Monday, May 30, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Baghdad Pups by Meish Goldish

This is a new addition to Bearport's popular Dog Heroes series. In this title, the reader hears the stories of the dogs befriended by soldiers in Iraq and the struggle to give them good homes. The story begins with a Sgt. Watson and the puppy he and his friends secretly befriended and raised, a black and white dog named Charlie. When Sgt. Watson's group was scheduled to leave Iraq, he contacted SPCAI (the international SPCA) to help him get Charlie back to the US, despite regulations against bringing anything, including animals, back from a war zone.

The story continues as the SPCAI worked to bring back dogs that had comforted and helped soldiers in Iraq. The program had setbacks when some of the animals were found to have diseases, including rabies, and the soldiers and SPCAI workers had to work against the military, since Operation Baghdad Pups is against the rules. There are more individual stories of dogs and soldiers and a view of the issue from both sides, including a discussion of the expenses involved and the problems both the soldiers and volunteers face.

The final pages include more facts about Operation Baghdad Pups, some information about the mixed breeds common to the area, a glossary, bibliography, further reading, internet links, and index.

Verdict: True animal stories are always popular and this title will be an excellent addition to any collection. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781617721502; Published January 2011 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This week at the library; or, yay. summer.

Ah, summer, the time of year when we relax, get some sun, have a vacation....choke on pollen, work 50+ hours a week, sweat like a pig in un-airconditioned schools, and try to have contact with 2,000+ children in less than two weeks. Yay. I'll feel more cheerful about this when I've had that strange thing people do sometimes called sleep.

  • Monday morning started at 7:30am with sixth grade visits - see my earlier post. Early Monday afternoon was desk time. Late Monday afternoon was our last session of Make it and Take it. We did beading, younger siblings got to come in and join us, and we finished all our art projects from the semester that needed paint etc. Monday evening was a stack of mystery books and a list of emails on program planning I sent myself for further consideration.
  • Tuesday morning was sleeping, as a result of having become so engrossed in Casey Sciezka's To Timbuktu that I stayed up reading until 1am. Tuesday early afternoon was flyers, surveys, more school visit planning, stacks of new books, and the sudden realization that having had a pear for breakfast, I better eat some lunch. Soon. Late Tuesday afternoon was Wii gaming (batteries weren't charged and nobody came), desk time and whilst on the desk, more flyers, new books, a gazillion phone calls, etc. Tuesday evening - more of the same, plus talking to some teens, potential volunteer, looking for missing movies, etc. etc.
  • Wednesday morning was a school visit for a small parochial school, First Lutheran (posted on this earlier). It was raining, of course. Then some desk time, our last Messy Art Club, at which we did "cut and glue", and yay, day over! I brought over the paper cutter for Messy Art Club, although we didn't end up using it, and had tons of paper, die cut shapes, glue, scissors, pens and pencils, and we made a lot of creative stuff! Smaller group than usual, just 15, but it's getting near to the end of school and it was a hideously dreary day. My tweens didn't show up until much later, which usually means they took the bus instead of walking or biking so they didn't come to the program room until we were done.
  • People occasionally ask if we don't have a problem with toys, especially our train, going missing. Well, we have a large theft problem, but not in this area! As I was putting away our craft stuff, I noticed that we seem to have mysteriously gained at least three train cars which I never saw before!
  • Thursday was cold. At our last preschool storytime we did our last singing of Jim Gill's Face the Facts, read Jeremy Tankard's Boo Hoo Bird, then Kenn Nesbitt's More Bears (this was a little old for some of them, although they liked saying "more bears!") then we all did Scott Fischer's Jump together - they crouched down and jumped every time I turned the page, then we clapped to John Lawrence's This little chick, and finished with Kevin Henkes' Birds. We made the same birds as last week at Make it and Take it, from Catherine Woram's Paper Scissors Glue, but my aide cut them out ahead of time and we used markers and crayons, not paint. When we next meet it will be Preschool Interactive, my new early literacy/process art program. Hope people like it!
  • Thursday afternoon was publicity, displays, summer reading, and desk time. Some interesting questions including contact information for "The Hare Krishna group that hands out Bibles at airports", somebody at the Milwaukee Journal told somebody they could get free copies of the paper at the library, lots of patron interactions, and a group of dedicated middle schoolers working on a scale model of a concentration camp for school. With much fear and trembling, I allowed them to bring their hot glue gun into the study room. They're all pretty responsible, so it should be ok and I gave them ample newspapers...
  • Happily, it was not raining and my first big elementary school visit didn't start until 9:25 and I stayed late at the library yesterday prepping so I didn't have to leave until 8:30! Ran home for lunch afterwards and then back to the library for a desk shift from 2-6. Lots and lots of publicity...thank you notes for a couple books...*yawn*

