Saturday, April 30, 2011

This week at the library; or, It's finally stopped snowing and we're selling t-shirts, so it's officially summer

  • Back to work! Was completely thrown off by being asked actual reference questions this morning. Whaaa??? Also had a staff meeting, but nothing exciting happened, even though one of our staff is on the Digital Signature Task Force, a name which makes me very giggly.
  • For Make it and Take it we made "lion mane masks". Basically, I put out paper plates, feathers, jewels, yarn, and scrap paper and we created. Had a group of older kids suddenly appear, plus my usual 7-9 girl group and we made some marvelous creations (and an unbelievable mess with the feathers, which I made my aide vacuum up afterwards)
  • Random library thought - everyone is excited about Kindle coming into Overdrive, and yeah our patrons will love it. BUT. Unless our standards get changed, it's going to kill us. We aren't allowed to count ebook checkouts as "circulations" and we have certain numbers of materials we must have, which doesn't include ebooks. It's time these standards were changed! Especially the magazine requirements. I'm going crazy replacing magazines since they are cancelled constantly - no sooner do I request a new title, than it goes online only or out of business altogether. (and then the teens steal all the new issues, as happened today, and...)
  • Vacation. For no particular reason except I had one more vacation day and had to use it before May 5th. I was going to clean out my "garden" which consists of some pots on my little porch and whatever plants I sneak in around the edges when no one is watching, but it was alternately rainy, windy, and cloudy all day. So I quilted and mooched around and then went up to the library to give blood for our blood drive.
  • Looooong day today! I was supposed to have a preschool group at 9:30, so I showed up a little after 9, but they cancelled due to the rain, so I went back home and finished making curtains for my kitchen window. Then I came back around 12:30 and had a preschool group come in at 1:30. They had a tour and then we read stories, There are no cats in this book, I'm a Shark, Argus, and Planting the Wild Garden and we made butterfly puppets. Then at 3:30 I did do it yourself face painting with our Messy Art Club (some kids did more than their faces, but I told them they couldn't paint anything that required the removal of clothing). Then I was on the desk until 8 and...don't really remember the evening, other than I felt sick. Yay.
  • I had another preschool visit during preschool storytime. We did the same stories as Wednesday, except we "read" Clap your hands by Lorinda Cauley instead of Planting the Wild Garden. This was a younger group and rather wiggly.
  • We had our Royal Wedding Party at 12:30. I wasn't really doing anything for it, just providing space and some extra craft materials. Miss Pattie and several of our circ staff and a couple other volunteers did all the work and we had 75 people! Pictures, if you're interested.
  • Various other crisis arose and were averted and summer is looming ever closer. And I dreamed that night that I had interviewed at another library and our director was begging me, begging me I tell you! to stay. Heh heh heh. But then I somehow ended up hitchhiking all over Chicago with an elderly woman who didn't speak English, so...yeah...dreams.
  • Staff Development Day. A speaker from our city insurance talked about generation gaps etc. We went to Barnes and Noble for a look at the Nook and purchased one for our library, which we plan to circulate (we're circulating a Kindle right now). My own thoughts - the new color Nook is pretty cool and I would like one to use with NetGalley and to check my LibraryThing when I'm in bookstores. Maybe in a couple years when it isn't as likely to become obsolete. As far as the "interactive" children's books they promote, I am personally not in favor. In my opinion, kids do not need more screen time and distractions from text and image with little moving blips and parents do not need another excuse to tech-nanny their kids (the "read aloud" function really annoys me). However, I have many opinions not widely shared by the general populace, which is why there are Barbie movies in our dvd collection, suffocatingly cute encouragements towards helicopter parenting in our picture books, and Twihard slop on our teen shelves. Working in a public library is about literacy, education, and community, not shoving our personal opinions (however backed up by research they may be) down peoples' throats. But I am NOT using the color Nook in storytime! Yech! Oh, and we stopped by the biggest library in our larger consortium, Racine, to check out their renovation (sorry y'all, I'm not really impressed, although your carpet is nice) and I spent about an hour cutting hands on their die cut machine. Will have to go back and cut the other 600 I need later on...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring into summer with picture book sequels!

 While nothing can dim my continued hatred of sequels for young adults and middle grade, picture book sequels are another matter. First, unless you're really churning them out, they're not as thick on the ground as the aforementioned evilness. Secondly, small children (and ok, not so small children) love the continuity of a favorite character in a new adventure. I have three fun sequels from Kids Can Press to look at today.

First, Kitten's Summer by Eugenie Fernandes. I first encountered Fernandes' work last fall in Kitten's Autumn and fell in love with her gorgeous mixture of clay, collage and vibrant acrylic paint. Kitten's last adventure is as delightful as the others. Simple rhymes, "Robin shelters,/Squirrel scrambles./Chipmunk skitters,/Raccoon ambles" accompany the the illustrations which are full of wildlife and plants to name, as well as the fun of finding the kitten in each picture. These are favorites with my colleague who does baby and toddler storytimes, but I've also used them to great effect in preschool storytime, having the children identify and name various things in the pictures. I'm planning to use this series as one of my collage examples for our upcoming messy art club as well.

While my first loyalties will always be to Chester the magnificent, Scaredy Squirrel is a very fun character and quite popular at my library. In his latest adventure, Scaredy is getting ready for his birthday! As usual, he's planned a small party - just himself. After all, if he comes down from his tree and has a big party, who knows what could happen? Confetti and ponies at the very least! Then Scaredy realizes he really should invite his friend, Buddy. He prepares carefully for all possible disasters, but nothing could have prepared him for the surprise of a surprise party! Is his birthday ruined? Or can Scaredy Squirrel adjust and enjoy the party? While there's nothing particularly new about this latest adventure, Watt's Scaredy Squirrel formula is a popular once and still fresh and attractive to kids. Add this to your favorite birthday books!

We first met the sweet pig and rabbit pair in Genevieve Cote's Me and You. Now they're back, but their friendship isn't all roses anymore. A little argument grows, their wagon breaks, and suddenly they're not friends. Just to show they're not friends, they find all the things they can do alone; cooking, painting, doing magic, playing music. But they realize all these things are better when they're together and with a little compromise and cooperation their wagon - and their friendship - is mended. Cote's soft pastels illustrations have a gentle charm and this is a lovely look at friendship that young children will understand.

Verdict: Scaredy Squirrel is a must, of course, for any library. I recommend 2 copies if you can wing it. I highly recommend the Fernandes' Kitten books - if you have the money, go for the whole series. If you don't, make sure you get at least one! Cote's Without You is a sweet story of friendship for very young children. Take a quick look at your collection and if, like me, you can't find anything particularly good on friendship for the toddler and preschool crowd, go ahead and add this one in. It stands alone, so the first story isn't a must.

