Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Up by Jim LaMarche

A small boy is deeply hurt by his father's refusal to allow him to help on their fishing boat - and his older brother's nasty teasing. But one day he discovers he has a special ability. Much practice and patience hone his magical ability and when it matters most he shows his dad he's not too small to help.

LaMarch's luminous illustrations shine with the warmth of Daniel's passion to help and the delight in his new and strange ability. Every small detail of the house and sea is perfectly integrated into the story and the setting. Children who are tired of being told they're "too small" will revel in the simple but satisfying conclusion.

Verdict. Gorgeous illustrations, but the text is a little too long for what I'm buying right now. We have LaMarche's Lost and Found (dog stories) and they're much more popular than this would be at our library. Another time maybe.

ISBN: 0811844455; Published July 2006 by Chronicle (out of print); Borrowed from the library

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Storywagon

Every summer, we have what our library consortium calls "Storywagon" where a number of performers are hired through the Lakeshores system, funded by a grant, and visit each library. I'm not going to talk about the actual performance, since I don't have any input on who we hire it's kinda irrelevent whether or not it was successful (we do put in evaluations). What I did this year was make some structural changes. First, we kept the prizes and SRP materials at the reference desk instead of bringing them out into the lobby. I had volunteers to take care of this last year, but my volunteers this year weren't available at the right time. Plus, I was getting antsy about people getting prizes and going to the program without setting foot in the library (our community room/large program room is across the fairly large lobby). I had one of my aides hang around to help with the prize-giving, but since it's sporadic she didn't have anything to do. Otherwise, it worked well and I'll try to have a project she can do next Tuesday.

We moved the performer into the center of the room, so we could fill attendees in on both sides instead of from back to front. The room is a long rectangle, so this worked very well. We had a large group of preschoolers from a local daycare, also a new thing, and they were very well-behaved and supervised and everyone had a great time.

We had about 115 attendees for this program and the new changes were, I think, successful!

Handa's Surprise by Eileen Browne

I saw a mention of this book as a classic and since I'd never read it....

Handa puts 7 fruits in her basket for her friend. As she walks along, wondering what fruit her friend will like best and thinking about how surprised she will be, something mysterious is going on above her head! In the end, both Handa and her friend Akeyo are happily surprised.

This story definitely deserves classic status. The simple plot and the clever juxtaposition of what you see and what Handa is thinking are perfectly combined. Browne's art is colorful and has a warm, light-filled feeling. This one calls for multiple readings identifying fruit and animals, counting, and always a giggle at the surprise ending. The endpapers include a procession of fruit and animals for those stumped on identification.

Verdict: Highly recommended; there's a reason it's still in print!

ISBN: 978-0763608637; Published September 1999 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: How to clean a hippopotamus: a look at unusual animal partnerships by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

In a series of well-designed panels, squares, and block text, Jenkins and Page present another fascinating animal fact book for preschool and elementary listeners and readers. Symbiotic relationships, from the well-know to the obscure, from marine iguanas to warthogs, are explained and illustrated in simple text.

I was a little puzzled by the apparently random bold text. Would this help early readers? I'm not sure. The art is classic Jenkins and is perfectly downsized to fit into the small panels without losing details or clarity. The end material includes a more detailed explanation of symbiosis and the size, habitat, and diet of all the animals listed. There's also a short list of further resources.

Verdict: As always, Jenkins' and Page's work is a necessity for the library collection

ISBN: 978-0547245157; Published May 2010 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat

Marge and Lola, two ordinary chickens, are desperate to win the talent contest and get a ticket to see THE Elvis Poultry! But the ducks win every year. Always have. Always will. Marge and Lola decide to give it a shot anyways, and they make a series of increasingly disastrous attempts to find an act that will make the grade. When the contest begins, they're no better off than they were when they started...and when they see the amazing acts they'll have to follow they're in despair. But in an increasingly insane and wild conclusion, they win the real prize!

There are apparently references to pop culture in here - or so some of the reviews say. Not being a pop culture person, I wouldn't know. But I do know this is a hilarious story! Santat's smooth illustrations are the perfect straight-face background for Sauer's giggle-inducing text. This is perfect for storytimes - or even for a quick read before that annual school talent contest!

Verdict: I'm a sucker for a good, funny chicken story. I love it!

ISBN: 978-1402753664; Published August 2009 by Sterling; Borrowed from the library

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Little rabbit and the meanest mother on earth by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Little Rabbit wants to go to the circus. But his mother insists he clean up his huge, messy playroom first. Little Rabbit just can't do it though and misses out on a trip to the circus. But then he has an idea. He will join the circus...and his show will be The Meanest Mother on Earth! The story grows and grows until Little Rabbit gets into big trouble - fortunately, The Meanest Mother on Earth has a solution.

Klise perfectly captures the frustration and drama of a small child and the warmth and patience of his mother. The other Klise's acrylic art is finely detailed and full of mischievous little jokes. I did have trouble believing the characters were really rabbits - those are kangaroos, if ever I saw one, but otherwise I loved the story.

