

So, I just read Neil Gaiman/P. Craig Russell's The Dream Hunters. As I have said before, I am wary of Neil Gaiman, although I've liked everything of his I've read after that first traumatic experience. And I like P. Craig Russell's foxes. I feel like I've seen his foxes somewhere, can't remember where....Anyways, in common with many people, I liked Dream Hunters. The question is, should I get it for the library?

One of the first requests I got when I came here two years ago was "it's horrible that you don't have any Sandman!" Upon investigation, we actually did have a few Sandman hidden in the adult nonfiction and after some thought, I moved them to the YA graphic novels. Ok. One year later, we got a complaint from a guy whose 15 year old daughter had checked them out. He had kindly put post-it notes marking all the...unclothed body parts. Didn't want to file a formal challenge, just wanted us to know or something. I dunno.

If we had an adult graphic novel collection, I'd put Sandman in there, because I feel it's more an adult book, although certainly there are many teen fans. But right now most adults go to our teen collection for graphic novels, because teen and adult are in there (except for REALLY adult stuff, like LOEG). But....Sandman doesn't really check out that much. Maybe if we had the whole collection?

Dream Hunters has got a lot of "unclothed body parts", although not much more than any regular Sandman. But as Sandman doesn't seem to be really popular....then again, I seem to have a growing group of manga fans, so the Japanese angle might attract them. On the other hand, they're manga fans, not Japanese culture fans.

Sigh. I think I will go back to tabulating the number of vampire novels I am buying and wondering "why?"

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah Campbell, photographs by Sarah and Richard Campbell

Quick! Name me a book that:

is nonfiction
is a great read-aloud for preschool through 2nd grade
is all about science
has amazing photographs
and is also an easy reader.

Stumped? Well, until now there was really only one book I've found that fit the description: Sarah & Richard Campbell's Wolfsnail. Imagine my delight when I opened my mail a few weeks ago and discovered that this team has done it again. This time, they've created a book that explains Fibonacci numbers in nature.

I am not a math person (well, except algebra and chemistry, but that was just b/c I like formulas). Somehow, I totally missed the Fibonacci numbers when I was studying math and never quite figured out what they were. Now I know.

This book uses exquisite photographs and perfectly chosen text to explain the concept of patterns in nature, specifically Fibonacci numbers, in such a way that even a kindergartener can understand. Hey, I bet I could read this to PRESCHOOLERS and they would get it!

There's not too much text, it's simple enough for an easy reader; but each word is obviously perfectly chosen to explain a mathematical concept for any reader.

Verdict: This is going on my order list, into my summer reading promotions bag, and onto the list of school visit books I keep. Librarians and teachers, check this one out ASAP!

ISBN: 978-1590787526; Published March 2010 by Boyds Mills; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting Lost in Waukesha: The Full Saga

You've been waiting for this, right? Well, you're getting it anyways. So. Last Friday I attended a Summer Reading Program workshop in the vicinity of Waukesha. The way local conferences work is this: I drive (b/c Sara The Librarian hates to drive) and she navigates (b/c I get lost constantly and with hopeless regularity). All went well and we only got lost twice, and it was just little lostiness, not my normal 30 minutes out of the way where on earth AM I? lostiness.

After our amazing conference, during which we were inspired and instructed by Marge Loch-Wouters (and I am even now working on guilt-free programming for the summer and a whole new scheme for the library blog) someone said "you should go see the new children's department at the Waukesha library!".

"Hmm," said Sara The Librarian. "It's probably not a good idea. We don't have directions."

"Nonsense!" Said I, still in my enthusiastic post-Marge state. "There's a librarian from the Waukesha system who can give us directions. She's got a cool little ipod-ish thing where you can look at maps. It's only three turns and less than five miles away!"

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER, more left turns than I have made in my whole driving history, and we finally arrived. See, what no one had told us was that Waukesha's road grid was laid out by an insane architect 40 years ago.

Streets at intersections spread out like an octopus's arms and do not line up at all. When you are fortunate enough to encounter an actual street sign, it is half the size of normal street signs and strategically placed so that the only way you can see it is over your shoulder as you pass by it, thus discovering you are headed in the wrong direction. Different streets, which do not join up, have the same names. One way streets pop up without warning and disappear just as unnervingly. Streets change their names. Streets with names adhere closely to the Wisconsin-rule-of-street-naming; that all major streets in cities within 20 miles of each other must bear the same names.

But we made it! We arrived! We wandered through the children's department, which was rather nice, still dazed from our state of extended lostness. But we were smart. We were not about to fling ourselves back into the maw of Waukesha's streets without help. We went to the reference librarian for directions.

"One right turn, follow Grand Street, you'll come to the highway" She said.