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chasing Alliecat by Rebecca Fjelland Davis

I haven't been on a bike since I was about 12 and my older brother firmly refused to accompany me on any bike rides. He said I was going to get myself killed and he would get in trouble. Seriously, that car missed me by whole feet!
Yeah, I have some trouble judging distances. I'm better at it now (but if you see a small dark green car with lots of ribbons tied to the antennae, beware)

This book made me want to go mountain biking. Desperately. I couldn't stop reading it. I devoured the pulse-pounding descriptions of biking, I completely felt the desperation Sadie feels to escape from the crowded house she shares with her relatives, I wanted to cheer for Allie as she fights to escape from the dark and horrible mystery that pursues her, and got all teary-eyed when Sadie and Joe start cautiously opening up to each other.

I'm not a big reader of YA, but when I do, I often read Flux and I'm always satisfied. This story was very satisfying. I loved the crisp but descriptive writing, the realistic characters, the pulse-pounding mystery, and I especially loved the way the author didn't write a happily-ever-after romance for any of her teens. It's all about the mystery, the dark secrets, the friendship, and the biking.

Verdict: Buy it. Even if your teens aren't into biking, they will be after they read this. Hand it to readers who want books with lots of action and not a ton of mushy stuff and especially to teens looking for a good mystery.

ISBN: 9780738721309; Published February 2011 by Flux; Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some brief picture book thoughts

I read a lot of picture books, mainly from other libraries, looking for good storytime selections or checking out possible purchases for our library. FYI, added to my order list means just that - I have huge order lists. Doesn't mean I have the money to order everything....Here's a few I've read recently:

Can you growl like a bear? by John Butler. Sweet, gentle illustrations, lots of interaction with animal sounds and possible movement. Nice storytime selection for toddlers and a good bedtime selection as well.

Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. The little red hen retold with desk supplies. A cute idea, but seriously? "If the papers aren't graded the students won't learn. The school might close. The walls might tumble. The floors might crumble. The sky might fall. It might be the end of the world!" I assumed at some point the book would be about loosening up a little, or the importance of learning over mere grading, but noooo the point was all the office supplies had to take risks, be willing to be broken or used up, and work together so that the all-important grading might go on! *Gag* (ok, one of my friends thinks it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but I don't get that)

Fox and Hen Together by Beatrice Rodriguez. Cute! Very fun and funny sequel to Fox and Hen and most kids will probably actually grasp what's going on better in this story. Definitely add to my order list.

When I grow up by Al Yankovic, illustrated by Wes Hargis. Bought for my library after several parents requested it. Nice if somewhat pedestrian Seussish rhyme. Was inordinately annoyed however, by yet again seeing a nicely diverse class of students....all obediently listening to the star of the story, who is, of course, blonde, blue-eyed, etc.

No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Too long for most picture book audiences nowadays and out of print anyways. Plus, most of the parents I know would freak out at the child's view of independence posited here.

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental. I was looking for a "counting to 100" book and realized this one I'd seen recommended on a blog was perfect. Very funny, lots of counting and math. Will add to my order list.

This Little Chick by John Lawrence. Fresh from my early literacy workshop, I can see this book would be GREAT for clapping, slapping, or stamping out syllables or rhythm. The illustrations are Woodcuts As They Should Be Done for toddlers and I think preschoolers would have fun with it too. I see it is in boardbook format, added to order list!

Dog in boots by Greg Gormley. Funny and nice pictures. Nothing particularly stands out to me though.

Slow Loris by Alexis Deacon. The art isn't conventionally pretty and it's an odd story but....enormously appealing. Lots of movement and kids will love the "big secret". Darn, it's not available on my vendor.

The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale retold by Yumi Heo. Yeah....I think my parents would freak if I read a story about a mother dying and her perpetually disobedient frogs burying her near a river and worrying about her grave washing away. Nice rhythms to the text though...

Bunny Fun by Sarah Weeks. I've actually read this one before, but this reminds me I should add this to our collection...It's a nice, simple toddler story with bright pictures.

Down by the cool of the pool by Tony Mitton. Lots of action, fun rhymes, animal sounds, great interactive book. Added to order list...

Big rabbit's bad mood by Ramona Badescu. A rabbit has a bad mood - a gray, hairy creature that follows him around, until a happy event occurs and his bad mood is gone. Meh.

Little Mist by Angela McAllister. Text is a little gooey for my taste, but gorgeous pictures. Lovely, lovely snow leopards...

Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Great format but unfortunately too different from modern schools. Has kids using a "cloakroom," giving the teacher lunch money (do some schools still do that? Not sure) names for specific areas like a "home corner" and an "interest corner" as well as school prayers and a class nativity play.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

This teen graphic novel was AMAZING. I read it in one giant gulp in my hotel room (yeah, I read a HUGE stack of books in my hotel room!) at ALA, then I made my sister read the one she had picked up. Then, since neither of us was willing to give up our copy, I had to go get a third for my friend Sara-the-librarian.