Read this to preschoolers and kindergarteners and possibly younger elementary students. They'll sympathize with Little Rabbit's anger and groan over the silly jokes. Be prepared to pass the book around afterwards for more study of the messy playroom and other details.

Verdict: Delightful!

ISBN: 978-0152062019; Published April 2010 by Harcourt; Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Born Yesterday: The Diary of a Young Journalist by James Solheim, illustrated by Simon James

Another new baby book! A brand new baby narrates her life from embarrassing birth (no clothes at all!) to her exploration of the world. The story is punctuated by her admiration of her big sister - she's in kindergarten and she knows EVERYTHING! and finishes with the baby's excitement about their future friendship.

It's an interesting concept - the text is divided into journal entries and the background is lined paper. The illustrations have a Quentin Blake feeling and are small insets around the various journal entries. The baby, despite her writing skills and sometimes adult view of the world around her is still very much a baby and talks about the delights of throwing food, playing with a mobile, and hugging a toy in a realistic and utterly funny way.

The story is very text-heavy - even preschoolers are going to have trouble sitting still long enough for this one, but I'm not sure older kids will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor and the baby's viewpoint. A kindergartener with a new sibling might be the best audience for this story.

Verdict: Too limited in audience. I need picturebooks that have a wider appeal and aren't so lengthy.

ISBN: 978-0399251559; Published March 2010 by Philomel; Borrowed from the library

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn

The back of this book advertises "Page-turning intrigue in the tradition of John Bellairs and Ellen Raskin". Now, I don't like Ellen Raskin, but there is a certain disconnected quality to the mystery that reminds me of her. If you're a Raskin fan, this is a good thing. If you're not....But as for John Bellairs, well, I don't think whoever wrote that cover copy had read any of his works recently. Bellairs' stories begin in an atmosphere of mist and confusion that grows into helpless terror.


So what is this story? Actually, quite good. It begins with the Peshik family, Dad who works in a museum, Mom a school secretary, Josh, and his younger brother Aaron, and Grandpa moving into their first house. Everyone is excited to think they're finally getting out of the cramped apartments they've lived in their whole life...until they see what they can afford. Tilton House is....weird, to put it mildly. The floor tilts, the walls are covered by what seems to be a madman's ravings, and the real estate agent is so scared she barely hangs around long enough to complete the sale. If that weren't bad enough, the neighbors are just as strange. The Talking Man sits on his front porch, lost in his own confusing world. The Purple Door Man steals bikes and is all-around nasty. And what about the neighbors inside the house? There are talking rats, mysteries, and random occurences. There are stories and small triumphs.

Each chapter is a story in itself, often seemingly disconnected to the main plot of the story, which concerns the mysterious past owner of the house. The general plot isn't particularly cohesive, and the rather cliched "find a huge treasure and solve all your problems" ending of the story is exasperating, but the writing is strong and lively and the stories intriguing, with just enough scary elements to keep the reader shivering.

Verdict: A good choice for reluctant readers, or those who want something scary, but not too scary. The short chapters will pull in the reader and let them take the story in bite-size doses and the writing is excellent. I'll wait and see if there are future additions to what appears to be a series before adding to my library though.

ISBN: 978-1582462882; Published June 2010 by Tricycle Press; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Goal! The fire and fury of soccer's greatest moment by Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy

Not being any kind of sports fan, I was a little doubtful about whether it was possible to have an entire book just about scoring goals.

Well, I guess you can. This book explains the history of soccer, describes various famous goals, and analyzes important games. Famous players are profiled and their legacy of goals discussed.

The one thing that puzzled me about this book was the intended audience. On the one hand, although there's an index and list of resources there's no glossary and very few soccer terms are explained. This left me in a somewhat bewildered fog through most of the book. On the other hand, presumably someone interested enough in soccer to want to read a detailed discussion and analysis of various games and goals would know all the terms. But...if you know all the terms and you're that interested, wouldn't you already know about the goals and games as well?

I'm just really not sure, this not being my area of knowledge or interest at all. Voya gave it a rather bland review, but I think it's a bit young for them. Hmm....

Verdict: Completely uninteresting to me, but the other sports stats book I got has been hugely popular. I'm pretty sure I'll buy this next year when I concentrate on improving the sports section of the nonfiction.

ISBN: 978-0822587545; Published April 2010 by Milbrook; Borrowed from the library

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Reading Decorations

I finally got around to cleaning off the here are my library's summer decorations! This is the first year I've actually decorated anything, last year I just had a few kids do some drawings on giant sheets of paper for the windows, but since hardly anybody showed up they were mostly blank. Anyways...Most of our windows are done with streamers and fish. We used green and blue crepe and taped them to the window crosspiece, then taped foil fish (cut out with the die cut) into the streamers. When cutting foil with a die cut machine, make sure to sandwich it between regular paper! We also did two windows with under sea scenes, using crepe for sea weed and a bunch of red cellophane for jellies.

Our bulletin board (which no one ever looks at) and summer/water picturebook displays. That blue thing is a dolphin, but he had to be discarded b/c he kept deflating.

My new juvenile display! We stuck the balls to the shelves with packing tape and they've only been pulled off and played with a few times!

