Monday, February 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Elephant Talk by Ann Downer

First, a slight digression. There's nothing in this book about Ann Downer's fantasies, but....I would really, really, really like to see another Theodora book. Please? Ok, back to elephants. I know I said I was going to buy mainly sports books this year, but somebody asked for elephant books and I suddenly realized we only had a couple books on elephants - all but one icky and outdated. So I decided I really needed to look at elephant books and this one definitely stands out!

The story of elephant communication and research is introduced with some brief anecdotes of elephants in the wild and zoos, and an overview of elephants in history, their current endangered status, and how learning about their communication may help. Further information on different elephant species and the evolution of elephants is also included. The six chapters of the book cover basic elephant social structure and anatomy, and detailed explanations of how elephants communicate.

But this book is about more than just the sounds elephants make and the herds they create. It's a fascinating look into how large-brained mammals form social ties and interact in a group. There are profiles of various scientists who have investigated different areas of elephant behavior and animal communication, and even several discussions of how elephant and human social connections are similar. I'm thinking someone should have a "bull elephant" group for guys to mentor teen boys...

Excellent sources, a glossary of elephant sounds, suggestions for ways to help elephants indirectly and directly, and an extensive bibliography and reading/website list finish off the story of elephant communication and society. Ann Downer's writing is clear and has a good balance of science facts, research, and stories to hold the reader's interest.

Verdict: This is an excellent middle grade book on elephants with general and historical information added to the specific topic of communication so you could easily make this your one elephant book for older grades. My one complaint has nothing to do with the text....but the binding. This is a perennial complaint of mine. Expensive library bound nonfiction may have been a good idea fifty years ago, but the rapid changes in scientific knowledge and lower circulation of nonfiction (at least in my library) all mean that I'm reluctant to shell out $30 for a library bound book I may need to update in another five years. I'm very frustrated that so many excellent nonfiction publishers offer their books only in library bound and occasionally paperback, which I'm not really supposed to buy. Trade binding please!

ISBN: 9780761357667; Published March 2011 by Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley; Would like to purchase for the library, but it's too pricey for my budget.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

This week at the library; or, tweens, ice and organizing myself out of meals.

This is getting too lengthy! Going to bullet points...

  • Approximately 25 calls asking if we're open (the schools are open, the city is open, the post office is open, YES WE'RE OPEN)
  • My brilliant idea is a go and we are going to have a tween area! Before and after pictures soon I hope...
  • Make it and Take it - we made Pixel Pics from Jane Bull's Made by Me. I had graph paper for them to draw designs, plastic canvas squares, needles, and yarn. The kids really didn't have the patience to use the graph paper but they loved trying out sewing. As in every sewing program, I spent every second threading needles and undoing tangles. A few of the kids got very frustrated after they'd been there a while and I had to keep reminding them this was something they took home to finish, they couldn't sew the entire square in an hour.

  • I worked 12 - 8 because my director was going to Library Legislative Day. Well, that didn't happen.
  • Our spiffy new children's area gate is a failure - has to be loosened, straightened, and tightened constantly. Took it down with much inner woe.
  • Two kids tripped over the Wii cord - parents suggested wireless Wii. I'm in favor of it if somebody donates the money...
  • Made monthly programs calendars through August. This is a lot more time-consuming than it sounds, really
  • Somehow didn't eat breakfast
  • Started on flyers for individual programs through August
  • Had a record number for Lego Building Club - 51. I had planned to show them some of the laminated guides and magazines I'd brought for ideas, but apparently a door was left unlocked and when I came over about 10 minutes before the program started to unlock there were already twenty people in the room. "We sneaked in the back" one grinning seven-year-old boy informed me.
  • Suddenly realized around 2:30 that I had managed to organize my projects, desk time, and programs so as to preclude lunch. Oh well. This is why I keep peanuts and apple juice in my desk.
  • Bear storytime! We read Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, The terrible plop by Ursula Dubosarsky, and Blueberries for Sal. Then we did "We're going on a bear hunt" a la Michael Rosen's hilarious rendition, and made bears out of paper bags...and then we made rainbows out of paper plates. Not sure where the rainbows came from, but we went with it!
  • Much kicking out of tweens in the afternoon...
  • Suddenly remembered late Thursday that I was doing toddler storytime today as it's a no school day. The less said about that the better. Sometimes it works, sometime it doesn't. Sometimes we wish we had started the day at noon.
  • Penguin movie marathon! I opened the Storyroom and turned on Penguin of Madagascar cartoons from 1 to 5. I put out snacks and about 20 people came, in small groups, in and out, which was what I wanted. I did have to check the room frequently and pause the movie to vacuum popcorn off the floor and at one point tell some small boys to stop playing with the projector! but otherwise it went fine and I think we are go for the scary movie marathon I am planning for October!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ABC: A child's first alphabet book & 123: A child's first counting book by Alison Jay