Paige Turner and her parents have just moved to New York. She feels lonely and disconnected and…just generally unhappy. But she decides that in a new city she’ll have a chance to be a new person – and work on her art. Slowly, Paige makes friends and starts to form her identity as an artist.

It sounds really simple, but there’s so much more in this story. It’s about creativity, going from drawing and writing to “artist” and “author”. It’s about friendship and growing up and trying to make new relationships with your parents as an almost-adult. It’s about relationships and maturity and celebrating art and life in the city.

The art is so…good. It’s not fancy or complex, but it has weight. You turn a page and suddenly an image smacks you in the eyes and you think “I remember EXACTLY how that felt!” I really loved that the art looked like something a teen (with a lot of hard work and talent) could copy or create. It’s completely professional, but at the same time it’s a real teen’s sketchbook. Teens will completely connect to Paige and her friends whether or not they aspire to artistic careers as Paige goes through all the self-doubt and angst of a normal teen trying to decide how to relate to the world and other people.

Verdict: So, so, so good. Amazing art, strong text, this is a must have for your teen collection. If you don’t have a teen gn collection, sneak it into the fiction. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-810997219; Published May 2011 by Amulet; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Polar Bear, Shrinking Ice by Stephen Person

Like most books being published about Arctic animals, especially polar bears, this book is as much about global warming and climate change as it is about the animals themselves. The book begins with BJ Kirschhoffer, a scientist studying polar bears, noticing that the bears in Churchill, Canada, were skinny and starving. We then move on to an explanation of the polar bears' habitat and how their bodies are uniquely built to survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

We see how the polar bears stay warm - and cool - and the way they have adapted to life on the ice. We learn a little about the polar bear's chief prey, ringed seals, and how they and the polar bears co-exist. There is some basic information on polar bear reproduction and the teaching and growth of the cubs. Finally, we return to Kirschhoffer's research and his findings that polar bears are starving because of shrinking ice. There are several pages on global warming and climate change and how researchers believe this is affecting the Arctic ice and polar bears.

More polar bear facts, as well as sections on ringed seals and Arctic foxes are included at the back. There is a glossary, bibliography, index, and further reading as well as a link to the publisher's website for this series.

There are plenty of fun photographs of polar bears and their habitat, maps, charts, and more. I do find it a little annoying when the text says "most scientists believe" several times in regard to global warming but doesn't give any information of what the unnamed minority say, but this is a fairly short book, 32 pages, and there isn't space to get into the complexities of climate change. I would like to see what the other books in this series; Built for Cold: Arctic Animals, include. Do they repeat the global warming information, or do they focus exclusively on the titular animal?

Verdict: Polar bears are a popular animal and Bearport's nonfiction is, as usual, nicely photographed and full of the information kids love. I would recommend this series if you need additional Arctic animal books or to update your collection.

ISBN: 9781617721298; Published January 2011 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This week at the library; or, Don't plan anything involving plants in May in Wisconsin!

  • I did not really want to come to work today. It was a lovely day, crisp and cool and sunny and I planted my pots before I left...hopefully they won't all die in what I really hope is our final cold snap this week.
  • We were going to make leaf prints ala Artful Parent, but I belatedly realized A. she lives somewhere warmer where there's, you know, leaves and B. my stamp pads were drying out and it just didn't work the way I wanted it to. So we made paper birds instead, ala Catherine Woram's Paper Scissors Glue and painted them, thus fulfilling my promise that there would be paint. Of course, several people got other ideas and made painted penguins, painted hearts, hearts with ribbon, etc. etc. but I am cool with branching out from the main craft idea!
  • Argh! I am mad at Google. They went and combined organizational accounts and general accounts. Which means, MASS CONFUSION AND ANNOYANCE. Now I can't have my personal account and work account open at the same time and I've had to shift all sorts of things around. ARGH!
  • Helped out at the circ desk, since we were short of staff, had to move an adult program into our storyroom b/c of a scheduling snafu, once again the Wii was buggy and wouldn't work, and the one duck egg that had started hatching on Monday appears to have stopped.
  • What happened to Wednesday? I know there was a Wednesday in there somewhere...let's see, we had about 50 at Lego Building Club, our last of the spring semester, some new folks who were excited to learn we'll be doing it over the summer...I lost the perfectly good letter I had written to invite daycares to attend our summer programs so I'll have to do that again...I planned my Monday morning middle school was a crazy evening and I helped out at the circ desk....
  • Our reference assistant did Thursday storytime for me so I could go to an Early Literacy workshop at the Janesville public library. Somehow I hadn't realized the fact that it wasn't just a couple random teachers it was Betsy Diamant-Cohen, the creator of Mother Goose on the Loose and Saroj Ghoting, an amazing early literacy programming consultant. Woo! I found I'm already doing a lot of early literacy in my storytimes - I just need to emphasize and explain some aspects more. I could do a lot more flannelboards and rhymes and props though and I got lots of little ideas that should improve storytime. I have tons of notes and although I feel somewhat daunted (and completely exhausted) I am ready to start completely revitalizing and restructuring my preschool storytimes for the summer. I have one week. I can do it, right? I'll be posting more on this later...
  • Friday was all about outreach and implementation. Lots of good ideas and I now have a distinct hankering to work at one of the cool libraries that she showed us that have incorporated early literacy ideas into their building and children's areas, not just their programming. But I would also really love to work at Janesville, nicest librarians ever! and most welcoming children's area! makes me feel happy just to walk through it. Will have to add this to my teen dream of someday working in a Boston library and my retirement dream of supervising collection management at a large library...I'm young, I have dreams!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Junonia by Kevin Henkes