Kitten's Summer by Eugenie Fernandes
ISBN: 9781554533428; Published February 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Scaredy Squirrel has a birthday party by Melanie Watt
ISBN: 9781554534685; Published February 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates. Purchased for my library.

Without You by Genevieve Cote
ISBN 9781554536207; Published February 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jake by Audrey Couloumbis

I picked this title up because I fell so completely in love with Audrey Couloumbis' Lexie, the first book of hers I had read (gushing review coming soon). I read this one in a similar giant gulp, but wasn't quite as satisfied with it afterwards.

Jake is ten and it's almost Christmas. He's pretty satisfied with life, his only regret being the realization that his mom is probably never going to allow him to get a bike after his dad's death in an accident many years ago. But then Jake's mom slips on the ice and has to go the hospital and suddenly Jake is stuck with the gruff grandfather he's never met.

There are a lot of things to like about this story - the gradual cooperation and understanding of Jake and his grandfather, as they both learn things about each other and figure out how to compromise and get along. Jake's worries about his mom are in a perfect child's voice and his awkward attempts to interact with his grandfather are spot on. I guess what really bothered me about this story was the seemingly perfect relationship between Jake and his mom. They have all sorts of rituals and traditions, and Jake often takes the responsible role when his mom gets caught up in her work or a daydream. It just seemed a little too sugary sweet. At one point, Jake insists that he's not a "mama's boy" but that's pretty much exactly what he is. He doesn't seem to interact with any adult males - or many males at all, apart from one friend his own age. All the adults in his life are women; exciting, adventurous, unique, independent women, but all definitely female. Maybe this is part of the point of the story, showing how a boy in a predominantly female environment reacts to the sudden incursion of an older male, especially one with a military background who at first seems like he might not approve of Jake's interests and abilities. But I still would have liked to see Jake argue with his mom. I have never met a ten year old boy (or girl for that matter), with or without a single mother, who didn't occasionally argue with his mom. I guess Jake seems a little too saintly to be true.

Verdict: Although I had trouble seeing Jake as a believable character, I think that's something only an adult would notice. Kids who like realistic stories with interesting characters and some tension in the plot will probably gobble this one up.

ISBN: 9780375856303; Published September 2010 by Random; Borrowed from the library

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Birds of a feather by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple

I don't review poetry. It's right there in my review policy "no poetry." I have no personal objection to poetry, and, in fact, have written quite a bit of it myself and even have a poetry blog. However, the main focus of my reviews is collection development. My library currently has a very large poetry collection with a correspondingly low circulation number. Our nonfiction section is painfully lacking in many more popular areas (sports, crafts, fairy tales) and even more lacking in less popular but equally important areas (history and biography). So, I made the decision to not purchase any more poetry for the foreseeable future. Except for that adorable guinea pig book....and replacements for Shel Silverstein...and, well hardly anything.

ANYWAYS. There's an exception to every rule and this is it. Jane Yolen, of course. Jason Stemple's gorgeous, close-up photographs of birds are paired with poetry that ranges from thoughtful, to funny, to profound. I saw the photograph of the chickadee and I was hooked, I read "Terns Galore" and I was in love:

"At the seaside, terns galore,
One tern, one tern, one tern more.
I tern. You tern.
My turn to fly, tern,
Overhead and high, tern.
Underneath and 'bye, tern.
Why, tern, why turn?
Turning terns are all returning,
There upon the shore."

So clever! Not only does each photograph feature poems in a wide variety of styles, there's also a block of information about each bird. This is a perfect title to hand to kids who don't think they like poetry, to bird-lovers, to poetry lovers, or just to random passersby.

Verdict: Slide this one into your poetry collection, even if you're thinning, weeding, or not buying much or any poetry. It's a great blend of poetry and nonfiction that will attract a wide range of readers.

ISBN: 9781590788301; Published April 2011 by WordSong; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This week at the library; or, this is SPRING?

We started our Spring Break with several inches of snow on Monday. If it came in December, it would be pretty. As it was, I muttered some very un-children's-librarian-like words as I scraped off my car.

Monday was meetings, with the local elementary school librarians to plan the library's hosting of Battle of the Books and with my director and adult services librarian to finalize summer planning and scheduling. We were talking for two hours and we're still not done! Then I raced over to Walmart to get t-shirts for our t-shirt decorating program.

Tuesday was t-shirts! We've done this every spring I've been here, making this the third year, and each year I learn something. This year we used Eventbrite for the first time. It was very successful, except that they apparently send a lot of emails to the people who sign up. I had to up the number of registration spots and we ended up with 30 kids from around age 2 to 12 signed up.

First lesson: Sizes don't match. People listed sizes from 3T to 7-8 Children's to XSmall. Insanity! Next year I will have a ticket for each size so people don't have to try to figure it out. Related to first lesson, when I opened my t-shirt packets, the sizes were miniscule. Last year they were all huge, so this year I bought boys instead of adult (I buy men's undershirts. They're cheap). Note to self: Next year, buy some of both!

Second lesson: At least 10 people who hadn't signed up showed up - and several people who had signed up brought friends. Have extras. I did have enough, thanks to sending our adult svs librarian on an emergency run to Walmart b/c of the shirts being too small.

Third lesson: Because extra people showed up, and because t-shirts take up a LOT OF SPACE, have all the tables out in the community room. And extra paint.

I also figured out that tracing paper works as well or better than regular paper with fabric crayons, that if you're going to invite small children you should cover the tables before they get near the paint, and we need brown fabric markers.

I estimate about 50 people attended. Bigger and better, year after year! Oh, and I cancelled all storytimes this year, partly b/c Pattie is gone and I can't do them all myself, partly b/c we need to spread out the shirts somewhere and the Storyroom is really the only place.

We had a good group for Lego Building Club on Wednesday. Our theme was "creepy castles" because I didn't want to explain to the kids why they were building models of Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (long, complicated story).

We showed Voyage of the Dawn Treader on Thursday and I had about 10 kids. Lots of coming and going, since most of the kids had parents picking them up or lost interest.

Yay three day weekend! We're closed on Friday and I just have to come in to turn the eggs...

Friday, April 22, 2011

April I Can Read Carnival

We have a small but select carnival this month. My obsessive side is pleased by the fact that we have exactly ten links for your delectation.

Amy at Delightful Children's Books has 5 Books to Entice a New Reader, focusing on encouraging young children to start sounding out words.

Litland has a review of Matthew Kelly's Why Am I Here? and recommends it for discussion with parents and teachers.