I loved Alison Jay's Welcome To The Zoo, and was pleased to discover she has written some other lovely picturebooks. At first, her ABC book appears to be the traditional "A is for apple, B is for balloon" fare, accompanied by her trademark cracked backgrounds and spreading landscapes. A closer look shows a plethora of additional alphabet art. Each picture includes multiple items matching the appropriate letter, as well as hints for the next landscape. Several of the stories incorporate Mother Goose rhymes and miniature stories. The back of the book includes a list of all the alphabetical items on each page.
Jay's counting book has a Mother Goose or folktale on each page, from the Three Little Pigs to seven magic beans for Jack and the Beanstalk. The pages include multiple items to count and go up to 10 and down 1 again. The back includes a list of each fairy tale pictured.
These concept books include hours of enjoyment for both small children and parents, searching for the stories and items in each picture. These books are both available as board books, although I would prefer to add them to the library as picturebooks, since the complex art and pictures will have appeal to older children as well as toddlers. I'm looking forward to getting a look at Alison Jay's new concept book, Red Green Blue.

Verdict: Added to my wishlist to fill in my worn concept collection. Recommended especially for concept collections, but also fun for toddler storytime.

ISBN: 978-0525475248 (only edition currently in print is board book); Published 2005 (board book edition) by Dutton; Borrowed from the library.

ISBN: 978-0525478362; Published September 2007 by Dutton; Borrowed from the library.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Oil Spill! by Elaine Landau

I admit I was skeptical about this title when I first saw it promoted - it seems way too soon to be putting out nonfiction about a disaster that is far from over. However, this turned out to be a very informative collection of information, although I do have some reservations about the book.

A detailed explanation of how drilling rigs work and what went wrong in the Gulf covers three short chapters. There are photographs of the disaster, as well as model drawings of the various equipment pieces. The fourth chapter details the effects of the oil spill on the ocean, beaches, and wildlife. In the follow chapter, Laundau talks about the clean-up efforts, including government agencies and volunteers. I did think the multiple references to President Obama's involvement were superfluous - it would have been better if the various agencies and future plans had just been detailed without the constant "Obama directed, said, stressed" etc. I didn't think his involvement was really relevant and the chapter should have focused on the people and agencies involved in the clean-up.

The additional information and ideas at the end of the book include two pages about "What you can do" including ideas on how children can help with the oil spill - raising money and writing to your representatives - and a collection of the usual save the environment directions; ride your bike, recycle, etc. I didn't think these were really relevant to the story. Pretty much every nonfiction book for kids that even touches on the environment, endangered animals, or science includes the same ideas (although I will say the "take shorter showers" is one I don't see often). I would have been more interested if perhaps this section had included some more relevant suggestions, maybe finding lakes or wetlands in your area that need cleaning or something. The list of oil spills in history was a good inclusion. The glossary was unnecessary, since most terms were explained within the book. There was a good bibliography with sources and further reading that included a variety of newspapers, internet, and print resources.

Verdict: Although I have some quibbles with a few aspects of the book, this is probably the best title on the Gulf oil spill available right now (or soon available) and will be a good choice for several years, when an updated edition will probably be needed - hopefully one that talks about how oil spills are being prevented and not about the latest disaster.

ISBN: 9780761374855; Published April 2011 by Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley; Purchased for the library.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This week at the library; or, I would have preferred snakes

I have never been allowed to forget the year when I had a snake theme for Valentine's Day. Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. Snakes are cool, holidays manufactured by greeting card companies and candy makers are not. Anyways, I decided to do lots of Valentineish things. Only I sort of planned the dates wrong, I should have had Valentine themes up to Monday, not starting on Monday. Oh well.
We made Valentines for Make it and Take it. I wasn't actually there for most of the program, because my director and I went to a staff meeting at one of our elementary schools, but everything went well although only a few people showed up. Clearly, I am not the only person who thinks Valentines are boooooring.

I wasn't coming to work until noon on Tuesday, but I got an emergency call early in the morning - Miss Pattie was sick! Now, if I recall correctly, the last time Miss Pattie asked me to sub for storytime because of illness she had pneumonia and had just gotten back from the emergency room. It takes a lot to bring down Miss Pattie. Now, I have a backup toddler storytime, unfortunately I had already used it the previous Friday (Pattie was at an in-service thingy or something - we borrow her from the school district). So, I had to put something together on my way in. We did "Jumping and Counting" with Jim Gill and bells and shakers, then we read Handa's Surprise by Eileen Browne and there was much enjoyment of identifying the various animals, although some confusion over the fruits. Then we interacted over Leslie Patricelli's Yummy, Yucky board book, identifying foods that are yummy or yucky. Then we did "Five little kernels" which as you probably know involves lots of jumping up and down, and we finished up with Susan Schade's The Noisy Counting Book which involves counting and animal noises. We made gingerbread men with my giant gingerbread men die cuts, gluing on buttons and eyes, and further decorating with markers and crayons. Phew!