We set off. Five blocks later, Grand Street ENDED in a street of a totally different name. Now, I do not bear this librarian any ill will. Three years later, there are probably people still hopelessly lost in Illinois from my stint in reference there. I cannot remember the names of the streets bordering my own library. I do not even attempt to give directions.

However, at the time we were quite unhappy about this. I saw a somewhat vacuous youth on the street.

"I'm going to ask" said I, with determination.

"That won't help," said Sara The Librarian. "That guy looks creepy."

"What are we, guys?" said I. "I'm going to ask for directions."

I rolled down my window. The guy looked at us blankly. "Highway 43?" I asked hopefully.


At this point a car drove up. A much-earringed young woman stuck her head out the window, partially obscuring the bushy-haired and bearded guy in the passenger seat. "What do you want?" she asked somewhat aggressively.

Ah. My kind of people. (Hey, I grew up in Austin)

"Highway 43?"

"Do you know where Racine Ave. is?"

"No. We've never been here before."

"You've never been here before??" Looks of obvious shock that we had attempted to dare the horrors of Waukesha's streets. Shaking her head sadly, "Follow us."

And those amazing, lovely, obviously not-native-Waukeshians, led us through a short but complex maze of streets until we reached....

The highway!!

Needless to say, Waukesha has been added to the list Sara The Librarian and I keep of Places-We-Do-Not-Go.

On the bright side, I discovered at the Waukesha library that there are actual Geronimo Stilton comics. I had not known this and it is a good thing to know.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Guinea PI: Hamster and Cheese by Colleen af Venable

I bought a couple graphic novels from Graphic Universe (Lerner) and they are here! Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox: The Meeting is a simple, sweet little story. I ended up putting it in the easy readers, since I have decided to shelve easy reader comics IN the easy readers, because they weren't checking out in the juvenile comics and I have made a handy list.

Before I say anything about this comic though, would you all please join me?


Ahem. I loves me my guinea pigs. And Sasspants, Guinea PI "It's Guinea Pig! Somebody Stole My G!" is simply adorable. She just wants to read, eat, and relax. But an irritatingly hyperactive little koala (koala??) is desperate for help and sure that Sasspants is just the one to solve the Mystery of the Missing Sandwich. I thought about putting this one in easy readers, b/c it's a simple little story and very funny and the vocabulary is at a good level for a beginning reader, but the dialogue of the different animals is a little too complicated on top of the name-switching and I think a beginning reader might find it frustrating to keep track of all the different elements.

This doesn't mean I will refrain from recommending it to all small children wandering about in the vicinity of the easy readers, of course.

Verdict: Cute, sassy, and squee-ingly funny, I'm looking forward to more of this series!

ISBN: 978-0761345985; Published sometime between 1997 and 2010 by Lerner (Graphic Universe); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kids Read!

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have only been at this library a little less than two years. That it takes a while before kids and their parents get to know me - especially since I do not have kids myself and so am not hooked into the school system (I probably wouldn't be anyways, b/c so not a "school" person but whatever).

So it is really cool when I have an afternoon like today with lots of kids clamoring for books and asking me for what they like!

I told Star Wars kid about our new Star Wars comics (and reminded him to pay his fines before the library zombie gets him). He followed me and some other kids to the new book shelf and, looking with interest at the cover, wanted to know if there was a comic of Missile Mouse. "This IS a comic!" I told him. "Wow, mine!" he said, taking instant possession.

A little girl who loves "comics and mysteries and funny stories" took a stack so big she could hardly carry it! She was excited to get: the first Alec Flint Super Sleuth, D'Lacey's Gauge (Gruffen was out, but they don't have to go in order) Espinosa's Courageous Princess, Jellaby, the first Bone, and she might have gotten some others I didn't see.

I was talking books with a 9th grade boy who comes to our gaming programs - C has recently started checking books out from our library; he hadn't known we had a teen section. He thought Breathing Underwater was amazing and now he's really into realistic fiction. He's reading Giles' Shattered Glass now, but took Diva for later. And I introduced him to the joys of library holds so he could get the first volume of .hack// another birth, which someone appears to have stolen from us.

A younger boy was listening to us and...."can you find me a book?" Sure. what do you like? "well, action and adventure and drama. I've only read, like, 3 books in my entire life". Ok. a challenge. I showed him some juvenile stuff, but it was too young so we went with Alex Rider. If the book is too hard, he can try the comic. I don't know if he actually checked it out, but I have hopes!

Finally, I passed out some more fairy tale-ish retellings to a little girl and her mom, who also gets books for her teen daughter, although she's still reading what she got last time. The younger girl just finished Kate Coombs' Runaway Princess and Runaway Dragon and loved them, so this time they were getting Jessica Day George and I also suggested Durst's Into the Wild.