Yay for beach reads! I reviewed Lexie a few days ago, and now we have another pre-teen girl on the beach story. Alice is quietly thrilled on the way to her family’s regular beach vacation; she’s going to be ten. Double digits is important. But when she arrives, she’s horrified to discover that everything has changed. The Wishmeier’s grandchildren, who are older than Alice but always include her, won’t be coming this year. Helen Blair, the interesting artist, isn’t coming. Her mom’s college friend Kate, who is always focused on Alice during their visits, is bringing a new boyfriend and his six year old girl.

Alice struggles to overcome her disappointment and unhappiness with the situation, but it’s hard, especially when Mallory, Kate’s boyfriend’s daughter, turns out to be a difficult and unpleasant little girl, who is even more unhappy than Alice. As Alice starts to see the adults around her in a new light, she slowly learns to give up some of the things she wants and see others’ perspectives.

This story was beautifully written and illustrated, but I don’t see it having a wide audience. Although it perfectly captures a just-ten girl’s outlook, it is very slow-paced and focuses on Alice’s gradual awareness that the adults in her life aren’t perfect. Alice’s frequent daydreams about a goddess of the sea she has created called Junonia after the rare shell she longs to find will have a lot of kids setting down the book.

Verdict: This will be loved by a few children, but not widely popular. I’ve already bought my books-for-small-audiences for the year, so I will probably pass on this one, even though it’s a local author.

ISBN: 9780061964176; Published June 2011 by Greenwillow; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lexie by Audrey Couloumbis, illustrated by Julia Denos

I had only a vague idea of who Audrey Couloumbis was when I saw this at ALA, but I picked this one up because Julia Denos did the cover! And all the pretty little inside illustrations! There’s one of a hermit crab that’s just…exquisite. Anyways, I devoured it in my hotel room during ALA Midwinter and it’s just….sooo perfect. I fell completely in love with Lexie, if I ever had a daughter that’s what I’d want her to be like…
So, Lexie knows that it’s going to be different this year. Her parents are divorced and instead of staying for a week at the beach with both of them and then with her mom, while her dad comes up for weekends, she’s staying a week just with her dad, then coming up for weekends. She kind of doesn’t want to go, but she kind of does.

Then she finds out they’re having guests. Then she finds out they’re having guests THE WHOLE WEEK. Then she finds out it’s her dad’s girlfriend, Vicky, her sullen teenage son and her very dirty three year old. Everything is wrong. Lexie does her best to be nice and live up to her dad’s expectations, but when she finds out her dad and Vicky are getting married, she just can’t take it anymore and realizes she needs to stand up for herself.

Lexie’s dad is completely clueless – not to mention a rather immature, selfish guy. We are totally in agreement with Lexie’s mom that she can’t live with him any longer. He goes along doing the things he wants without thinking of how they’re going to affect anyone else; or considering his daughter’s point of view. Lexie isn’t a plaster saint by any means, but she’s doing her best in a difficult situation without any support or understanding from her dad. When Lexie finally can’t take it anymore and stands up to him, I had to read that part aloud to my sister and we both cheered for her.

As you can see, the great strength of this chapter book is how real the characters are. I loved Lexie’s horror at first meeting Harris, the three year old. Three year olds are dirty and as an only child Lexie is horrified by this. She doesn’t particularly like small children and she really doesn’t want to have to drag this kid around with her. I also really liked the way Lexie watches her dad and Vicky together and analyzes whether or not they make a better couple than her mom and her dad. Ben, Vicky’s teenager, is realistically depicted from Lexie’s point of view, which is perfect. How often do you see a sulking teen shown through a pre-teen’s eyes, other than “I hate my older sister” funny plots?