We are STILL having problems with our tweens and teens - we have figured out it's mainly 5th and 6th graders, with a small pocket of 7th graders. I think. Anyhow, they apparently went NUTS on Monday, and when I went up to see how Wii gaming was going.... We have a giant bulletin board which I have tried at various times to make into an art board. I had to take the paper off for the third time in as many days because of obscene language and general nastiness - kids writing nasty things about other kids, etc. Then they poofed our bean bags AGAIN. Poofing bean bags involves opening the zippers just a little, then jumping on them. At least, this appears to be what they did, as I can't think of anything else that would continually scatter small amounts of the inner packing about the floor. Then someone drew all over our nice teen table with pencil. Regards the subject of the drawings, I will only say that somewhere among our teens lurks a budding porn comics illustrator. All this apparently happened sometime on Monday. Argh!

Anyhow...I removed all the paper from the bulletin board (still haven't decided what to do with it and leaving it uncovered is problematic b/c at one point someone scratched an obscenity into the cork) I removed all the bean bags, and have decided that in the "what security should we get" discussion I am in favor of security cameras. Lots of them.

Meanwhile, after cleaning up (baby wipes gets pencil off tables in case you're wondering) I took off for kindergarten registration which started at 4pm. The idea was to issue library cards, but I had a lot of trouble accessing our system off site and ended up checking names with the librarian at reference via chat and then issuing the cards. Then I had to input them all into the system when I got back to the library around 7pm.

It was a very, very long day. So I came into work late on Wednesday. Pattie was still sick, but we just cancelled baby storytime. I don't do babies. We were doing Valentines for Messy Art Club, and it was then I realized my mistake about the dates as the kids all groaned that Valentine's Day was over. But they had fun anyways. Although I spent most of the program hovering over, you guessed it, the tweens and teens because they were out of control the minute I turned my back. Oh, and the sink in the bathroom was "mysteriously" broken. Grrr. We had a crazy evening with an event in pretty much every room - Friends meeting, Men's book club, babysitting for Friends, and knitting group. At least adult book club happened earlier that afternoon!

Thursday! Having realized the Valentine date problem and being really tired of Valentine's anyways, I did an impromptu preschool storytime to an audience of three children. I used the Noisy Counting Book and Yummy Yucky again as well as Love Splat by Rob Scotton (which I really don't like because of the "teasing equals affection/crush" issue, but parents like it) and Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard. Then I pulled out our bead bins and pipe cleaners and we beaded with much enthusiasm.

I got some of the girls together in the afternoon - they're good if you give them something to do, I just don't have enough to keep them occupied - and had them take beans from our saggy icky bean bag and completely fill our nicer, newer bean bag. Then the bean bag went into the children's area. The teens are not getting bean bag privileges back for a looooong time. They made a huge mess, but they cleaned it all up - even vacuuming - and got a helpful candy in reward.

Pattie was back on Friday, much to the relief of all, and we had a group from Head Start for storytime and to take a look around the library. Unfortunately, I couldn't give them an official tour since I was on the desk. I did a little more organizing of the storyroom, one of my major projects right now, and then I LEFT.

Because I was working Saturday. I did have a brilliant idea whilst walking home on Friday, which will hopefully fix some of our tween and teen problems. We'll see how everyone else likes it on Monday - my director was cautiously in favor. So, on Saturday I came in around 9:30 and did a few things, lugged a bunch of stuff over to our community room, explained my BRILLIANT idea to our director, then we had the four year old birthday party. We actually had about 30 people, which was good, but I'm still thinking of doing something different for the b'day parties - for one thing, I don't like working multiple weekends. Blah. Anyways, we had a monster theme, so we had a lot of different monster masks, paper bags for monster puppets, cookies, and birthday crowns. Simple but fun. Then I went on the desk until we closed at 2 and mostly drew plans for my brilliant idea.

It was a crazy week. Other things that happened this week...

I spent over half an hour with an extremely crazy patron and was screaming in my head for a long time afterwards and we got a baby gate to close off our children's area. It works pretty well, except having to be adjusted frequently when it gets pushed or pulled and some older people tripping, so we put strips of red tape on the floor to warn people and the crack in one of our windows continues to grow at an alarming rate, but the glass that was ordered was cracked, so we continue to wait with trepidation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Adventure of the Speckled Band, adapted by Vincent Goodwin, illustrated by Ben Dunn

I sort of have two reviews for this book. First, from the patron or kid-reader point of view:

This is a great graphic novel! I checked it out to see what the series was like, and I think most kids would be enthralled. The text is readable and retains some of Doyle's original atmospheric language while making it simple enough for younger readers to understand. The art is sharp and attractive, there's quite a bit of talking heads, but enough action to keep the story moving. Kids who like mysteries with a little bit of horror will enjoy this comic.