My "books to movies" display has a little surfboard that says "surf a book, surf a movie"

I added dark paper behind my regular nonfiction display and filled it with craft books

and this is the summer reading set up at the youth reference desk - the white cart is chapter books, the green cart is picturebooks, easy readers and nonfiction (all the kids get to pick a free book when they register). The boxes have reading bags for the different age levels and the brown box on the desk is prizes. That's the back of our cataloger, btw.
So there you have it! Of course, most of the actual work was done by my excellent aides, Ellen and Laura. I just waved my hands and said "do this" and "make it pretty". But the streamers were my idea.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Wild, Wild Inside: A View From Mommy's Tummy by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

This book wasn't at all what I'd expected. From the title and some skimmed blurbs I'd expected it to be a sort of cartoony version of pregnancy - you know, showing the development of a child in a way kids could understand.

This book is much sillier! Emily and Gus are so excited about their new baby brother or sister that they constantly pester their mom, wanting to know "What's the baby doing?" She gives boring answers, like eating or sleeping but really....the baby is riding in a rocket ship! Dancing! Cooking for hungry dogs! Narrated by the baby, this is a silly and exuberant spin through the imagination. The illustrations are colorful and rounded with lots of textured brushstrokes and a strong purple theme. The illustration of the just-born baby is oddly proportioned, but otherwise the pictures are nice. This is a little variation on the "new sibling" theme and would be a good choice if you get a lot of requests for that genre.

Verdict: Imaginative and nicely illustrated, but we don't need any more new sibling picture books right now.

ISBN: 978-1416940999; Published March 2010 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from the library

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Reading and Programming

MondayOur second program of the summer! This is a repeat from last year. It's an hour-long workshop for age 11 and up on babysitting techniques and child development. It's my most carefree program of the summer, since it's taught by a very experienced and lovely teacher from the high school. We had 9 kids last year and 8 kids this year, which is a good response for this age group (they're all in the 11-13 range). This year's group was very interactive and had lots of comments and questions! Our local parks and rec department does a very in-depth babysitting course, which lasts several weeks (and costs money). I like to bill this as a "refresher" or "introduction" course. If you're interested in doing a similar program, I suggest asking if your high school has child development classes and getting to know the teacher!

I have no idea how many kids we signed up today - somewhere between 50 and 70. We had a huge inflow this morning and a very good group for our "Tween Favorites Book Club" where the kids ate cookies, made crafts, and got to pick books to check out from all the gazillions of new books I took to the schools.

I plan to change the name of this program to "Make it and Take it" in the fall (Make Crafts, Take Books) since it's too easy to hear "Teen" and the younger kids think they can't come.

I also gave up completely on finding a henna artist and ordered a do-it-yourself kit from Amazon and a goodly supply of Dover henna tattoo booklets, in case it turns out to be a dud. I paid a whopping $25 for shipping, but I wanted to make absolutely sure it was here before my program June 22!

Storytime starts tomorrow, I keep reminding myself that preschoolers are at 9:30 now...

I've been sort of doing Wii gaming with teens all last spring. I just set up the games and let them hang out for a couple hours. We generally had the same group of about 5 boys and although one of them was fine, I had to constantly pop in and out reminding the others about language, arguing, and pestering each other. Oy! Also, younger kids didn't really have a chance. Anyways, I'm trying something different this summer. I'm alternating - one week ages 6 - 12 in the storyroom, one week teens in the young adult area. I've talked our adult services librarian into supervising the teens and I stay in the storyroom with the younger kids. Also, we're only doing it for an hour. I had about 5 kids the first time and it worked well. I don't enjoy it, as it takes a lot of refereeing and the game noises drive me nuts, but I did it. I think this might be only a summer program though.

Our Wii Sports has mysteriously disappeared though....

Summer Reading Exhaustion
Argh! Only 4 days in and I already messed up the stats. My total stats (457!) are correct - I doublechecked by counting the remaining reading bags. My school stats are correct (415 - we sign up 3-5s). But my age stats were way off when I checked this evening. I'm pretty sure I forgot to enter a day's worth of ages. It's no big deal, the ages are just for me and always pretty much the same - a slow build through the 3-6s, huge numbers of 7-9s, and a gradual decline. But it's annoying. We only had about 50 sign-ups today, so things are slowing down.

My first teen entries! One of my voracious and faithful summer reading program girls, who was just old enough this year for the teen program, is reading Nancy Drew. Yay for summer favorites!

Summer school storytimes tomorrow - I always do the same thing, a quick mention of the summer reading program, a couple frog stories, a retelling of Aesop's Frog and the Ox, and then we make wide-mouthed frogs out of paper plates.

Messy Crafts: Painting and Gardening!
My first messy craft program of the year was a HUGE success! Last year, I had these on Friday afternoon and...well, not many came. This year I kept them Thursday afternoon, when I normally have Family Storytime (which I would like a new name for, btw. We basically read stories and do crafts). I wasn't sure how many people would come so I just got 15 pots - 12 of the 15 people signed up came, and lots of other people who hadn't signed up! We managed to find pots for almost everyone though.