And did I mention Julia Denos illustrated this story?

Verdict: So, so, perfect. You absolutely must buy this story and give it to all your eight to twelve year olds, boys and girls. Even if their parents aren’t divorced, they probably have a friend or relative who is. Plus, it’s a perfect summer beach read, sunny and a little lazy. Plus, it’s funny!

ISBN: 9780375856327; Published May 2011 by Random; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mathemagic by Lynda Colgan, illustrated by Jane Kurisu

I’m often asked for magic trick books, but it’s hard to find really good ones. I wasn’t quite convinced that this would fill that gap when I looked at the description, but once I started reading I was hooked!

Starting with simple multiplying tricks and working up to more complicated – and ancient – mathematical secrets, this is the perfect book for every would-be mathemagician, even if they don’t think they like math.

Each trick is clearly explained in a series of simple steps, with ample illustrations. The tricks include multiplying with your fingers, tricks with dice, mental calculation, and ancient Egyptian tricks for multiplying large numbers. Each trick is followed with an explanation of how it works and the mathematical theories behind the process.

The illustrations help the reader follow the various steps to finish the tricks; I especially appreciated the hands that showed how to move your fingers. They also add some mild humor to the instructions and pop out the smaller sections on history, math, and magic.

Kids Can Press has a great track record for creating easy-to-follow, kid-friendly how to and craft books and this is no exception. Kids may be reluctant to pick this title up on their own – fear of math starts at a regrettably early age – but demonstrate a few of the quick, easy tricks and they’ll be hooked!

Verdict: A must-buy for your magic tricks section, highly recommended!

ISBN: 9781554534258; Published March 2011; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

This week at the library; or, Acrylic paint is NOT washable! But we knew that already.

  • I was so crazy busy Monday morning I can't remember everything I did. But I was very busy.
  • We had a hasty staff meeting, which I had to leave to go do my program. How do you deal with overdues at your library? Specifically items which are overdue for 6 or more months but have not accrued enough fines to be sent to the police? Lots of interesting stuff from WAPL (a name which makes me giggle) from our adult svs librarian.
  • Our Make it and Take it project was to paint the clay projects we made last week. Of course, as always happens in these two-part programs, several kids who made stuff didn't show up - and several kids who hadn't made stuff did. I had the brilliant idea of lugging out the extra wooden snakes from an earlier project for them to paint. Sadly, I didn't have this brilliant idea until some disappointed kids had already left or we would have had at least 20! But 15 wasn't anything to sneeze at. Lots of chick handling, acrylic paint everywhere, and I finally got home well past five.
  • Decided to come in at 8am to put together a teen summer promotional bookmark and got those taken to the middle school and high school. I don't visit any classes over 6th grade and I'd like to get more teens signed up for summer reading - and participating - and we have some actual teen programs this summer!
  • Much discussion of chicks, eggs, and potential ducklings.
  • Went home briefly for lunch. Yuck, it's up to 80 degrees and my car has no A/C. Maybe I should move to Canada.
  • Had a handful of kids for Wii - we've decided to cancel this for the summer until we get the whole shebang working more smoothly. I did have a nice big group of volunteer kids come to paint the hot air balloons I'm using for decoration. They were very well-behaved despite no supervision. I limited it to about 5 kids (only one girl decided to put the paint all over her hands...I should have more fingerpaint programs, the tweens and teens are obssessed with it!) While we were cleaning up, I found a spot of red paint on the carpet, left over from Monday! Acrylic paint is like superglue, I finally got one of the girls with long nails to pick it off bit by bit.
  • We made suncatchers for Messy Art Club. Not really messy, unless you count the tissue scraps all over the floor...a couple sources had suggested using contact paper, instead of a million bits of tape to stick the pieces on and everyone really liked that! They liked hanging them around their necks too...
  • Some of our regulars we've been missing came back to storytime and we have some new folks, so yay! I had storytimes planned through the end of May, but with preschool visits in April and other stuff going on everything got kind of mixed we sort of did sheep/farm. We opened with Jim Gill, read Here Comes the Big Mean Dust Bunny by Jan Thomas, Can't Sleep Without Sheep, which fell a little flat b/c none of the kids understood the concept of counting sheep to go to sleep, and the Gobble Gobble Mooo Tractor Book by Jez Alborough. I meant to do a farm song with actions, but about two seconds after we started singing Down on Grandpa's Farm, I remembered that's animal noises and I had meant to sing a version of The Wheels on the Bus. Oh well. We read Sneaky Sheep too, because some of the older kids wanted another story. Then we all made suncatchers. I have lots of plans for changing preschool storytime for the summer, but we've only got a couple storytimes left and they're...not as organized as the could be.
  • The ducks haven't hatched and I wish we had only done chickens - ducks as well is rather overload. Oh well. Got all my begging letters for teen drawing prizes off...
  • It was busy. It's cold again. Funny how the beginning of the week always seems years away by the time Saturday comes...we had a big book drive today and it went pretty well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ferret's a Foot by Colleen Af Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue

For some strange reason, the only images I could find of this cover were blue, while the actual book (at least the one I and my library own) is green. Whatever. Sasspants is back! Our favorite furry and reluctant detective and her hyperactive hamster sidekick are embroiled in a third mystery. Not only a mystery, a positive disaster! Mr. Venezi, the absent-minded and very confused store owner, has advertised for an assistant. Sasspants, panicked at the thought of having to leave the place that's finally becoming home, gets to work to fix all the cage labels with Hamisher's assistance....only to discover them vandalized the next morning. Is it the ferrets? Or someone nobody suspects? As always, the charm and humor of these stories is in the delicious details and quirky plot turns, rather than the actual mild mystery.
My favorite part is the opening, where Sasspants has inveigled Hamisher into the thrilling world of mystery stories, into which he enters, as he does everything, with whole-hearted enthusiasm. Or there the part where Hamisher decides to come up with a catchphrase for Sasspants. But then there's the part where Hamisher locks himself in his rolling ball and starts making tallymarks...

Verdict: Guinea PI is the perfect series for kids who are moving into intermediate chapter books and graphic novels. It's funny, the action and dialogue is easy to follow, and the print is readable. Sasspants is adorable and hilarious and Hamisher is a delightful character. If you can't afford the library bound editions, Lerner has paperbacks available, but I strongly urge putting down the money for the hardbacks, it is well worth it.

ISBN: 9780761352235; Published January 2011 by Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Midway Monkey Madness by Sarah Stephens, illustrated by Art Baltazar

Capstone's DC Superheroes Batman illustrated chapter books have done very well at my library, but I haven't seen another character in that series that I'm willing to add to our series section. I saw some ads for DC Super Pets at ALA and thought I'd take a look at this series.

Midway Monkey Madness introduces us to Beppo the super monkey and the Wonder Twins, Jayna and Zan and their pet monkey Gleek as well as villain Gorilla Grodd. We get a quick introduction to Beppo and his powers (he's basically Superman, only he's a monkey) and then we plunge right into the story.

Beppo is enjoying the circus when he hears screams and finds Gorilla Grodd freeing wild animals from their cages. While the Wonder Twins round up the animals, Beppo and Gleek challenge Gorilla Grodd to a duel - of midway games! They beat Gorilla Grodd, but he cheats and uses his mind powers to lock the monkeys in a cage. Beppo uses his powers and some clever tricks to defeat and capture Grodd and everyone goes back to enjoying the circus.

The story ends with a gallery of super hero pets, super villain pets, a page of jokes, and a glossary. This series seems to be aimed towards younger readers than the Batman series. The phrasing has that sometimes awkward, stilted feel of an easy reader and the book is heavily illustrated. Some younger children might find these fun to read, but I wonder how many of them will be familiar with - or care - about the obscure superheroes. I would say this series is aimed at ages 7 to 9 at the most and none of my patrons of this age group show interest in any superheroes outside of Spider-Man and Batman. Wandering into a larger field of conjecture, I wonder if interest in superheroes in general is dying down - will the kids who are now in grade school be interested in the superheroes of Marvel and DC when they grow up?

Verdict: An additional purchase if you want some lighter superhero fare for your younger readers, but I'll stick to the Batman series for now.

ISBN: 9781404863057; Published January 2011 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Glow-in-the-dark Animals by Natalie Lunis

This book is from Bearport's new series, Animals with Super Powers and showcases animals with bioluminescence. After a brief introduction to the concept of bioluminescence, there is a section on fireflies, who use their lights to attract mates, New Zealand glowworms, railroad worms (in this section we learn what makes bioluminescence), the cucujo, a kind of beetle which is used as a lamp, dinoflagellates, which light up the sea, fireworms, anglerfish, and deep-sea jellyfish.

There is a brief section on other animals that glow, a glossary, and a brief index, bibliography, and section of further resources.

I usually really like Bearport's series, but this one didn't work well for me. I realize it's difficult to make night photography attractive, but many of the photos appeared to be pasted onto odd backgrounds, like the cover, and looked very strange. I would have liked to see the explanation of bioluminescence at the beginning of the book, instead of hidden in the middle. The different insects and sea animals were interesting, with different facts about each, but the book felt scattered and disorganized.

Verdict: An interesting topic and idea for a series, but too disorganized for my taste and the photographs were not attractive. Some of the other titles in this series might be a good addition, but I don't recommend this specific title.