Now from my point of view...this was an awful adaptation. While a lot of original language was kept, in the shortened form of the story some of it sounds ridiculous. Most of the suspecting-gypsies part was cut, of course, but they had to be left in because of the confusion over what "speckled band" meant, which makes the story confusing at that point. The art is ridiculous. The pleasant but unattractive middle-aged Miss Stoker has become a charming and helpless girl of about fifteen, I'd put Watson at a few years older, and Holmes looks like a dissipated almost-twenty. I know there are artistic conventions about these things in comics, but seriously? Then there are the weird changes in the story - Holmes doesn't straighten the poker, but he and Watson are seen at a blacksmith's discussing the case while the blacksmith hammers it straight. Why? Well, obviously a diseased twenty-year-old wouldn't be able to do any feats of strength but...and at the end, there's no actual attack. Holmes and Watson sit around for a couple hours, then there's a yell, and whaddya know, the snake picked this night to turn on its master. Must have sensed teenage detectives in the other room.

Verdict: I think kids would probably like this book and the series, but if they're all like this I can't bring myself to buy them. I'll wait for a better adaptation of Sherlock Holmes to come along.

ISBN: 978-1602707276; Published January 2010 by Magic Wagon (ABDO); Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I know here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James

This picturebook is the winner of the 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book awards for excellence in children's literature (picture book category, of course).

A young girl is sad at having to leave the trailer park she and her family have been living in while her father helps to build a dam. She's scared and worried about going to live in a big city. So she remembers all the wonderful things she's seen and done in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, and her teacher helps her think of a special idea to keep her knowledge with her when she moves.

It took several readings before I really started to appreciate this book. It has a slow pace and reflective quality that will appeal to a smaller group of older children than the usual rollicking picture book I use in storytime. The illustrations are made with thick swirls of paint, but still have incredible detail (although I still think the frog one is seriously weird).

This book probably won't grab many listeners are storytime, but as a moving story it's excellent.

Verdict: Highly recommended if you have a migrant population or a lot of moving around, but despite the book's excellent writing and art I think it's appeal may be limited.

ISBN: 978-0888999238; Published February 2010 by Groundwood; Borrowed from the library.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I almost didn't pick this ARC up at ALA in January. At nearly 600 pages, it's definitely a TOME. But I did glance at the back and decided it sounded interesting enough to carry home with me.

I'm certainly glad I took it! This was an utterly fascinating, multi-faceted stories. It has vampires and witches and romance, but it's like no other paranormal I've read (and I have read quite a few). It has history and mystery and magic. It has alchemy and medieval science and genetics and modern DNA research. The characters are real and complex and the writing sings and moves. Parts of the plot, notably the scientific and historic digressions, can slow down a little, but there's plenty of action and suspense to move things along.

The only comparison I can make to this book is, oddly enough, Dorothy Sayers. It gives me the same feeling of sitting off to the side listening to incredibly intelligent, well-read people converse with the same bright moments when I realize I understand what they're saying.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Ragdolls are the best by Elaine Landau

As I wandered through my nonfiction section a short time ago, finding ever more outdated books and gaps, and wondering how I am going to replace and fill in with less than $2000 for the year...I realized we had yet another gap I had somehow not noticed. We have sets of dog breeds. Sets of horse breeds. Sets on raising various farm animals (big 4-H county here). But not on cats. In fact, we have about 3 cat books. Now that I think about it, I was looking for new cat books last year because kids kept asking for them and I found nada.

Apparently, publishers have noticed this and I found several interesting looking series to choose from! I decided to take a look at Lerner's The Best Cats Ever series first, and picked Ragdolls are the best for a sample look.

First, I must say these are the most adorable cats ever! I had never heard of this breed - I'm allergic to cats, so although I like them, I don't interact much. The 32 pages of this information book are full of photographs of absolute fluffiness! There are explanations of the Ragdoll's history, information on famous Ragdolls, descriptions of the cat's coloring, disposition, and some quick facts on cats in history. There's several pages on pros and cons, helping the reader decide if the Ragdoll is a good pet for their family, information on pricing, bringing a new cat home, and general maintenance. There is a glossary and index and a section for more information - although most of the books and websites are fiction and/or general.

This is a colorful and attractive book, perfect for younger kids whose families are thinking of purchasing a cat or just like to look at different kinds of cat breeds.

Verdict: I still have to look at some other series, but this one is a strong contender. Lots of photographs, enough text that older kids won't think it babyish and younger kids won't be daunted. I would have liked to see a little more specific information - a quick google search brought up several websites specific to this breed and I would have rather seen them than the couple fiction books, which didn't seem to have any connection to the book. I'm leaning towards purchasing at least some of the titles in this cat series. I mean, assuming I have money left after I buy new sports books and mythology and sharks and drawing. Sorry kitties.

ISBN: 9780761364283; Published February 2011 by Lerner; ebook provided by publisher through netGalley.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We go a-zooing

Zooing is a specific activity with many aspects, indulged in by myself and my library-friend-Sara. It involves driving about an hour to the Milwaukee zoo and then shopping and Chinese food. I can hear people saying "you go to the zoo in the WINTER?" Yep. It's ideal. No giant groups of noisy children, limited number of adults making comments ranging from the inane to the truly disturbed, and there's a surprising number of animals out and about, while those that aren't are often on display inside. Our zoo trip wasn't hugely successful this morning, since the octopi (one of my personal favorites - ask me to do my octopi arms for you sometime) wasn't on display. But we saw a satisfyingly large and brown bear looking around vaguely and the polar bear was actually playing with his ball and put on quite a show. Plus, I got to further test my new camera on peacocks.