One non-fiction! Anastasia Suen has her easy reader "What do you see at the pond?" and some Earth Day activity suggestions.

Now, this looks fun! A new blog to me - and a new contributor to the I Can Read Carnival is Kerry at Picture Books and Pirouettes and she has a review of Mo Willems' classic Elephants Cannot Dance  and some great links and fun speculation on Mo Willems.

Brimful Curiosities has a post on the early reader series Mittens. I'm going to have to add these to our library, they look like the perfect companion to the wildly popular Biscuit series!

My own contribution, for children who are ready for intermediate easy readers, is a review of Jean Little's realistic easy reader series about a girl named Emma, her best friend Sally, and her adopted brother Max.

Books, Dogs, and Frogs has a collection of easy reader adaptions. I've noticed these are getting more and more popular - more power to 'em, I say! We are quite happy with Splat the Cat at my library.

Katie at Secrets & Sharing Soda has a post on Catherine Hapka's Pony Scouts series. I had no idea there was more than one - these look like great fun!

Squee! Thick & Thin Things has a post on some classic easy readers that were favorites of mine when I was an early reader! The Golly Sisters by Betsy Byars with yummy illustrations by Sue Truesdell. Hilarious!

Alida at Two2Read has some fun baseball beginning chapter books and thoughts on getting boys into reading.

Enjoy this month's carnival, and don't forget to save your posts for next month's I can read carnival, which will be held at Playing by the Book in May!

Big Nate in a class by himself by Lincoln Peirce

I dislike the Wimpy Kid books. Mostly, I dislike the main character. And his family. And most of his friends. I admit I've never made it through an entire book. The urge to slap the little twerp, give his mom a good shaking, tell his older brother to grow up, and burn down the middle school grows too strong and I give up.

But they are, of course, very, very popular. So when I saw Big Nate recommended as a Wimpy Kid read-alike, I bought it for the library. Of course, I flipped it open to glance through it...and immediately found myself laughing. So I decided to take a chance and read the whole thing.

Nate as a character is infinitely preferable. Sure, he's the center of his world, selfish, and acts and speaks without thinking. But he's a much more typical middle schooler, or at least more likable, than Greg Heffley, who I would totally ban on sight if he ever set foot in my library. Nate makes dumb decisions, is oblivious to what the people around him think, and certainly doesn't empathize with his teachers or any adults. But he's kind of likable too. The reader can see Nate being a livable human being a few years down the road.

The other thing that makes this series funnier and more palatable (to me at least) is its episodic nature. We don't see Nate grow or change much, because we don't actually see much of him. The entire plot is a single school day, where Nate racks up endless detentions as he tries to make his fortune come true and "surpass all others". Originally a cartoon strip, the story maintains much of the structure with each catastrophe Nate gets into having a definite mini plot arc and ending gag.

The cartoon art is taken straight from the strip, stylistically, with brisk lines and recognizable characters. There's plenty of action and the illustrations and mini comics blend smoothly into the story.

Verdict: Recommended to Wimpy Kid fans, of course, but also a compromise for parents who don't like Greg Heffley's relentless jerkosity and kids who want a funny school story with illustrations.

ISBN: 978-0-6-100287-2; Published March 2010 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Dreaming vol. 3 by Queenie Chan

I loved the first two volumes of Queenie Chan's The Dreaming and devoured them eagerly, despite my constant plaint against manga (I can't tell the characters apart!). It was deliciously spooky and utterly gothic.


I was so excited when I finally got volume 3 from the library...but I was disappointed. It seemed that the author was considering three different endings....and finally just said "oh, what the heck, I'll use them all." So we have the Australian evil spirit, the wicked stepmother (or aunt, or governess, it's not quite clear), and the "what happened afterwards" which just sort of drizzles away.

Of course, not all horror has to have a definite ending; it's not a mystery. But I, personally, WANT a clear cut ending. I wanted it to be either evil spirits OR ghosts, not a confusing combination. I wanted a definite resolution for the characters, not a vague drifting away.

But it is still quite horrorific, despite my complaints about the ending. The art has a delicate, spooky quality, and many people are probably just fine with the blending of gothic horror and Australian legend and a chilling glimpse into the future of the twin heroines.

Verdict: Despite my disappointment with the ending, I enjoyed the story as a whole. I recommend purchasing this - it comes in a omnibus set containing all three volumes now, which is really nice. Teens who like horror and gothic atmosphere will devour this one.

ISBN: 9781598163841; Published December 2007 by TokyoPop (out of print); Borrowed from the library.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Maine Coons: Super Big by Nancy White

Earlier this year, I looked at Lerner's Best Cats Ever series. Now, I'm looking at Bearport's Cat-ographics series. My sample from this series is Maine Coons: Super Big by Nancy White. It begins with a fun story about Baxter, the Maine Coone cat mascot of Maine libraries. Then the book discusses the main points about Maine Coons - their large size, history (nope, not really related to raccoons!) thick fur, and many colors. There are sections on their aloof but gentle personalities, love of play and some of the special issues in taking care of longhaired cats like Maine Coons. The final spread gives some facts about Maine Coon kittens.

Additional information includes "Maine Coons at a glance" with physical characteristics, personality, life span, and more. A glossary, including all the words bolded in the text, a short index, bibliography and further reading, and a link to Bearport's online additional information website,

How does this book compare to the Lerner sample of cat books? Bearport's Cat-ographics includes more photographs and less text and doesn't have a section on cat ownership or whether or not a Maine Coon would be a good pet for you. I suspect there's a lot of repetition in the different Lerner titles, since the book I sampled included a large section on general cat care. The Bearport title would, I think, appeal more to younger children with its easier text and plethora of photographs. I wasn't impressed by Bearport's website, which basically contained two links - one to the Cat Fancier's Association and a second to a Maine government website on the Maine Coon as state cat, both of which could have just been included in the book. However, Bearport had a better selection of further reading and bibliography than the Lerner title.

Verdict: If your patrons are frequently looking for cat books with an eye to purchasing an actual cat, Lerner's Best Cats Ever is probably the better series. However, if your patrons, like mine, just like books about different breeds of animals for fun and reports, Bearport's titles are more suitable. Plus, Bearport's prices are better on the budget than Lerner! I already purchased some ASPCA titles on caring for your cat, so all I want are fun books on different breeds, so Bearport is the series for me!
ISBN: 978161772427; Published January 2011 by Bearport; Review copy provided by Bearport; Series purchased for the library.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nola's Worlds: Changing Moon by Mathieu Mariolle, art by Minikim, colors by Pop

Nola is bored, bored, bored of life on Alta Donna with her workaholic mother, absent father, and the boring, mean kids at school. Then one day she helps out a strange boy in her class, Damiano, and meets his even stranger sister Ines. They may be weird, but they're certainly exciting! Finally, things are happening on Alta Donna. Nola is getting exactly what she wished for...and she's not sure she likes it.