There is a large cement area outside one of our library's entrances - we set up two tables (covered with newspaper) and painted small pots and plastic dishes. Then we filled them with dirt, added a couple nasturtium seeds, and put them on the windowsills in the library! I'll have photos up later on the library blog.

This was fairly cheap - I got the pots for about $1 each at Walmart and the plastic dishes for even less, a little acrylic paint, a bag of dirt, a packet of seeds, and ta-da! You could ask for pot donations too, if you wanted to cut out that expense. I'm looking forward to seeing how many show up at our next messy craft!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Donald Duck Classics: Quack Up by various authors

I was really surprised I didn't enjoy these comics more. I love Donald Duck and have a huge collection of his cartoons, which I watch frequently. Somehow, these stories just didn't grab me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for them. The first story, "Luck of the North" is an encounter between Gladstone Goose and Donald Duck, where Donald's bad luck gets worse and worse, while Gladstone's good luck goes up to astronomical heights....until the surprising twist at the end! "The Master's Touch" shows Donald with a successful photography business; but one little mistake and it all falls to pieces around him. The third story, "The Paper Route Panic" has Donald taking over his nephews' paper route while they're at camp. They're horrified when they return and discover that Donald was so taken up with his new invention that they've lost their route - how will they ever get enough money to start a Paisley Mantee fan club now? But a few twists of luck and everything is all right in the end. "Donald the Milkman" has Donald showing unbelievable patience and courtesy as he strives to be the best milkman ever; despite a nasty customer who's trying to take over his route! Surprisingly, despite losing his temper, Donald actually wins out in the end on this one! I didn't read the last two stories, "Mission: Moldfinger" and "Nothing New".

There's a strong continuity in the art and storylines, even though these were written as far apart as the 50s and 2007. One complaint I've had from kids with the longer comics from Boom! - specifically some of the Muppet comics, is that the print is too small. However, although there's quite a lot of text in these it's in a nice bold typeface which should appeal to younger readers. I'm looking forward to seeing if we have any Donald Duck fans who will be interested in this. We have two old Donald Duck comics that have a brisk circulation and the Uncle Scrooge collection I purchased is traveling about the system, so these should be popular as well.

Verdict: I just wasn't in the mood, but we'll have to wait and see what the kids think

ISBN: 978-1608865406; Published April 2010 by Boom! (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: The Hive Detectives by Loree Griffin Burns

Why can I never find a definite list of the Scientists in the Field series? Every time I think I've got them all, a new one pops up without warning. Oh well.

I had no idea that thousands of bees mysteriously died and disappeared in 2006. Obviously, me and the new have a distant relationship. Anyways.

There are three main sections of this fascinating non-fiction. First, is the work and life of a small beekeeper, Mary Duane. Burns tells us how Duane came to beekeeping and what it means to keep bees as a part of life in Duane's own words, amply illustrated by Ellen Harasimowicz's photographs. The second and main section of the story is the mystery of the bee disappearance, starting with Dave Hackenberg's discovery of millions of missing bees among his thousands of hives. The mystery continues with the work of three scientists, each pursuing a different angle of the problem through research and experimentation. Finally, these two narrative threads are interspersed with facts about the life cycle of bees, honey production, and more.

Like all Scientists in the Field books, this is an excellent resource for school reports or for students interested in the lives and work of real scientists. It takes the reader through the steps of a scientific investigation, and shows how science in the real world is very different from a cut and dried experiment in a textbook. As in this example, sometimes the answers aren't found right away - or at all. Science enthusiasts or budding entomologists and apiarists will find much to fascinate them in this excellent book.

Verdict: Another excellent entry in the Scientists in the Field.

ISBN: 978-0547152318; Published May 2010 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading Kick-Off

Phew! I started at around 9am, when I sneaked into the dark, quiet library. As I was lugging tables out into the lobby, I recognized a familiar back outside the library. It was my volunteer from last year! Her mom had dropped her off early and I gladly sneaked her in as well! We set up tables in the lobby with t-shirts ($7 each to fund our end of summer reading party) and for registration and lugged out the carts of free books and reading bags. Then we set up the community room for our performing, The Amazing Al!

At 10, the library opened and my other volunteer showed up, as well as my aide and my performer! We started signing people up like crazy. I've made some changes to the summer reading program and this is how it's working this summer:

Age 0-2 receive a "baby bag" with a boardbook, helpful information from various community groups, and some coupons donated by local groups. I have 100 bags, we'll just see how long they last.

Age 3-12 receive a reading bag with bookmark, reading log, invitation to the end of summer party, and various coupons and brochures. They pick out a free book as well! For each 15 minutes they read, they fill in a square. When they've read 2 hours they get a small prize. When they've read 10 hours, they get a packet of passes (planetarium, state parks, local history thingy). Then they have to read 4 hours to earn a small prize and when they reach around 22 they get a pizza from a local pizzeria. They can read another 6 hours or so and earn a couple more small prizes and then they're DONE.