Then we went to Michaels. I was just thinking vaguely of purchasing some of those cute little dollar notebooks, but they had a huge bin of ribbon and...I ended up buying half my library supply list for spring and summer (the ribbon will make fairy wands for our Fancy Nancy party, in case you're wondering). The two things I couldn't find anywhere were reinkable stamps for stamping our SRC logs and sticker paper to make our own stickers for a craft programs. Suggestions?

We went to a baby store - I don't think I've ever actually been in one. It was kind of cute in an overpowering way. All that brightly colored objective was a gate for our children's area and I did find one, which I hope works as it was a bit pricey. But our parents will certainly appreciate it. They've been complaining in a rather frazzled manner for some time about escaping toddlers. Plus, I've been racking my brains for small prizes for our new age 0-5 summer reading club, and my eyes lit upon...I guess they're teething rings? or links or something. Anyways, opened up, the package will provide a nice selection of small prizes for babies.

Of course we visited the guinea pigs and adoption cats at Petsmart and got yummies at World Market. We actually went into a sports equipment store because I'm sort of determined to get some kind of exercise machine for the winter when it's too cold/snowy/slushy to walk. I'm still undecided. Most of those things are so BIG. The spinning bikes looked kind of fun though...

We had late lunch/early dinner at our favorite zooing Chinese restaurant, Emperor's Kitchen, and worked on library-friend-Sara's five year plan for her department. 'Cause we're librarians! We stopped by a scrapbooking store we go to sometimes, hoping for the elusive sticker paper and reinkable stamp, but no luck. Of course we had to stop at Half-Price books, where I really hit the jackpot and found...

Terry Pratchett Discworld graphic novels (which I've been looking for forever. I might donate them to the library when I've read them. Maybe)
Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum (was in an Ozzy mood earlier this week and suddenly realized I was missing this one. It's just a cheap paperback, so I'll still need to get the right edition later, but good enough for reading)
a couple Amanda Quick romances (yes, I've read them all, but I was in the mood to re-read a couple and there they were...)
a Marvel Adventures Spider-Man digest (Avengers are my favorite, but I've got all those)
Little Red-Cap illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (This is the more faithful translation of Little Red Riding Hood and I love Zwerger's fairy tale illustrations and it was on my wishlist!)
Girl Genius vol. 8!!! I've been meaning to get these and haven't got around to it, I have no problem starting with vol. 8, since I've read them all online and it was a GREAT BARGAIN. if you're in wisconsin, hie yourself over to the half price on bluemound, they've got more!
and I found a new Winnie the Pooh record for my collection and two Just-So stories records narrated by Sterling Holloway.

And Sara found a fairy book and a fairy tale book.

As always, we finished our trip off with a visit to Fresh Market, where normally Sara buys chocolate-covered coffee beans and a treat in the bakery and I get peanut pretzels and avocado dip and petit fours and some good bread. But....I finally got around to cautiously testing the fancy cheeses I bought a while ago and which were sitting in my refrigerator. Italian fontini and gouda. Yum! So we decided to look at fancy cheeses. The very nice lady promptly offered us samples and the benefit of her experienced advice and we both got some gouda, which was different than the gouda I got from the grocery store, being creamy and very yummy and not hard, and I got some Danish haverti, which is an experiment, and Sara got some fancy parmesan (I don't do parmesan)

Yay zooing trip! Hopefully the gate will fit and I will locate reinkable stamps and sticker paper soon. BTW, I'm looking for CUTE reinkable stamps.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

This week at the library; or, Freezing temps, vomit, and frazzled librarians!

This week has continued the panicked craziness I've been in for the past month. I'm usually very ahead with things, but somehow I just can't seem to get everything done! Maybe because I'm trying to plan programs through the end of the year all at once...but I kind of have to, because of budgeting. Deep breaths, deep breaths...

Our Make it and Take it craft was paper beads (or bangles). I got this from Laura Martin's Recycled Crafts Box. Our staff donated old wrapping paper and the kids cut it up, spread it with glue, and rolled it over straws (left over from another project). Some of the younger kids had trouble rolling tightly, but they all had fun anyways.

We found our missing Wii controller! I totally forgot to look inside the steering wheel when we were searching earlier, and there it was. Once again, I had no one at book club )-: I know at least 3 kids checked out the book, one of them listened to at least part of it, b/c I talked to him about it and I'm pretty sure one of the other girls read it. Oh well. We had such a nice start last year...maybe I should go back to just reading adventure fantasy and not try anything different! Or maybe it's just too cold to come out at night and I'll get more people when the weather's nicer.