This story reminded me irresistibly of the movie The Cat Returns. Nola has a lot of similarities to Cat's main character - she's a dreamer, doesn't really fit in, and alternately sees life as a constant bystander or gets controlled by other people and her own emotions. There's not a lot of action in this first story, other than lots of chase scenes with no real objective. The mystery of Damiano and Ines is never solved, only more complicated by the end of the story.

There's an unmistakable foreign air to the story from the cotton candy hues of the art to the odd little touches of clothing, architecture, and more that clearly tell the reader this story is set in a different world. I did find the characters a little difficult to tell apart with the similar facial and hair structures and pastel coloring. The story was interesting, but didn't really start to move until close to the end. At which time it ended.

Verdict: Middle grade readers with the patience to work through the beginning of the story will be intrigued by the obvious fantasy/adventure set up. Readers who started off expected a typical school drama may be disappointed as the story rather abruptly shifts from reality (albeit a strange one) to fantasy. Buy at least the first three if you decide to add this one to your collection. I'll wait and see how well it circulates in neighboring libraries.

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6502-0; Published August 2010 by Lerner; Borrowed from the library.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This week at the library; or, sudden alarms and excursions

  • Mostly quiet morning (except for the guy who ripped up one of our magazines and threw it across the room and the repeated theft of newspapers. Argh! Someday we will catch you evil newspaper sports section thief!) Good thing too, because in the afternoon...
  • We had a staff meeting, where we discussed among other things our dip in circulation, not huge but we want it to grow not shrink, potential parking problems - one of our streets is having construction this summer, and other thrilling items.
  • I had stained glass art for Make it and Take it - really just melted crayons. Note to self - must purchase additional pencil sharpeners before doing this again! The couple boys who came tried it once and then left. The girls were more enthusiastic, but didn't like having to wait for the pencil sharpeners. And I ran out of wax paper, but we were practically done by then anyhow.
  • Then I raced home for dinner and did some dishes and sewed a few strips on my quilt and dug through the pile of picture books I had checked out from the library then came back again for storytime - poor Tiny Tots got stuck with me again (poor Miss Pattie was at a funeral)! I am so *yawn* not an evening person, especially after I've been at work all day!
  • We had a mixed group of ages, as usual, but they were really, really wiggly. I had a huge pile of picture books checked out that I was looking at, so I grabbed a couple at random. First we did Jim Gill's "Jump up turn around" which went well, except they didn't get the holding your breath part, so I left that off the second time. Then we read Ernest the moose who doesn't fit by Catherine Rayner, then we all stood up and did Clap your hands by Lorinda Cauley. I have GOT to buy that one! Pandemonium ensued and a crazy good time was had by all. I read finished up with Leonid Gore's Worms for Lunch but only one and a half 3 year olds were paying attention by then. Afterwards we made butterfly puppets, just used markers and crayons on die cut butterflies and taped them to sticks.
  • And I went home to bed. Pheeeewwwww.
  • I was dreamily rooting through the pile of papers on my desk around 11:30 when one of our circ staff stuck their head back and said "were you expecting a school visit? because we can see a line of kids coming up the side of the building". My mind instantly leapt to the third grade classes with whom I am trying to negotiate visits and I went into UNEXPECTED VISIT OF 50 THIRD GRADERS panic mode. My aide started whipping out die cut butterfly masks and I dived into our program room to clean up from storytime and put out markers, crayons, popsicle sticks, and tape.
  • Then circ staff updated me "hey, they're all little kids". Wha...?? I talked to Miss Pattie about Headstart visiting regularly, but I hadn't expected them 20 minutes later and..."hey, they're all going across the hall into the community room."
  • Turns out, Miss Pattie was having a little celebration for Week of the Young Child. Since I had butterfly masks out anyways, they came over afterwards and had a little storytime and made masks. And there were only 18 of them. Oh well. I was prepared for the worst though!
  • Oh, and we had Wii gaming. And I popped over to an after school group a local church has set up in an old storefront. I wanted to see what it was before I sent any kids over. Looks pretty good - definitely a destination for our aimless migrators.
  • Our messy art project was "string painting" which I kind of expanded to be "painting without paintbrushes". Some of the kids liked the mess, some of the parents couldn't resist making guidelines for the art experience, and some of the kids freaked out without something definite. We had yarn, feathers, various shapes and sizes of popsicle sticks, and straws. I should have put the scissors somewhere else b/c parents and kids got hung up on using the scissors to make more definite shapes for their art. Some of the kids figured out how to make a paintbrush out of a straw and feathers, which was cool, but not really the point. I was hoping to get more patterns and textures, but it didn't work out that way.
  • Pattie brought over the eggs and incubators that evening. We talked about raising eggs earlier this year and now they're here! Not something I've ever done and I admit to being rather taken aback at how often you have to turn the dang things over. I was thinking, like, once a day maybe? But no....
  • A volunteer from the Ice Age Trail came to do a presentation at storytime and the kids were amazingly attentive! They really loved looking at all her camping and hiking things and one small boy was completely in love with her compass - and he actually KNEW WHAT IT WAS. How many 4 year old boys, when shown a compass, can say "that's a compass - it tells you where to go?" I was amazed. We only had time for one quick story by the time she was finished, so I just read Vipont's Elephant and the bad baby since the theme was elephants. I had elephants cut out of paper and they decorated them with crayons and markers and then attached clothespins to the feet so they stood up, which was a great hit.
  • I had a youth services meeting and a couple hours on the desk and lots of annoying and frustrating things which I can't talk about also happened today, but happily I have Friday off so I am going to try to empty my brain of all work thoughts and just concentrate on cleaning....
Oh, and annoying and frustrating things I CAN talk about would include my realization that someone has STOLEN EVERY DANG TITLE in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series. Some of them shortly after they were put on the shelf. I am so.... *grinds teeth*. Argh! What's the point of squeezing and scrimping and saving my budget and buying high circulating items if the dang kids just STEAL THEM? And I didn't even have the whole series yet! I was working on it! Somebody else wanted to read those you little twits! When we get security cameras we are going to be glued to those suckers and we are going to catch the thieves and and and...go library ninja on them or something! Ban them for life!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic and other stories by Geoffrey Hayes

It's, it's PATRICK!!! Squeee!!! When I was little, one of my favorite, favorite books was Geoffrey Hayes' Patrick Eats Dinner. I loved, loved, loved that book. I went hunting for it a few years ago and discovered A. it was out of print and B. a used copy would run me about $300. I'm saving up.