Teens get a reading bag with a couple entry forms, reading tattoo, heat-sensing pencil, and invitations to the end of summer reading pizza party and twilight party. I also put in brochures from the library that's about 15 minutes away, b/c they actually have teen programs. Teens get to pick a free book too! Teens turn in a drawing slip and little review for each book they read and have a chance to win 1 of 5 drawing prizes at the end of the summer.

12 and 13 can decide which program they want to do - about half of them wanted the prizes, the others would rather be "cool".

We started an adult summer reading program this year as well, which is pretty much the same as the teens except they're doing drawings each week.

So, The Amazing Al turned out to be pretty darn amazing! His illusions held the kids spellbound for an hour and they laughed constantly (he was also VERY affordable!) We had about 90 people, which was more than the 75 we had last year (also a very good magician, but much more flashy - and expensive).

I signed up at least 150 kids for summer reading. Phew! Only about 10-15 teens, and nobody over 14. Oh well. Nothing I didn't expect. This year I just made a hash mark for the kids' age and school, instead of having them fill out registration sheets for each child. Sooooo much faster, but it was still crazy!

Things I might try next year:
  • Some kind of self-sign-up? Online won't work since they have to come in and get their reading bag and book, but I might make giant posters of ages and schools and have them put a sticker in their column or something. Or maybe separate lines for different ages. The problem is they come in giant bunches....
  • Better labels for the boxes the reading bags are in. Maybe see if I can find a different bag for the babies. I just tied some red yarn around each handle and it was confusing.
  • Steal one of my ys carts to put the chapter books on. The cart I currently use is open underneath and every time a kid pulls out a book they all collapse.
  • Maybe make the teen program "age 13-15" since that's the only ages I get anyways and have more drawing prizes if I can get some more donations. The older teens can join the adult program. I must admit I don't feel very charitable towards the teens due to the large number of thefts and vandalism in the teen area over the past couple weeks. (I told my volunteers they're young adults not teens. I am only mad at teens)
  • I have already decided, looking at the large volume of kids, that I need more than 1 prize box. This confused people last year when I tried it, b/c some kids thought they got a prize from each box, but the large volume of people is making my little plastic bin look ridiculous. I'll have to see what I can come up with.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Mysterious Mummer by L. M. Falcone

Joey wouldn't mind spending Christmas in the hospital with his mom, who has a broken leg. He's a simple guy; all he needs is a tv to keep him happy. But his mom is convinced he'll be miserable, so she sends him off to his Aunt Corinne. But Christmas with Aunt Corinne is anything but merry. Still grieving for her drowned husband, living in the isolated and condemned house on the cliff she refuses to leave, Joey's aunt is a terryifing and pitiable figure. As dark and mysterious events unfold, Joey begins to wonder if he'll survive Christmas....

I was really interested in the description of Falcone's latest book, Walking With the Dead, and I saw something somewhere that said it was a series and this was the first. But that seems to be wrong, since this story has a definite (and terrifying) end and features different characters. Plus, the other one said it was funny. This isn't a funny story at all. There was a nice creepy build up and a genuinely terrifying ending, but it took too long to get there and I never really enjoyed the main character, Joey, a whiny tv addict with an odd obsession with witches. On the other hand, the reader can certainly see him as a real thirteen-old boy, completely obsessed with his own comfort and stuck in a really unpleasant and increasingly frightening situation. The ending was so horrifying that it seemed rather unbelievable, although I kind of saw it coming as soon as the mother-in-law Ruth was introduced. But it was definitely a scary story.

Verdict: If you have strong need for horror novels for youngers readers, this might be an acceptable purchase. Most of my patrons prefer shorter stories for their scary fare though.

ISBN: 978-1553373773; Published August 2003 by Kids Can Press (out of print); Borrowed from the library

Friday, June 11, 2010

Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger by Dan Jolley

This volume of Toy Story comics includes four short stories, all focused on the toys' fears of being replaced. In "The Mysterious Stranger", Hamm and Rex let their fear take over when a strange new item appears in Andy's room. Woody and Buzz finally manage to calm them down, just in time for the surprise funny ending. In "Weird Science", the toys have to repair Andy's science experiment - and in the process, Hamm confronts his angst about technology. In "A Dog's Life", the toys face Andy's new puppy and finally figure out a compromise. The final story, "No time for sergeants" deals with the green soldiers' fears of abandonment and includes Woody's heartfelt tribute to imagination.

I'm concentrating on filling in our juvenile graphic novel collection with various offering from Boom! Studios this year. The Incredibles and Little Nemo comics we have are extremely popular, the Muppets a little less so. I think this one will fly off the shelves, especially with the re-release of the first two Toy Story movies and the third one coming this summer. Like all the Boom! Studios comics, these are much more than just tie-ins to the movies; they address deeper issues like growing up, imagination, and friendship while providing fun, intriguing stories featuring well-known characters. Personally, I never liked the Toy Story movies, but the comics are fun!

Verdict: These should be very popular and I plan to purchase additional volumes in this series

ISBN: 1934506915; Published September 2009 by Boom!; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures by J. Torres and J. Bone

There are three Alison Dare adventures included in this collection. Spoilers ahead.