Another broken window! We have very tall windows in our children's area and I was really upset to discover one was badly cracked - this happened last summer and it was EXPENSIVE. Plus, the crack is growing, probably due to the weather, but it's kinda nerve wracking...

I made a few changes for Lego Building Club. I put all the guys in a bucket and told the kids they could only have 2 each. I also set aside all the boards and made sure they only took one. I was hoping this would encourage them to build more instead of just creating scenes with the guys - or the first couple kids grabbing all the guys - and it seems to have worked. The giant box of wheels I bought with donation money was the big deal this week and everyone made cars. I made a donation jar for our after school programs and so far we have $18! I also reorganized the layout of the boxes of Legos.

We had two kids throw up this week, one of them unfortunately on our train table...we're now short a couple pieces of track, as I was not in the mood to try scrubbing vomit off wooden tracks. We have lots of track. A few pieces more or less won't matter.

Unexpectedly, I had a large group for preschool storytime - 15 and all girls! We were doing cats, so we read Viviane Schwarz's books, which are absolute favorites of mine and the kids - There are cats in this book and There are no cats in this book. In between, we read Kaye Umansky's I don't like Gloria! and Kitten's spring by Eugenie Fernandes, which is a little young for this crowd, but they really like finding the kitten and other animals in the pictures. We made cat faces with paper plates, ribbon/pipe cleaners for whiskers, and some paper triangles I found at the last minute.

No one was interested in hanging out in the storyroom Thursday afternoon. They decided to completely cover the Art Board in graffiti. I still live in hope that someone will actually draw on it, instead of writing how much they love Justin Bieber and then downhill from there. I had to strip it for inappropriate language. Le sigh. On the other hand, it concentrates all the graffiti in one place!

I subbed for toddler storytime on Friday morning and the 30+ kids and parents were very forgiving - I used to work a lot with toddlers, but I don't anymore and it's really hard to flip back into toddler mode, especially when you are in the middle of your budget....

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Midnight Curse by L. M. Falcone

Charlie and Lacey are used to their life with no money. But they're still thrilled when their mom gets the news that their reclusive Great-uncle Jonathan has died and they may have been left something in his will. Despite Charlie's panic, they enjoy the trip to England...until they arrive at the strangely frightening mansion and almost immediately find themselves alone with a strange butler, ghosts, and a mysterious and terrifying curse. Can they remove the curse before it's too late for Charlie?

Falcone's atmospheric writing builds slowly to a horrifying conclusion but it leaves the reader somehow unsatisfied. While there's as much terror as any good Bellairs creepfest, these stories somehow have a younger feel. In the end, despite the horrifying endings and the weird plots, both of the Falcone ghost stories I've read so far are, well, boring. The characters' little touches of personality don't make them any more real and despite all the running back and forth in the creepy house and to the witch, there's no real action in The Midnight Curse.

Verdict: Middle grade readers looking for good creepy stories will prefer John Bellairs. Younger readers will be satisfied with Chris Mould or Araminta Spookie. These stories just don't deliver enough character and plot to get the reader to the really terrifying conclusion.

ISBN: 978-1554533596; Published March 2010 by Kids Can Press; Borrowed from the library.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mudshark by Gary Paulsen

I had so much fun reading this book, I didn't realize it lacked both plot and character development until several days after I finished it. But hey, plot can be overrated. So is character development. This falls into the category of "I like it so eleven-year-old boys will love it too". Yum.

Lyle Williams, aka Mudshark, has honed his powers of observation and his fast reactions through babysitting his terrorizing triplet toddler sisters. He's also filled his head with knowledge from hanging out constantly at the local library where his mom works. Now he's a super-Encyclopedia Brown, with a photographic memory, instantaneous reactions, and a thriving business as the go-to guy in school for problems.

Until the seemingly psychic parrot arrives in the library, as a result of the Great Crayfish Experiment. Now chalkboard erasers are disappearing, Mudshark is losing his status - and maybe his cool - and the level of danger in the faculty restroom increases every day. Can Mudshark's brain triumph over a parrot? Can Kyle really work magic? Where is the gerbil hiding?

Verdict: I'm pleased I had the perspicacity to purchase this for my library earlier this year. It's full of hilarity, eccentricity, and unexpected twists with some thoughts to savor long after the story is over. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0553494648; Published May 2009 by Yearling; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Hero of the high seas: John Paul Jones and the American Revolution by Michael Cooper

I'm continuing my somewhat pointless quest for good biographies for our juvenile biography section. Pointless, since I don't have any money to revamp the section...and I've planned to do sports and maybe technology this year and then the crafts section, and biographies is so far out that it's misty. Still, it never hurts to be prepared.

This biography of John Paul Jones comes from National Geographic's series of juvenile biographies. It fulfills my basic requirements, being a little over 100 pages long and having further information, a timeline, and an index in the back.

However, the text itself was rather disappointing. Admittedly, there's not much to go on - Jones' life is rather sketchy and most of the original documents pertaining to him seem to be his spate of letters trying to get promotion, better ships, etc. and complaining about all the people who didn't recognize his genius and ability.