All of this is to say, I'm so excited that Toon Books and Geoffrey Hayes has brought back Patrick! I loved his mouse characters, Benny and Penny, and Patrick has the same real child feeling with delightful illustrations and Toon Books signature blend of easy text and simple comic panels.

The title story has Patrick and his mother going on a picnic in the park. There's excitement (an escaped balloon and a bully), humor (Patrick and his mom being silly together), disappointment (rain!) and  a happy ending (picnic in the living room!). The other stories contain several episodes of a continuing funny story about Patrick's naps (great for teaching continuity and plot development and time and so on) and a longer story where Patrick meets the bully, Big Bear, again and after some initial setbacks wins the day.

Hayes' characters have charm without being saccharine and while Patrick may not appeal to the screen-obsessed kids who only want easy readers with tv tie-in characters, most kids will be drawn in by the comic format and funny pictures and find themselves giggling along with the story as they improve their reading and comprehension skills.

The back contains a fun author note about the inspiration for the story, tips for parents on reading comics with kids, and an explanation of the reading levels in Toon Books.

Verdict: Toon Books are a must for your easy reader section and I predict this new series from Geoffrey Hayes will be a classic. Buy two copies. Now!

ISBN: 9781935179092; Published April 2011 by Toon Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Tink by Bodil Bredsdorff

In the third story of the Children of Crow Cove, Bodil Bredsdorff chooses another one of her multi-faceted characters to focus on. Tink, who we first meet as a small and miserable child, is now a little older - but still uncertain of his place in the world. In Crow Cove, survival is never a given, and Tink is sure he has broken the fragile line between the little community and starvation. But then he discovers someone who is even more of an outcast than himself; Burd, the abusive drunkard Foula and Eidi fled from. However, it is Burd who saves them all from starvation and helps Tink decide where he belongs and how he can contribute to their community.

Bredsdorff's spare prose contains volumes in just a few words, looks and thoughts. Her characters are focused on the essentials needed for survival, but are still fully realized emotional beings. As the children grow up and choose lives for themselves, each one must adjust to maintain the balance of the small community.

Although the length of the story may tempt librarians to offer it as a beginning chapter book, this story deals with intense emotions and ideas that some children may not be ready for, so I would recommend this for the older side of the 8-12 range.

Verdict: Hand this to thoughtful middle graders and teens who will appreciate the beautiful language and enter fully into the experiences of the characters.

ISBN: 9780374312688; Published May 10, 2011; Reviewed from ARC received at ALA

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen

I'm writing this a few weeks before our library's "Royal Wedding Party." I have to say, it wasn't my idea - I wasn't even really aware of the wedding and don't personally see a need to celebrate the nuptials of two celebrity tourist attractions from another country.

Ahem. However, I have been informed by all the staff that the royal wedding is BIG and patrons will be excited - and we have quite a few people signed up. It will be only little kids, since scheduling and space required us to book it during the day (April 28 at 12:30 to be precise).

The high circulation numbers of princess titles and those picture books rife with glitter, pinkness, and fancy illustrations bears out the popularity of the happy ever after fairy tale, as perpetuated by Disney. As a public library, I have a responsibility to supply the materials people want - not necessarily the ones I feel they should want. Most of my parents seem perfectly happy to encourage and indulge their small daughters in a passion for all things related to the popular view of princesses, with a massive dose of pink thrown in. I try to buy titles with a little more substance, like Princess Gown by Linda Strauss or the Ella Bella Ballerina series by James Mayhew. I'm usually pretty happy with the Fancy Nancy titles as well. I've tried to booktalk some alternate princess titles like Jane Yolen's Not all princesses dress in pink, but with less success.

I was interested to take a look at a new series from goosebottombooks featuring a variety of princesses. I'm going to look at these titles in chronological order...

Hatshepsut of Egypt. We first read about Hatshepsut's early life as her father's favorite and are given some context of Egyptian culture of the time period. The history goes on to tell of Hatshepsut's time as pharaoh and how she enriched Egypt with trading as well as exploratory journeys. There is a discussion of the mystery of the defacement of Hatshepsut's images and history. The story includes a list of pronunciations, maps, photographs, illustrations, a family tree of the 18th dynasty, description of the clothing Hatsheptsut would have worn and the food she ate. The book presents Hatshepsut as little-known, compared to her younger brother Tut, but I guess my education was more thorough, since I knew everything in here, except the expedition to Punt which sounded interesting.

Artemisia of Caria. This one I didn't know anything about. I knew about Xerxes huge invasion of Greece, but I didn't know that one of his admirals was a woman - the queen of Caria. Bridges does a really good job of filling in the rather sketchy information about this queen with information about Greece's history and culture, maps, illustrations, and speculation on what might have happened. A final section titled "the not-so-nice part of her story" talks about the darker side of Artemisia's heroism.

Sorghaghtani of Mongolia. Now things are getting interesting. I knew a little bit about Genghis Khan and his legacy of rulers, but I was only vaguely aware of his powerful daughter, Sorghaghtani. She controlled and administered her husband's lands while he was away fighting - and when he was killed. Later, she secured her sons' futures with skill and intelligence, triumphing over powerful and aggressive relatives and assuring the future of a powerful dynasty by her training of her sons who became a united and unstoppable quartet of rulers. A final section tells us how successful and powerful her sons were, carrying on her legacy of just and successful government.

Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman. I was completely fascinated by this story. I never thought about Persia past the rule of King Xerxes. There's a lot of stuff left out of history books! Qutlugh went from a minor noble family to slavery to two forced and short-lived marriages. Finally, she married a prince who gave her freedom and love - and Qutlugh became so influential and beloved that shen her husband died both her people and overlord agreed to make her ruler of Kirman. Under her rule, Kirman became peaceful and prosperous. She twice requested mercy for nobles who plotted against her and even on her deathbed cared for the poor.

Nur Jahan of India. This book also focuses on a woman who became a power behind the throne - but Nur Jahan did it all while maintaining purdah, the complete seclusion required of women of her caste and position. After an unhappy marriage, Nur Jahan eventually married the prince she had fallen in love with as a child and he elevated her to senior wife. Her name was added to royal edicts and British ambassadors noted that she had complete power over the emperor. Nur Jahan used her power to improve the condition of women, abolishing the practice of suttee. However, when her husband died Nur Jahan backed the wrong prince and was exiled, although she continued to care for the poor.