In the first adventure, "Alison Dare and the Arabian Knights" Alison starts rummaging around during an archeaological expedition while her parents are gone and unearths an old lamp. It contains, of course, a genie and Alison gets busy with her wishes. She brings her friends to join her - and they are extremely irritated at having their summers interrupted. She wishes for adventure, just like the Arabian Nights and gets....1001 Arabian knights. Finally, things get so out of hand that she has to wish everything back the way it was. The whole genie plotline is pretty old and well-used, although the characters brought a fresh attitude to it. I was mildly irritated to see, once again, the short pudgy character with glasses is the brain. Just like Scooby-Doo. *takes a closer look*. Um....yeah, Dot looks an awful lot like Velma, come to think of it.

The second adventure, "Alison Dare and the Secret of the Blue Scarab" is the origin story of Alison's father, superhero the Blue Scarab, which she narrates to her friends Wendy and Dot. Originally a librarian with unbelievably well-developed shoulders and a collection of lines that wouldn't disgrace a boy's adventure story from the 50s, Alan Dodd's attempt to rescue a young archeaological student named Alice (with a handy famous father) puts him in contact with ancient forces and he becomes the Blue Scarab, fighting for the right. And marries Alice, of course.

The third adventure, "Alison Dare and the Mummy Child" bring the whole family up against Baron von Baron, Alice's old Nazi nemesis. His outrageously cheesy accent isn't the only thing nasty about him, and he tries to wreck Alice's new museum exhibit and steal her latest find. Fortunately, Alison and her friends just happen to be there, although Wendy and Dot quickly flee, and Alison, with a little help from various superhero members of her extended family, saves the day.

The black and white art has a crisp, contemporary feel but the language is exaggerated and oddly dated. It's hard to tell whether the author is deliberately poking fun at 50s comic dialogue and conventions or trying to blend old and new. The appearance of a stereotypical Nazi villain is even more confusing, since he seems to have been around for an awfully long time without have Alison Dare's parents. The Scarab, of course, has regenerative powers, but what about her mom? They're obviously supposed to be in a roughly contemporary world, since Alice Dare wears extremely short shorts and Alison and her friends seem to be attending a modern, if somewhat lax, boarding school.

However, these quibbles are more what an adult would see and complain about. Kids are more likely to pick up on the Indiana Jones-style adventure, the obvious elements of humor, and fast-paced action. Hand it to fans of Indiana Jones, especially younger kids, probably those who like Salt Water Taffy will go for this as well.

Verdict: Probably not something I would have bought on my own, but I'll donate this to the library and see how the kids feel about it. If there's enough enthusiasm, I'll buy the additional volume(s).

ISBN: 978-0887769344; Published May 2010 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A new format for school visits

Yes, I'm done with summer reading program school visits. But I'm NOT done with other school visits! I made a big push (big for me - I hate advertising stuff) for teachers to consider regular school visits to the library. We have two elementary schools within walking distance. I am very excited that I got a 3rd grade teacher interested in a monthly visit...and a couple classes of kindergarteners wanted to come too! Of course, the fact that we have air-conditioning had nothing to do with it...heh heh. Anyways, I had one class of kindergarteners today and a second coming tomorrow. The teachers are interested in doing regular visits next year and I'm very happy!

My preschool storytimes have dwindled to the point of nothingness. I can think of a lot of reasons for this - the time change (from 10:30 to 11) worked well for a while, but then people didn't like it anymore. We had a lot of flu go through the preschoolers earlier this year. Lots of preschool families had new babies and decided to go to the younger storytimes.

I'm changing the preschool storytime this summer (from 11 to 9:30) and giving the toddlers the 10:30 slot. Unless we have a huge response, I'm seriously considering dropping to one preschool storytime a week - or even letting preschoolers combine with toddlers - and focusing on school visits. We shall see.

Anyhow, I'm working out a school visit formula. Normally, we have a tour, storytime, and then I hand out library cards. This time we had a much longer time so we had a partial tour (I don't always take the younger kids upstairs, which is adult nonfiction, local history, and young adult area) then a storytime, then we did a craft! I used our snazzy custom die from Accucut to make some more butterfly masks and our new jumbo fish die. The kids colored with markers and crayons and added a popsicle stick with tape. They were very happy with the simple craft and even happier that I read them the rest of The Book That Eats People, which I'd sampled when I visited their classrooms. It also helped to remind them again about the summer reading program, as many had forgotten details.

On to school visits!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Gardening books for kids

It has become clear to me that we need a few more gardening books in our juvenile nonfiction. Last year, I added The Kids Can Press Jumbo Book of Gardening by Karyn Morris. This is, of course, the best kids' gardening book. Naturally, since it is Kids Can Press. Unfortunately, it's their only gardening book and I have lots of requests! So I borrowed a couple books from other libraries to see if I could find something else to add.