While the biography covers the basics - his early life, the rather confused events which led to his becoming a wanted man and changing his name, and his influence and courage fighting for America, the tone of the narrative somehow feels both pretentious and patronizing. Or maybe I was just in a bad mood that day.

The biography was mostly interesting, there was plenty of sailing detail (but not so much that it bogged down) and John Paul Jones is an unusual character, but the story felt more about generalities of war and history than Jones himself.

Verdict: If you have kids interested in sailing or history, or a real dearth of Colonial history biographies, you might want to add this. It just didn't appeal to me, but most other reviewers seem to have liked it.

ISBN:978-0792255475; Published September 2006 by National Geographic: Borrowed from the library.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


While everyone else was suffering through a snowstorm and its aftereffects, we got a whipped cream storm. Makes you hungry, doesn't it? Just look at those luscious swirls...

New page: Essays

I've got a new page up, Essays! I was cleaning out my computer files and came across my stash of children's literature essays and papers and was once again wondering what to do with them...and I decided to throw them up here, via Google docs. Take a look if you're interested! For those who crave more information, the Randall Jarrell essays were my senior literature thesis and the L. M. Boston work was my honors thesis, although only the Anchor in Time section was used. But I figured 40 pages was enough...

One of the reasons I didn't stay (or continue, depending on how you look at it) in academia was the somewhat annoying realization that the number of people who cared about critical literary analysis of children's literature was very, very small. Also, I got bored.

Now I just have to do something with all the poetry...

Updated...I decided what to do with all the poetry. I made another blog. Just poetry now, maybe I'll throw in some other art stuff later on. Visit for some seriously depressing poetry!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This week at the library; or, Yay Snow Days!

We had an unusually large group for Make it and Take it on Monday. I had thought making bookmarks was kinda...well, boring. But it really got the kids excited and we had about 20 kids total, coming in and out. It helped that I ran the program longer than usual, almost until five. We had three different types of die cut bookmarks and lots of glitter and I laminated them for the kids the next day, which worked really well. Check out our pictures here.

As the snow got worse on Tuesday, we decided to close the library at 3pm, so no Wii Gaming. Sadly, someone appears to have stolen one of our controllers so we are down to 3 (they got one of the games last year). I postponed our book club to next week. I only have 3 kids who checked out the book, so...any ideas for making a really vibrant tween book club?

We were closed all day Wednesday - yay snow day! So no Books 'n' Babies, Messy Art Club or adult programs.

Our storytime theme for Thursday was dogs. We had a grand total of 3 children, two of them twins. Ok, some of that is snow, yes. But....I really need a different structure or something for preschool storytime. Or possibly a different date or time, since there are several other highly-attended things going on at the same time Thursday morning. Anyways, we read Please take me for a walk, Katie loves the kittens, and Dogs don't do ballet, which was a new one for storytime and the kids seemed to like it. We did a little snowman rhyme, because of the snow, but I just couldn't get much participation with only 3 kids. We made dog puppets out of brown paper lunch bags and I got one more kid in for that.

I was going to show another movie in the afternoon for open storyroom, but something is wrong with our projector, so I put out the boardgames I keep in the back - Kerplunk, Stratego, and Risk. But we had hardly any kids - just one girl at around 4:30 wandered in and used Kerplunk for a little while.

And that was our rather blah, very cold and snowy week!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mine! by Mathilde Stein, illustrated by Mies van Hout

Like Mathilde Stein's heroine of The Child Cruncher, Charlotte takes things as they come and is never at a loss. So when she finds a little white ghost in her bed, she's not at all surprised. He turns out to be quite a selfish little ghost, and the only word he knows if "mine". But with Charlotte's firm guidance, he learns it's more fun to play when you share!

Although this is a ghost story, it's not really something you'd put in your Halloween or holiday books. The emphasis isn't on the ghost, but on Charlotte's matter-of-fact acceptance of his presence and her straight-faced way of dealing with the ghost's demands. When the ghost goes home, Charlotte misses him - but he's learned quite a few things from her, as she discovers!

Mies van Hout's art is comfortingly scratchy and textured and her minimalist faces express emotions with just a twitch of the mouth and a shift of the ghost's little dot eyes. The combination of full-page spreads and smaller inset illustrations breaks up the longer sections of text and will hold the attention of children from the surprising beginning to the satisfying end.

Verdict: Recommended. Hand this one to parents who want books on sharing, to kids who like ghost stories that aren't too creepy, and to fans of The Child Cruncher.

ISBN: 978-1590785065; Published August 2007 by Lemniscaat; Borrowed from the library

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blog Tour: True Princess by Diane Zahler

Diane Zahler's first fairy tale retelling, Thirteenth Princess, has been a popular choice at my library. It's got a great plot, fantastic characters, and who wouldn't love that cover? I've been looking forward to her new fairy tale retelling, True Princess, especially after I found out it's full of Scandinavian folklore and fairy tale elements, a favorite area of interest to me.