Isabella of Castile. This princess I knew a bit more about. Isabella didn't wait for a prince to rescue her from her precarious political position and powerful brother - she chose her own husband, Ferdinand of Aragon. She also insisted on maintaining her power, requiring Ferdinand to sign an agreement that would keep the power of Castile in her hands. After much argument and negotiation, Ferdinand eventually shared power evenly with her - of his own Aragon as well as Castile. Isabella was heavily involved in their successful war to annex Grenada, Creating the country of Spain we now today. She was also, as most people know, the one who backed Christopher Columbus, making Spain a wealthy and powerful nation. Bridges doesn't shy away from the dark side of Isabella's reign though, and talks about the thousands of people killed in her war of conquest of Grenada, backing of the Inquisition, and how she was indirectly responsible for the atrocities of the conquistadors in the Americas.

Each of these books includes maps, illustrations, photos, a section on what the princess would have worn and eaten and the stories themselves are a strong blend of cultural and geographic history and the personal story of each of the women featured. Two things I would have changed - the heavy use of parenthesis and asides was very distracting and I would have liked to see some further reading and/or sources listed for the information given in the books.

Of course, the big question is, will princess-crazy girls pick up these books? Girls under six - I would say no. They are attracted by the heavy glitter, sparkly pink, and familiar movie characters. These books, although written simply and clearly, discuss war, politics, and marriage as well as concepts of independence and power. Little girls are going to want to stick to their Fancy Nancy. However, these would be great read alouds for 6-8 and good choices to hand to the 8 and up crowd. Squeamish parents will probably want to censor some of the information for younger kids, but these are generally a good choice for older girls who want more "real" stories. Wean your girls from glitter and tiaras to these solid, fascinating fare.

Verdict: I wasn't as interested in the two well-known (at least to me) characters, Hatshepsut and Isabella of Castile, but if you're going to purchase these you'll want the whole series, since they refer to each other. They're well-written and presented and would make a high-interest addition to a public or school library collection. Recommended.

Published October 2010 by Goosebottom; Review copies provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Isabella of Castile
ISBN: 9780984509843

Nur Jahan of India
ISBN: 9780984509850

Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman
ISBN: 9780984509836

Sorghaghtani of Mongolia
ISBN: 9780984509829

Artemisia of Caria
ISBN: 9780984509812

Hatshepsut of Egypt
ISBN: 9780984509805

Nonfiction Monday: If the world were a village (2nd ed.) and This child every child by David Smith, illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong

I've always planned to have a charity component of our summer reading program and I'm thinking this summer or next summer will be THE summer! With that in mind, I've been looking at some of Kids Can Press's excellent CitizenKid series which help children explore the world globally and build compassion and helping others into their lives.

David J. Smith takes global statistics in these two books and makes them understandable on a child's level. If the World Were a Village consolidates the billions of people in the world into 100, then has sections showing us the nationalities and languages of fractions of those people, ages, and religions. For example, of the 100 people in the "world village" only 10 are children between 5 and 9, while 17 are between 20 and 29.

Then Smith moves into how these 100 people share the world's resources, looking at allocation of food, access to clean air and water, school and work, division of money and possessions, access to energy, and world health.

Finally, the author projects numbers for the future with the warning that many think "the village" may be seriously overcrowded by 2150. Author's notes give parents and teachers numerous ways to encourage children to think globally and foster compassion and a final note discusses sources and how Smith arrived at the calculations. This is the second edition of If the world were a village and has updated statistics from 2010.

Smith's second book, This Child, Every Child also includes statistics, but focuses specifically on the rights of children and looks at the status of children around the world. The foreward introduces us to the charity ONEXONE which is associated with this book. 50% of the profits from This child go to ONEXONE, and will be used specifically to get books to children in Haiti. This charity focuses on the needs of children in five major areas, water, hunger, healthcare, education, and play, so they are a good fit for this book, which introduces us to children's rights. This Child begins with an overview of the world's children and an introduction to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, along with statistics of how many children make up the world population. In each section, we see general statistics on children in that particular area, a specific focus on one or two contrasting children, and a simple summary of the articles from the convention which affect that area. For example, in "Children at School" we are told percentages of children who attend school and who do not, who are literate and illiterate. Then we see the story of Salmaa, whose family moved from Iran to Canada so she could go to school instead of working. With a better education and more opportunities, Salmaa hopes to be a doctor. The section finishes with the Conventions article on children's right to a good quality education.

These sections cover families, homes, health, stability (moving, migrant populations), school, equality for boys and girls, working children, play, children and war, and a final section on children in the future.

There is a complete list of all the articles of the convention in child-friendly language and a section of ideas and suggestions on learning more about the children of the world, creating global consciousness and conscience, and some suggestions on getting involved. An additional note on sources explains where the statistics came from, and presumably the stories of the individual children.

These two books break down large, complex problems and ideas to a child's level. They're great background information and would be excellent resources for a school or for a charitable project in a library, such as I'm planning. However, I wouldn't suggest using these books alone - frankly, they're really depressing, despite their attempts to show a hopeful view of the future. I would make it a rule never to show children problems on such a huge global scale without giving them a way to help or beginnings of ways to solve the problem. Both of these books include suggestions on raising global consciousness, but don't really have specific ways for children to get involved. This child does have some more specific suggestions, but they're geared towards raising consciousness of world problems.

I've labeled these books both beginning chapters and middle grade, as they're suitable for both ages. Younger children will need to read these with the help and input of a teacher or parent, while older children can explore them on their own - and maybe come up with some ways they can help.

Verdict: These are must have books for your nonfiction section, but I strongly suggest pairing them with several other titles from the CitizenKid series before promoting them or putting them on display. One Hen and Good Garden by Katie Milway and Ryan and Jimmy by Herb Shoveiler (links go to the programs associated with those books) offer concrete ways to get involved and show kids there is hope for the future. We need kids to have the background and see what needs to be fixed, then have ways they can help and hope for the future together. I strongly recommend purchasing these five titles as a group and working with your teen advisory board or younger children to put together charitable components for your summer reading program!

If the world were a village, 2nd edition
ISBN: 9781554535958; Published February 1, 2011 (2nd ed.); Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.
This child, Every child
ISBN: 9781554534661; Published February 1, 2011; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This week at the library; or, I brought back a cold from Ikea

Well, technically the cold was already here. I'm pretty sure I got it from our adult svs librarian. Curse you Angela! But I soldiered on, comforted by the thought of my butterfly wall stickers and robin's egg blue small pitcher. I like Ikea!