Wildlife Gardening by Martyn Cox has the widest variety of projects. Being a DK Publishers book, it of course has tons of gorgeous photographs, symbols, and factoids. In fact, there's so much information and so many projects that it's a bit crammed full and spilling over. There doesn't appear to be any information or notes on what does or doesn't grow in certain climates, so you'll have to know your area before trying any of these projects. Also, it recommends honeysuckle in several spots and certain varieties, especially Japanese honeysuckle are, I believe, considered majorly invasive species. However, I think this book was originally published in England and possibly honeysuckle isn't a problem there. I did really like the section on hedges, as I personally aspire to having my own hedge someday.

Organic Gardening For Kids by Elizabeth Scholl is a good introduction to the reasons for organic gardening and some basic precepts, but it's very text-heavy and there's really only one large project - creating an organic garden. It does have a very thorough approach though, talking about planning, climates, pest control, and more. The official reviews complained about the poor photography, but I haven't seen any other organic gardening for kids so....This would be a good resource for parents and children to work on together.

Kids' Container Gardening by Cindy Krezel has a long list of gardening projects the reader can do in containers. The projects are divided into four sections, one for each season. The introduction includes climate zones, basic supplies, and suggestions for recycled containers. The projects range from various selections that do well in pots to weirder projects like rooting plants in a cocktail glass in moisture crystals. There are a couple problems with this book, asides from my personal reaction of "why do you need a book for container gardening? just get yourself some pots and seeds!". There's a major typo on page 31, the photographs seem to mainly showcase smiling kids with finished projects - the photographs that did show steps didn't seem very clear to me, and the book is only available in either paperback or reinforced binding for $26. At least on my vendor.

Oh, and here's the treasure of this books has a typo, "pristeen" instead of "pristine". I can't find, even though I went back and looked through them all again....can you find it?

Verdict: I'll probably get Wildlife Gardening and maybe Organic Gardening for the library this summer. I'd still like to find some better gardening books and I may consider just buying additional copies of the Kids Can Press Jumbo Gardening Book. I'd like to see them doing an organic one, like they did with their Jumbo Cooking Book and Jumbo Vegetarian Cooking Book for kids.

Kids Can Press Jumbo Book of Gardening
ISBN: 1550746901; Published February 2000 by Kids Can Press (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Wildlife Gardening
ISBN: 978-0756650896; Published March 2009 by DK; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Organic Gardening
ISBN: 978-1584158158; Published June 2009 by Mitchell Lane; Borrowed from the library

Kids' Container Gardening
ISBN: 978-1883052751; Published April 2010 by Ball Publishing; Borrowed from the library

Saturday, June 5, 2010

School Visit Recap

So, the school visits are over! I had an overall good response from the kids, better rapport with kids and teachers since I know so many of them. A few points to remember for next year....
  • I need to work on better communication with the school librarians and teachers. I found out many of them didn't know about our institutional cards and it was one of them who suggested I tell teachers about the new adult summer reading program. Glad somebody was paying attention! I did give out teacher letters and hope to get more school visits next year. I've already gotten responses from a third grade teacher and several kindergarten groups.
  • I need to be prepared for 7th/8th graders at parochial schools! Sometimes I see them, sometimes I don't. Better safe than sorry.
  • I had an easier time when I did my booktalks because I organized my massive canvas bags better. I also brought more easy readers and beginning chapter books.
  • I didn't have any "gimmicks." In past years I brought sample prizes, did a sort of little opening skit or had booktalks that matched the summer theme. This year I just brought tons of new books and everyone loved it! So, gimmicks aren't necessary, although they can be fun.
  • I distribute posters to all the libraries - I need to bring them earlier and put the library name and SRP info on them.
  • I did my visits later in the year - last week of May and first week of June. This works much better all around, although I think I might need to end spring programs a little earlier. Those two weeks melt away so fast, especially if I have school visits.
  • I'm hoping to visit some daycares next year and maybe preschools!
  • Why, why, why do I run out of bookmarks no matter how carefully I count? I think because I have them rubber-banded in packs of 25 the teachers just scoop up a packet. So, I need to remember next year to count the number of classes and not the number of kids.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Crunch by Leslie Connor

I am in a really bad mood. But I also really loved this book. Plus, I'm not tired so I'm going to review it now. I will merely say that my previous ranting remarks on theft in the teen area are related to my current bad mood. Also, I am sick of books where the kids don't DO anything. They just spend all their time squabbling and having dramatic friendships and angst and sudden epiphanies about relationships. No, I won't tell you what I've been reading. Anyways.

Dewey's parents are on their anniversary truck drive when The Crunch happens. There's been gas rationing for a while, but nothing this bad. Suddenly, his parents are stuck up north and Dewey, his younger brother Vince and the five-year-old twins are going to be stuck with their older sister Lil for who knows how long? Plus, the little bike repair business is growing amazingly, now that it's the only transportation. Maybe it's growing too much. Just when Dewey thinks he has things under control, the thefts begin.