ISBN: 9781617721199; Published January 2011 by Bearport; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This week at the library; or, stuff happened yadda yadda yadda

  • We tried out air-dry clay for the first time at Make it and Take it. This is a VERY messy project! I should have had something over the rug as well as more paper towels or something to wipe hands. But we had about 15 kids (way more than had signed up) including a group of teens who are enthusiastic about volunteering. We're going to paint the clay creations next week.
  • Once again, the Wii didn't work - turned out a battery was in upside down. Argh! My director is in favor of a permanent installation, and so am I, but where would we put it? Our wall space is limited.
  • I KNOW I had kids who checked out and read my book club book. But did they show up? No they did not! One came 30 minutes late, when it was all over (her dad got home late from work) two had some kind of extracurricular activities and the others...Fortunately, some of my tweens were hanging around and they can usually be bribed into attending with candy. So we went around in a circle and each talked about what book they were reading at school. And then they had to leave, all together and very suddenly, b/c their respective parents had showed up. But they made me a giant Eric Carle poster and tissue paper flowers for a Mother's Day display earlier in the afternoon! And one of the girls who had to be somewhere else came back the next day telling me she LOVED Terry Pratchett and I got her a bunch more of his books.
  • My cancelled morning preschool visit came today, It was a tight squeeze b/c they had to be out of the storyroom before baby storytime, but we managed. Also, in a moment of abstraction I had returned the books I had used last week so we had a slightly different program. But it was cool! We read Argus by Michelle Knudsen again, Press Here by Herve Tullet (HUGE HIT) I'm a shark by Bob Shea (and one of the kids totally got the fishing movie joke and exploded while all the others were looking confused) and Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett. Then we did a backwards tour of the library and sidewalk chalk outside!
  • We had our usual 50 attendance for Lego Building Club. Yay!
  • School librarians for Battle of the Books showed up tonight for set up. I offered the library as a venue for the final district battle last year, after I saw how cramped they were, and we're hoping all goes well.
  • The chicks are hatching! One shell is cracked and a beak is poking through...
  • Battle of the Books! It was a bit crowded at certain points, with 60 kids and all the parents, teachers, and helpers, but everyone followed directions and the final awards ceremony/party out in the lobby wasn't so noisy as to generate complaint from the Senior Cards group in the community center. I HOPE.
  • I had 16 people at storytime. We had a kind of mixed storytime, almost all new people! We read Herve Tullet's amazing Press Here, Are you my mother? and Good Egg. Then we made tissue paper flowers and die cut flowers for Mother's Day. And everybody had to see the chicks that have just hatched!
I'm reposting a query here I sent to Pubyac

We are concerned about our preschool storytime attendance. I'd like to hear suggestions for increasing attendance and any other advice from librarians with similar stats as ours.

Our town is about 10,000
We have a very popular early childhood person from the school district who does (at the library):
twice monthly evening storytime (average 15+ attendance)
twice weekly toddler storytime (18 mos. to 3 years) (average 30 attendance)
weekly lapsit storytime (0-18mos) (average 25 attendance)

I have a weekly preschool storytime, ages 3 - 5 and get numbers ranging from a measly 5-10 in the winter to 25 when the weather's nicer - sometimes. I offer a similar mixture of stories, songs, and movement (although she has more fingerplays and activities for the toddlers) and we both have crafts/art projects after storytime.

Advice? Suggestions? Thoughts?

  • It was Friday. What can I say?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Just Desserts by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Dessert is back! Her first adventure, Dessert First, was a delightful introduction to a fun character and I'm very pleased to make an exception to my "no sequels" rule and recommend this second volume of Dessert's adventures.

Dessert is experiencing a series of catastrophes. First, there's her parents insistence on giving her disgusting leftovers instead of letting her buy a school lunch. Then there's her younger sister Charlie, who suddenly won't let Dessert boss her around anymore and even gets her into trouble, and her twin brothers, who have started getting into her things. Then her mom makes her take all the money out of her panda savings bank and put it in the bank. Dessert discovers she's not the only one with unbearably annoying siblings.

Inspired by their history lessons on the American Revolution, Dessert forms a club and promises to help all her friends settle the annoying sibling problem once and for all. Of course, a club has to have dues and as president Dessert is in charge of them. She really, really means to help everyone. But she still has those disgusting leftovers and now that she has money the school lunch is really tempting....suddenly, Dessert realizes she's made everything worse not better, and she's in a lot of trouble. Is there any way she can fix it?

One of the things that makes the Dessert stories stand out from the myriad of spunky-girls-learning-about-friendship-and-school is the realism of her characters. Most of the other girls are, well, a little too perfect. They get into arguments and trouble, but it's usually misunderstandings or mistakes. Dessert messes up. She can be selfish and mean and bossy and greedy. But she does her best to make things right when she realizes how wrong she's been; she apologizes and gives up the things she wants so she can fix the problems she's caused for her friends. Durand not only hits Dessert's character spot on, she captures all the frustration and annoyance of siblings and parents who won't do anything. I wanted to march over to Dessert's friends' houses and tell their parents to wake up and fix things! Davenier's illustrations are the perfect complement to Durand's text and flesh out the characters and add little elements of interest to the story.