What's True Princess all about? "Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful! Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Lilia refuses to accept that dreadful fate, and with her best friend Kai and his sister Karina beside her, she heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf-King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.

So, I asked Diane if she could tell us a little more about the Scandinavian influences and elements in this fun story:

A True-ly Scandinavian Princess

A True Princess is based on “The Princess and the Pea,” by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish writer. I’m half Norwegian, so I was intrigued by the idea of setting my story in an imaginary Scandinavia – someplace true both to Andersen’s roots and to my own. Years ago I visited my great-uncle Johann’s dairy farm, north of the Arctic Circle, and that location has lived in my imagination ever since. The landscape of Norway is incredible – fjords and forests of fir trees, glaciers and craggy mountains. It’s deeply romantic and a little scary at the same time, and to me it seemed like a place where magic could happen at any moment. It was exactly the right setting for A True Princess.

When I was in the early stages of writing, my husband, a professor of English literature, was teaching a poetry course. One of the poems he was doing was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “The Erl-King” (“Der Erlkonig”), which I had never read before. It’s a creepy poem about an evil elf. I loved the idea of malicious elves – I had to put the Elf-King into the story. My Elf-King isn’t as wicked as the one in the poem. He’s cruel, careless, selfish – but he’s not as all-powerful as he thinks he is! I found out that the basis for the poem was a Danish legend, so it fit very neatly into the Scandinavian theme of the book. In my research of Norwegian myth and legend, I came across the nisses, or tomtes, mischievous sprites who attach themselves to households where they do either good or ill, depending on their whims. And I read about Odin, the king of the Norse gods, and his fearsome Hunt, which brought disaster or death to those who saw it. Both the nisses and Odin are vital characters in the story.

In keeping with the Scandinavian setting, I gave all my characters Scandinavian names – Lilia, my heroine; Jorgen and Ylva, the shepherd and his wife; Kai and Karina, Jorgen’ children; Prince Tycho and his courtiers Sir Erlend and Sir Ivar. Even Kai’s dog, Ove, has a Scandinavian name. The locations, too -- Dalir, Bitra Forest, and Gilsa --I found by looking up medieval Scandinavian place names. Thank goodness for the Internet!

So many very different do they all fit together? Perfectly! The story blends the odd little creatures of Scandinavian folklore, such as the nisses, with the dreadful elegance of the Elf-King and Odin's Hunt. Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with their emphasis on whimsy, humor, and always a hint of sorrow, make a perfect backdrop, weaving together all the very different folkloric elements. As an adult reader, some of the situations seem a little too easy - Lilia's inner royalty, Karina's sudden love. But it's easy to put that aside and bring out my inner 11 year old (at least for me) and enjoy the story for its delightful fairy tale quality, humor, and adventure. This is the perfect choice for 9 -12 girls looking for a little innocent romance and a good dose of fairy tale fantasy with some smart and realistic female heroines.

Verdict: A must for your fairy tale retellings in the juvenile area. Especially recommended because it's a readable length and has a lot of different elements to please a variety of readers.

ISBN: 9780061825019; Published February 2011 by HarperCollins; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library.

Check out all the other stops on the True Princess Blog Tour! Several of them are doing a giveaway, so don't miss your chance to own True Princess!

February 1, The Compulsive Reader
February 2, The Brain Lair
February 3, Galleysmith
February 4, Write for a Reader
February 5, The Cozy Reader
February 6, Libri Dilectio
February 7, Tales from the Rushmore Kid
February 8, Green Bean Teen Queen
February 8, Mother Daughter Book Club
February 9, There's a Book
February 10, Mrs. V's Reviews
February 11, The Cazzy Files
February 11, Sonder Books
February 12, BookScoops

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I'm the best by Lucy Cousins

I'm not really a Maisy fan. I mean, I don't dislike her, I just don't focus much on the toddler age group. Which is probably bad. I prefer board books with lots of photographs and textures and I generally sit down once or twice a year and buy a giant stack of toddler picturebooks and that's kinda it. But I do like some of the non-Maisy items Lucy Cousins has been producing the past year or so.

This new title features an exuberant - and boastful - dog. One by one, he defeats his friends in various contests. He runs faster than mole, digs better than goose, is bigger than ladybug, swims better than donkey....but now his friends feel sad and small. Until, they realize they are better than dog - if they arrange they competitions! Now it's dog's turn to feel sad and useless, until his friends' cheer him up. Dog's ego can't be kept down for long and he ends the book with a pleased observation about who's really the best.

Toddlers will enjoy the splashy art and the different animals and competitions, but this book is really ideally suited for preschoolers and even kindergarteners who will grasp the ironic humor and figure out exactly how dog is arranging things! I'd also like to use the book in a painting session with older kids sometime to encourage them to try some more exuberant art - my kid patrons are a bit perfectionistic when it comes to their painting sometimes.

Verdict: Recommended. A fun addition to Cousins' work

ISBN: 978-0763646844; Published May 2010 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library.