I loved the energy, initiative, and determination of Dewey and his younger brothers and sisters. They have a "can do" attitude and although they're not without their faults, they do the best they can. Dewey isn't a paragon and he makes a lot of big mistakes, but he works hard to fix them and be responsible. I did not like Lil. Maybe the sign of a good character is when you can really, really dislike what is, after all, a fictional personality. Lil's illogical determination to not depend on anyone for help was irritating, especially when she never seemed to do any work. Her disappointment over the cancellation of her art course and her exasperation and unhappiness at being saddled with parent responsibilities is understandable, but it rubbed me raw the way she expected everyone to bow to her artistic fits of inspiration and then tried to "take charge" when she'd done nothing to earn respect or responsibility. No, I am not particularly sympathetic to the artistic temperament. I wasn't sure from the story how much the family was depending on the money Dewey was earning, but since he and Vince were basically supporting the family, it seemed unreasonable for Lil to get mad at them for getting help, especially when she wasn't offering any herself.

Ahem. You can see how deeply these characters dig their way into the reader's emotions. There's a strong theme of optimism and hope running through the story. Although bad things happen and bad people sometimes show up, Dewey and his family's determination and responsibility, buoyed by his parents' warmth and caring, see them through The Crunch.

Verdict: I bought this one because we had Waiting for Normal (which I didn't read. I don't "do" Southern fiction of any kind if I can avoid it). I'm soooo glad I bought it! An excellent, readable, and engrossing story. Perfect for middle grade readers, it would also make a nice book club suggestion. Strongly recommended.

ISBN: 0061692298; Published March 2010 by Katherine Tegen Books; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Would You Pleeease Use Your Library Card?

Argh! They're doing it again! Someone - or several someones - have decided it's easier to steal books from the teen area and then sneak them back rather than, you know, check them out. Maybe they have a blocked card because of fines, maybe they don't have a card, I don't know. But this time they took off with Holly Black's Poison Eaters and one of my Schreiber Vampire Kisses graphic novels. Now the Schreiber - I've actually got 2 copies of that, so oh well. Same thing for Speak - I bought an extra copy in advance. But my new Holly Black? It's still shiny! Or it was. Grr. They better bring it back when they're done with it. I don't care about the Safe Sex 101....I don't think that has actually checked out at all, it just disappears and comes back again on a regular basis. But it's soooo aggravating to not be able to find stuff when there's a hold or someone wants it. And I got through a lot of angst, wondering if it's really gone for good or it's coming back this time. Sigh. Rant over.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Not all princesses dress in pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin

Jane Yolen's latest picturebook, co-authored with Heidi Stemple, will be a welcome relief to parents suffering from the pink princess craze. A series of diverse girls indulge in decidedly un-princesslike behavior, from playing soccer to building treehouses, but prove they're still royalty by proudly wearing their crowns.

The rhymes are brisk and have a nice cadence for the most part, although the dancing scene is awkward "They waltz in red, fox-trot in blue/they reel in plaid and polka dots too./And in those grand and fancy halls,/one even hip-hops in her overalls. The activities portrayed are almost all active, including sports, construction, dancing, and various outside activities.

Anne-Sophie Lanquetin's illustrations are full of bright colors and her girls' wide eyes and swirling hair make an active accompaniment to the swinging rhymes. While most determined little pink princesses will cling firmly to their fancy dresses, the exuberant color and gigglicious activities should entice a sizable number into trying something a little different.

ISBN: 978-1416980186; Published June 2010 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Melonhead and the Big Stink by Katy Kelly, illustrated by Gillian Johnson

Melonhead is back! I fell in love with this character last year, and he's still my favorite guy out there. Melonhead's second adventure is full of his humor, inventiveness, bad luck, and that indefinable "boyness" that made the first story so much fun.

Melonhead has always been prone to disaster, but in this story he's determined to thwart his propensities for inventive destruction. School is out for the summer (really, that chair-walking episode wasn't his fault) and he and his friend Sam have decided there's one thing that will make their summer perfect: a trip to see the Titan Arum, the biggest and stinkiest flower in existence! With some help from friends, they form the Boys' Improvement Guide for Acting Responsible Till Stink Sunday. Armed with good intentions and his ever-growing Remind-o-Rama card of rules from his mom, Melonhead sets out to behave. Unfortunately, this is harder than it looks, especially when you throw wayward balls, cranky old ladies, friendly teenagers, a huge garden competition, and baby ducks into the mix. Can Melonhead make it to the Big Stink?

I just love Melonhead's character. Funny, realistic, enthusiastic, but certainly not a plaster saint! Katy Kelly's characters are so real, I find myself wanting to give Melonhead's mom a huge thwack and tell her to lighten up and enjoy her kid. I want to meet Mrs. Wilkins and rummage through her amazing attic. I found myself as furious as Melonhead when his mom's "betrayal" comes out and desperately hoping he'd make it to the Big Stink after the final collision of catastrophes.

This story is really a little long for a beginning chapter book, but it's not really middle grade fiction and I don't want to add yet another label to my huge list. Hand this to boys (and girls!) who love funny stories, a healthy dose of gross, and need a fun summer read! Perfect for strong younger readers up through twelve-year-olds who will enjoy remembering "when they were kids".

Verdict: I am still in love with Melonhead! Ordered for my library several months ago because I knew it would be good, and it just arrived this week!

ISBN: 0385736584; Published June 2010 by Delacorte; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library