  • Really, really didn't feel like doing the marbleized paper craft for today as it was messy and fairly involved, but it's on all the flyers so I had to. I used the instruction on I purchased roasting pans at Walmart and we used the pans and the plastic covers (which smelled really, really musty and I had to turn on the fan). I had baby food jars donated by Miss Pattie for an upcoming craft and we used those to mix the oil and food coloring, poured it in, and dipped our paper. I was really glad only 3 kids showed up, b/c it was very involved and messy. My two younger girls were too impatient and aggressive with the mixing, my one older girl got better results.
  • Suddenly remembered yesterday that "book club is still a week or two away" was no longer true and I had better skim through the book again and write out some questions!
  • Too late. I went to bed early on Monday and didn't get up until 10:30 on Tuesday so...anyways, we had 6 girls and only 3 had read Spellbinder by Helen Stringer - a fourth started it and said it was too slow. BUT, several of them checked it out to listen to or read! Our book clubs are kind of futuristic. We had lots of fun, ate lots of candy, and had a free for all over my new books. I really gotta think of a way of distributing my ARCs fairly. Suggestions? Maybe I should throw names in a box or something. Or label them so they come back to the library, although half the girls go to the same school and wanted to KEEP the book, not give it away. Anyways, everybody got one or two free books and checked out a couple too. Only my really voracious nearly 15 reader was interested in the Celtic and Welsh mythology books I'd brought and she took both of Rosemary Sutcliff's gorgeous retellings. We're doing Wee Free Men next and I think blue face paint may be involved...
  • Only 35 people at Lego Building Club - the weather is warmer, but rather cloudy and heavy and everyone felt kind of blah. It just wasn't a particularly creative day.
  • Had an abnormally large group - 23 - for storytime, but, of course, also still have a cold to which allergies are now being added. Curse you, mountain cedar! Too bad I wasn't too frogs or bears, since I had a nice growl going. We practiced our Jim Gill song, then read Eeeek Mouse! by Lydia Monks which was a huge hit, then we stood up and worked our way through the actions in Mouse was Mad by Linda Urban, then we read Bonnie Becker's A Visitor for Bear. Some of the younger ones were getting wiggly, but most of the kids were spellbound and thought it was hilarious every time the mouse popped up again. We made mice out of spoons - I had plastic spoons, fabric, paper, and ribbon scraps, markers, and I handed out glue dots and scissors and the kids had a lot of fun!
  • Am very pleased that I finally finished making registrations for all my summer events. Don't they look nice?
Friday - Saturday
Nothing much on Friday...we're looking at Freegal music downloads for the library. We're pretty sure the only people still checking out cds are just burning them anyways. Except the kid's music - quite a few people still check that out to listen in the car. Kid's formats always lag behind, I think. I'm working Saturday and I'm going to tempt fate and assume nothing will happen and I'll get all my fall 2011 programs onto the calendars...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Night Owls by Peter and Bobby Timony

The Night Owls, a paranormal detective agency, operates in 1920s New York. Professor Ernest Baxter is the brains of the outfit, with feisty Mindy Markus providing the muscle and Roscoe the gargoyle providing the...laughs?

A series of loosely connected short stories have the agency battling gangsters, tracking down terrifying monsters, attending gargoyle weddings, and learning more about each other, from the real reason Ernest Baxter can't go out in the sun (hint: no, he's not a vampire) to Mindy's real origins, a surprise even to her.

The stories are full of colorful and intriguing characters, with paranormal menaces that range from the original Mr. You, to fairy tale characters such as Rumpelstiltskin and the Apache legend Big Owl. Of course, there are vampires, werewolves, and Al Capone too!

The stories move briskly without excessive dialogue and the print is clear and readable. The art is in tidy panels and gray shades, excepting the one fairy tale story which explodes with vibrant color. The characters are easily discernible (seriously, I can't tell you how many gns I've put down because I couldn't tell the characters apart!) and there are multiple threads of plot and characterization that blend together smoothly.

I didn't care for the fairy tale episode with Rumpelstiltskin - it seemed out of character for the other stories, although it was clearly showing it was different, it being the only colored episode, it just seemed overly silly. The tone of the rest of the stories is bright and cheerful, but not silly.

Audience - well, that's a hard one. I wouldn't give it to younger children. Although there isn't any overt gore, there is violence, scary scenes, and lots of more adult situations with Mindy's relationship with the policeman Bill and Ernest. The reader also needs to know at least a little bit about several fairy tales and supernatural creatures. It's appropriate for teens, but will they be interested in what is a fascinating but rather odd little comic? It mixes a lot of elements - romance, independence, history, legend, relationships, and mystery and I wonder if the tone is just too adult for most teens.

Verdict: It was a Cybils finalist, so some very smart folks think this will appeal to teens. I personally really enjoyed the stories and would gladly purchase this volume for my personal collection. I'm reluctant to purchase it for the library until I'm 100% there's going to be a sequel - it has a rather cliffhanger ending and as of October 2010, I understand the Zuda imprint no longer exists. Does anyone know if there will actually be a second Night Owls book?

ISBN: 9781401226732; Published March 2010 by Zuda: Borrowed from the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Emma (series) by Jean Little, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Have you ever thought about how many easy readers are, well, not realistic or relevant to the reader? Lots, lots, lots of anthropomorphic animals, most of them behaving as adults, series like Mr. Putter feature elderly adults, Amelia Bedelia (the classic ones at least) feature almost exclusively adults, etc. I can't think of many easy readers that feature everyday children going about their everyday lives. I'm happy to be proved wrong of course - shoot me suggestions if you have any!

Jean Little's Emma series is one of the few realistic fiction easy reader series I've found, but I like it for lots of other reasons as well. Little's characters are sympathetic and realistic, dealing with issues that many children will face as well as broaching a topic that's rarely seen in realistic children's fiction - adoption.

In the first Emma story, Emma's Magic Winter, Emma overcomes her paralyzing shyness with the help of her parents, her new friend Sally, and her own stubbornness. Unlike many new friend stories, Sally isn't the complete opposite of shy Emma. She has a distinct personality and contributes to their friendship, but Emma is definitely the leader. With some suggestions from Sally, Emma uses her own imagination to solve her problem.

In the second Emma story, Emma's Yucky Brother, Emma is thrilled when she finds out she's going to get a four-year old brother, just like Sally! But Max isn't at all what she expected. He's not the cute little boy she thought would look up to her - he likes Sally better and he doesn't respond to her overtures or appreciate her gifts. Max wants to go back to his foster mother - not stay with a new and unknown family. Jean Little draws a realistic portrait of a small child dealing with the difficulties of adjusting to a new home and Emma's disappointment and struggle to befriend Max are presented sympathetically and in a way that young readers will understand.