Verdict: Dessert is an absolute must for your library. Forget all the cookie cutter girl stories with quirky and unrealistic characters - pass Dessert out to boys and girls with annoying siblings, a sweet tooth, and who like truly realistic stories about kids with whom they can empathize.

ISBN: 9781416963875; Published July 2010 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Small Saul by Ashley Spires

There are quite a few atypical pirate stories, but Ashley Spire's picture book debut stands apart!

Saul is determined to have a career at sea, but he's too short for the Navy. "Fortunately, pirates aren't so picky, so he enrolled in Pirate College." Saul is delighted to finally graduate and even finds a ship that allows him to join their pirate crew, but his troubles aren't over yet. Small Saul's efforts to spruce up the ship, be tough, and find treasure end with him being popped overboard by an exasperated captain and crew. Happily for all concerned, the pirates realize they miss Small Saul (and his cooking and cleaning) after all and Small Saul finally finds his place aboard The Rusty Squid.

Spires' delightful sense of humor, already seen in her popular Binky the Space Cat graphic novels, shines here. Every page is full if hilarious details, from Small Saul's open-mouthed and wide-eyed enjoyment of his new experiences to the pirate's list of rules and classes at Pirate College. Spires' square-legged pirates, with villainous details (not to mention bad breath and poor spelling) march across the pages in panels and inset illustrations. The story is simple enough for preschoolers to follow with enough subtle humor for grade school students to giggle along.

Verdict: Even if you already have plenty of pirate stories, this funny story is a must add and will be popular with parents and children of all ages. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781554535033; Published March 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nonfiction Monday (Watch me grow by Deborah Hodges)

My own offering for Nonfiction Monday is Deborah Hodge's Watch Me Grow, with photographs by Brian Harris

This book is even better than Deborah Hodge's Up We Grow, which I reviewed last year. In this accessible picture book, she introduces us to gardening in a city, especially for and with children.

First of all, having drooled over Brian Harris' photographs, I now have a not-so-secret longing to relocated to Vancouver. It appears to be the most fun, green city ever!

The book is divided into four sections, Growing, Sharing, Eating, and Caring. The gentle questioning of the text and many photographs show all the overlooked places where gardens can flourish and will inspire readers to find their own corners for growing food (I'm thinking those really sunny windowsills in the library...if I can just keep the kids from knocking over the pots...) Additional suggestions and information on growing food is included in small boxes.

The sharing section talks about the ways people share food - and space. Community gardens, city farmers, urban farmer's markets, and creating gardens that attract wildlife are all included. Eating discusses ways to use the food you've grown in your garden and Caring shows how city gardens can help people and the environment flourish. A brief note about Urban Agriculture explains more of the benefits of city gardening and lists all the beautiful gardens in the photographs.

Verdict: This is a must have for your library. Even if you live in a small town and not a city, like me, there are many people who live in apartments or have small or nonexistent gardens. This is the perfect book for encouraging gardening with children in unique spaces. Pair this with DK's Ready Set Grow for a great combination of gardening ideas and finding spaces for the gorgeous green!
ISBN: 9781554536184; Published February 1, 2011; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday! Leave your links in the comments below and I will add them throughout the day.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian has a review of two of Bearport's Built for Cold series on Arctic animals

The Children's War has a post in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Week on The Children We Remember by Chana Byers Abells

Pink Me has a review (and a couple bonus anecdotes) of Manners Mash-Up

Wild About Nature has a review of W is for Waves: An Ocean Alphabet by Roland and Marie Smith and you have the chance to enter and win your own copy!

The Happy Nappy Bookseller has a review of Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

Books4Learning has a biography of Bethany Hamilton (of Soul Surfer movie fame)

Janet Squires has Chocolate: a sweet history by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Charise Harper

The Fourth Musketeer has a review of a new book about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Penny Colman

Anastasia Suen has a post about Read and Write Sports: Readers Theatre and Writing Activities for Grades 3–8 (her new book for teachers and students that came out last week) Go Anastasia!

The Z-Kids at Bookie Woogie took a look at Dan Yaccarino's All the Way to America and had a really special interview with the kids' great-grandma!

Books, Dogs, and Frogs has posted on A Life in the Wild, a great adventure book on studying animals.

MacLibrary at Check it out has a review of Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire

Laurie Thompson has a review of Start it up! a great resource for teen entrepreneurs (I can personally say this is amazing! I have a review of it scheduled for later and just purchased it for our library!