Yay for kids who read!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs by Ursula Vernon

So many people know of the insanely hilarious gorgeousness that is Ursula Vernon, that it seems silly to write an actual review of a book that everyone will love, simply by looking at the cover. I mean, ninja frogs!

Somehow, in the long bleak months between a new offering from the great Ursula, I manage to forget how funny she is. Then I open my coveted ALA review copy of Ninja Frogs and...

Danny Dragonbreath is back and things are Not Good. Wendell has been seen talking to *gulp* a girl. Granted, it is the new exchange student and she is kind of neat and he did say he was just lending her comics and they weren't even girly comics but still....Danny is not happy, until suddenly Suku is being tracked by Ninja Frogs! Danny, Wendell, and Suki must take the bus to Japan and solve the mystery once and for all!

The many good things:

Ninja Frogs!

Taking a bus to Japan! "You haven't been here long enough to appreciate a really good bus system"

"Real live ninjas, a trip to mythological Japan, and pizza for dinner two nights running. Could life get any better?"

Cool ninja facts.

Green comic panels!

A live volcano!

Samurai Geckos!

Ursula Vernon's humor is always fresh, always new. Appealing to children of all ages and adults, Dragonbreath is for anyone who needs a good laugh, who's ever daydreamed in school, and who loves reptiles, mythical or real.

The only I want to watch Danny's cool kung fu movies, like "Vengeance of the Thirteen Masters, in which a blind salamander samurai fights off thirteen ninja clans, using only a pair of chopsticks." But I guess they don't really exist. Sigh.

Verdict: Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

ISBN: 978-0803733657; Published February 2010 by Dial; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

YA collection development

I have my YA orders for the year completed. Now, these are not permanent. I will hear about new things. I will take things off the list. There will be changes. But this is roughly what it is.

and I'm worried. I feel like I'm ordering heavy on the paranormal romance (i.e. vampires) side. Not enough books of interest to teen boys. Not enough contemporary fiction. So I'm going to separate the list by genre and see what we come out with. Bearing in mind possible changes throughout the year, etc.
  • 25 Paranormal Romance with brooding.
  • 11 realistic/contemporary boy fiction (including funny books about boys) This is not bad, although I'd be happy to add more funny books.
  • 11 mystery/thriller that's boy-oriented or at least gender neutral
  • 9 contemporary realistic fiction for girls (including anything body image related)
  • 8 Gossip Girls/Cliqueish
  • 8 girl-oriented fantasy (come on, how many guys read Hale?) including fairy tale retellings
  • 7 Horror/paranormal-type fantasy (including funny or nasty vampires) gender neutral or boy-oriented
  • 5 Girls with psychic powers
  • 5 Post-apocalyptic/dystopian (zombies optional)
  • 4 Christian fiction (girly)
  • 4 gender neutral "regular" fantasy
  • 4 historical fiction (including reprints of classics)
  • 4 girl-oriented mystery/thriller
  • 3 dead girl books (including novels in verse)
  • 3 sort of urban
  • 2 High fantasy
  • 2 steampunk
  • 1 I can't remember exactly but it was boy-oriented
  • 1 gender neutral sort of romantic contemporary fiction
So, maybe, we have a problem. The thing is, most of these paranormal romances (well, all of them pretty much) are continuations of series. Which series do I stop ordering? Is this a realistic amount to order in this area b/c of its current popularity? If we include the Psychic Girls, it's even higher.
Do I have too much fantasy overall? Should I get more contemporary, realistic fiction? I don't see or hear many boys reading this genre, they seem to prefer fantasies, thrillers, and mysteries. But I know some kids don't like contemporary at all.
Balance this out with half or more of my GN order list being boy-oriented (yes, lots of girls like Star Wars comics, but they're outnumbered by the boys).
Some thought is obviously required.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Liberty or death: The surprising story of runaway slaves who sided with the British by Margaret Whitman Blair

This is probably not the American Revolution you were taught about in school. This is the other side of the story; the story of thousands of African Americans, slave and free, who also fought for liberty -- against the colonists.

Blair weaves a historical narrative that follows the tragic stories of thousands of African-Americans who fought for the freedom the colonists refused to give them. They were enslaved by the colonists, betrayed by the British, and suffered discrimination at the hands of the Loyalists they had supported. But they never gave up the struggle for their freedom.

This is a complex historical and political narrative, told in excellent expository style. The reader not only gets an in-depth picture of the forces of prejudice, economics, and politics that the slaves fought against, it also profiles the historical figures that played a part in this story.

Verdict: Hand this book to middle school and high school students who are interested in history - and to students who don't think history is interesting. Read it yourself to get an important look at a portion of our nation's history you may have missed. And, of course, pair it with Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains.

ISBN: 978-1426305900; Published January 2010 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library