In the final Emma story, Emma's Strange Pet, Max is now firmly part of the family and desperately wants a furry pet. But Emma is allergic to fur and Max isn't old enough to have a pet anyways. When Emma gets a very strange pet, will Max like it after all? This story shows how Max and Emma, now adjusted to being siblings, still have their fights and squabbles. Emma is upset by Max's behavior and Max just can't face his disappointment over not getting a furry pet. After some compromise, they work out their differences and are friends again.

These aren't just issue books dealing with shyness, making new friends, adoption, and pet allergies. The Emma stories are a realistic look at life that many children can relate to, even if they don't have an adopted sibling or allergies. The writing conforms to the necessary standards for easy readers, simple vocabulary and a plot that is easy to follow, but still manages to incorporate many ideas as well as sympathetic and strong characters. Jennifer Plecas' illustrations add to the text with her depictions of ordinary children enjoying everyday adventures or dealing with the problems that loom large on the horizons of children everywhere; overcoming difficulties, making friends, adjusting to major changes in life, and facing disappointment.

Verdict: Highly recommended for easy reader collections in every library.

Emma's magic winter
ISBN: 978-0064437066; Published August 2000 by HarperCollins (out of print); Borrowed from the library and my personal collection; Purchased for the library

Emma's yucky brother
ISBN: 978-0064442589; Published April 2002 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library and my personal collection; Purchased for the library

Emma's strange pet
ISBN: 978-0064442596; Published October 2004 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library and my personal collection; Purchased for the library

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Astro the Steller Sea Lion by Jeanne Harvey, illustrated by Shennen Bersani

 I first saw sea lions (to remember, I probably saw them when I was little but that doesn't count) in the Milwaukee zoo last year. I was instantly in love. They are so cool! So I was pleased to take a look at this book about a special sea lion.

Astro was found alone when he was only a few days old. He was taken to the Marine Mammal Center and fed and cared for until he was ten months old, when the Center returned him to the wild. Or at least they tried! Astro's early experiences had imprinted him on humans instead of other sea lions and he refused to return to the sea. Finally, Astro was sent to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut and is now happy in their exhibits and working with the people studying Stellar sea lions.

The text is detailed enough to grab the attention of older children but could also be easily abridged and read aloud to younger children. Animal stories are always a strong draw and this one is clearly expressed and has lots of fun plot points that will hold children's attention. I had to read through a couple times before I appreciated the quasi-realistic illustrations. I was confused because I thought they were digitally altered photographs, then realized they were actually a mixture of paint, colored pencils, and crayons. I would have preferred photographs, but I think most children and parents will enjoy the more artistic illustrations.

The book includes information on Stellar sea lions and comprehension games and questions. I would have liked to see a further information section, but a quick google search will bring up plenty of further information on Astro (including lots of cute utube videos....ahem).

Verdict: There are only a couple general information books out there on sea lions and this title makes a nice addition to the limited information and will pique kids' interest in these fascinating animals. Take a look at your collection on marine mammals and if you only have a few titles, or outdated materials, I would recommend adding Astro when you update this section. It's a real child-pleaser!

ISBN: 9781607180760; Published August 2010 by Sylvan Dell; Review copy provided by author.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This week at the library; or, The sun finally shines!

Yay! The sun shone for at least part of the week and it was a pretty good week overall.

  • I switched my schedule around so I didn't come in until 11, because I was covering our evening storytime. We made stickers for Make it and Take it...or we were going to. Only a couple kids were there to start with, so I pulled out the puppets in my cupboard to organize since the kids didn't need me hanging over their shoulder....and of course everyone who showed up wanted to play with puppets. Should have thought of that. Oh well, we had fun and some stickers got made. Although I remembered why we don't do unsupervised puppet play...or even supervised puppet play. Having to remind the kids constantly "our puppets are all friends. they do not fight. our puppets are all FRIENDLY. they do NOT FIGHT" gets annoying. But only one puppet lost a body part.
  • Tiny Tots went really well. I don't think I've ever actually covered for this storytime before. I did my own evening storytime a few years ago, but it didn't work well, probably because I forgot that the all-important function of an evening storytime is not to calm kids down but allow them to expend as much energy as possible so they fall asleep on the way home. We did lots of marching and read Seasons (reviewed on Thursday), Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, and Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner.
  • Had a planning meeting and got as far as September before we had to go do other stuff. I'm working on tentative calendars through next May (that's May 2012, yes) so we'll have to meet again.
  • Wii is finally working again...except we don't have enough batteries. and it doesn't work with the borrowed projector, so we had to get out the old one that can't be tilted or the picture goes yellow...argh!
  • Why am I always late on Wednesday, the one day I don't come in at 9 (or 8:45, or 8:30...)?
  • We did collage for Messy Art. There was some initial resistance to the idea of just making things without direction, but we got over it!
  • I think we need a second bike rack.
  • Just a small group for our lizard storytime, we are doing a new opening song - Jim Gill's Face the Fact, and we read Cowley's Chameleon Chameleon, Janet Perlman's Delicious Bug, and George Shannon's Lizard's Song. We made shiny lizards out of paper bags and the fancy foil I have in my scraps tub and then played with our giant boxes! One little boy and his mom had just learned about basilisks (the real ones) so I gave them Nic Bishop's Lizards to check out, since we didn't have time to read that one.
Final and very exciting news....We had a total program attendance during March of 864 at our 33 programs This is compared to last year's 708 at 38 programs...and 528 at 36 in 2009. Yay me! I am going to Ikea on Saturday and I intend to CELEBRATE!!! New stripy apron if I can find colors I like! Plus a stop at Half Price books and Whole Foods on the way back of course...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Johnny Castleseed by Edward Ormondroyd, illustrated by Diana Thewlis

This was one of my favorite books as a child although objectively it's nothing memorable. Ormondroyd has written many much better books, the text is lengthy and the illustrations are rather bland and a bit outdated. A little boy and his dad walk through the woods to the beach, where they have a picnic. Evan tells his dad about Johnny Appleseed, whom he learned about in school, and his dad tells him about Johnny Castleseed. Evan isn't quite sure he believes this, but once he and his dad get started building a magnificent castle, sure enough Johnny Castleseed shows up.

What I really love about this story is the part where Ormondroyd abruptly transitions from the stilted interactions between parent and child and speaks directly to the reader, showing you how to create an amazing sand castle with just your hands and some water and sand. This is, happily, the bulk of the book and it's absolutely fascinating. The illustrations of the sand castle are alluring too, a nice blend of softened colors and photographic realism.

Verdict: This is out of print anyways, and rather outdated for a library, but definitely worth borrowing before a trip to the beach for sand castle building instructions!

ISBN: N/A; Published November 1988 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist