Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Princess Posey and the perfect present by Stephanie Greene, illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Princess Posey is back! We first met this charming and utterly real small girl in Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade where she was dealing with very normal fears about starting first grade. Now, Princess Posey is back and very excited about her beloved teacher’s upcoming birthday. She’s going to give her the most perfect present; a lovely bouquet of flowers she grew herself. But then she sees her best friend give the teacher a huge bouquet bought from a florist. How will Miss Lee know that Posey likes her best now?
Posey is a completely real first grader in her interactions with friends and family, her reactions, her hopes and fears. This adorable series steps away from the current fashion for quirky, hyperactive, and frankly annoying heroines (yes, I’m looking at YOU Junie B. Jones) and presents Posey as an Every Girl with everyday worries and delights that most little girls will understand and delight in.

Verdict: If you haven’t already bought the first Princess Posey book, add it to your collection now, along with this sweet but never saccharine sequel. A third Princess Posey book is coming out later this summer. I’m excited that both volumes are currently available in paperback so I can add them to my library’s series collection. A must have for every public and elementary school library.

ISBN: 9780399254628; Published March 2011 by Puffin; Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: The secret lives of backyard bugs by Judy Buris and Wayne Richards

The story of the bugs in your backyard begins with the life cycles of insects, the importance of pollinators, and the process of metamorphosis. Then the book moves on to catalog many, many kinds of insects, bugs, and spiders common to backyards. Detailed photographs showing the creatures at various stages, from larvae or pupae to adult, discussion of what they eat, how you can tell them apart from other bugs, and where the authors saw them is also included. After the general bugs and insects, the book moves on to a special section on butterflies, then moths, raising and identifying caterpillars, and then a very brief section on a couple spiders. Packed with interesting facts and photographs, this is a high-interest book that will appeal to kids who are interested in identifying bugs.

At first, I was doubtful about whether I could use this book in the children's area; the text is a bit small (although this could be due to the program I read it on, which is kind of wonky) and dense, although broken up with lots of photography. The book is categorized as adult, but the preview I'd seen of it looked like it could be useful for children, so I'd grabbed it.

However, as I read further, I really got into the authors' personable presentation of these bugs, common and uncommon. I liked the way they talked about where they had seen them and the wealth of information presented on each creature. And, of course, there's the amazing photography! Every bug, insect, and spider is shown in brilliant detail, including its juvenile forms, and sometimes its eggs, food, and behavior. I could have spent a lot longer poring over the pictures! While I don't think many kids will sit down and read this cover to cover, this is an excellent resource for reports, or identifying that weird bug you've just found in your backyard. Budding entomologists will love the detailed mix of scientific information and everyday facts as well. I would have suggested either cutting out or lengthening the section on spiders. I expected as many details as there were for the insects and bugs and was disappointed. I like spiders!

There is a detailed glossary, handy small identification pages of eggs, larva, pupae, and adult forms, list of host plants, and an index.

Verdict: Recommended. I suggest pairing this with one of the pet bug books, like DK's Bug Zoo or Wildlife Gardening. A great book for kids who want lots of information about bugs and have a higher reading level or parents who want a fun, free summer project to do with their kids. This could go in either your adult or children's section.

ISBN: 9781603425636; Published May 2011 by Storey; Egalley provided by publisher through NetGalley; Purchased for the library.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This week at the library; or, seriously, librarians should have higher salaries or at least free chocolate!

Before I regale you with the tale of this week, I must post a little reminder. For those of you who are thinking "Superwoman! Blogging+summer reading+STUFF" I will say that I, being an obsessive person, have a huge backlog of scheduled blog posts. Enough to last me through November pretty much. I haven't actually read anything new beginning of June. Basically I get up, go to work, come home, work some more, and go to bed. All I'm reading are trashy paranormal romance novels and the fruit loops of fantasy (and they're re-reads. i haven't the energy to read something new) and a hugely miscellaneous collection of comics donated by our excellent local comic store. The shelf of galleys from ALA languishes. The pile of titles waiting for review sits sadly. The unread shelf is getting dusty. The library shelf is starting to mutter about overdues. But...well, this was my week:

  • This is the way Monday was supposed to go. I arrive around 8:45, put together a list of tasks for the volunteer coming at 9:30, efficiently juggle the information desk and a neat stack of tasks from my to do list until 1pm, have a relaxing lunch, set up a few chairs and the tv for our babysitting workshop presenter, retire to my office and plan at least three of my preschool interactive storytimes, finish a variety of other tasks, then a quick stop at the grocery store and home for a little gardening and a walk over to the hardware store for a tomato cage.
  • This is how Monday went:
  • I arrive at 8:45 (everything ok so far)
  • I turn on the opacs.
  • Computers don't work properly! Insane numbers of people with questions ranging from a request for a snowblower manual to why can't I get into my aol mail (b/c it's evil, duh) to hordes of children streaming through for summer reading registration, prizes, and readers advisory (one girl suggests we have an "advanced summer reading program" because she's almost finished her 20 hours and what can she do next? I agree. Totally unprepared for volunteer, take her on impromptu tour whilst constantly dodging back to information desk
  • Finally grab some lunch around 1:45. Have finished nothing, other than making one girl ecstatic by finding the last two Avalon books on interlibrary loan. The snowblower patron was pretty happy too, although she had to come back b/c the dang computers were so wonky.
  • Opacs still not working.
  • I set up a few chairs and tv, then do 1001 things that suddenly appear, another volunteer, suddenly realize I never put in a request to pay my poor presenter, so I have no check for her, also neglected to call her and warn about no parking b/c the city has torn out half our parking lot and access street.
  • She arrives on time! Having parking somewhere far far away. We discover the tv and dvd player do not work.
  • Neither does the laptop and projector.
  • Someone else is using the other laptop.
  • I go home to get my laptop.
  • When I get back, the tv and dvd player are working.
  • We did have 11 kids at the babysitting workshop, which was great!
  • I get one storytime planned. Mostly.
  • I realize we have 0 people signed up for my author visit on Wednesday, probably no one is going to come, and my poor author will be horribly upset, and also the online registration that I have been working on since April really doesn't work.
  • I go to the grocery store and finally get home around 6pm where I read trashy romance novels get the picture.
  • I arrive around 8:30, optimistically expecting to Get Something Done on the desk. And people say I'm pessimistic. Ha!
  • Vast hordes of toddlers for toddler storytime with the redoubtable Miss Pattie
  • Lots of people. Very busy morning.
  • Set up our community room and pray that lots of people will come for the magician, Tim Glander (including the people who accidentally came on Monday for this program)
  • Lots of people came! Yay! Great program! Over 100!
  • Vast amounts of rain, all the electricity goes out and our computers crash.
  • Brief planning meeting
  • Publicity and massive piles of new books
  • Go home. More publicity. Read comics (curse you Tryke! your generosity in handing me a sampler of comics is now revealed as an evil ploy to deplete my budget, since I now see about six storylines where I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT)
  • Sleep, dishes, food, Very Important Phone Call
  • Slide into work at 11am for 11:30 author visit with Siobhan Vivian (I'm not actually supposed to be at work until 12 anyways and my lovely intern set up the room) Great author visit, although we only had 12 people. But, considering that out of the 7-10 programs PER WEEK we do all year, only about 4 programs PER YEAR are for teens, we just don't have the base to draw from. I got a hug from one of my tweens afterwards and a "best librarian ever" so I am happy!
  • Assignments for volunteers and intern, working through more new books, publicity, etc.
  • Due to the iffy weather, we move the Messy Art Club project inside. It was supposed to be splatter paint. We just go with paint on giant sheets of paper cut off our huge rolls.
  • Sixty people come. SIXTY PEOPLE. Average attendance for messy art is usually around 25. Everyone has fun, lots of paint is laid out, and it take mes and my aide 45 minutes to clean up!
  • Which brings me to 5pm and desk time, during which I sorted donations, worked through more new books and talked to my colleague from the school who does baby and toddler storytimes (did I mention she wasn't able to come this morning and my intern did baby storytime at 10?) about new books and storytimes and stuff.
  • 8pm Walk home in rain and get thoroughly, if gently soaked. I am not complaining as long as I don't get hailed on. Which I don't like. Because it hurts.
  • I actually eat breakfast and whilst eating my actual breakfast and doing a little light collection development, see that there's going to be a new John Himmelman rescue book in September. Cows to the rescue! The day is looking up already!
  • I would like a new title. Call me SUPER LIBRARIAN! We had 35 people at storytime! Most I've ever had, although many were younger siblings and had to take a little break. I'm really excited that my hours of work on restructuring out preschool storytimes and publicity has paid off! (having said that, we'll probably have 2 next week...) 
  • Half day and no desk time! Well, sort of. Except for covering the desk for a couple hours so our reference assistant could do toddler storytime, b/c our regular Miss P was out and the thought of One More Program made me want to cry, so I happily handed it over to L. And I walked to work at 8:30 and then walked home around 11:30 and then I went to Walmart to buy more summer prizes, and made a Very Important Phone Call and had to get some of our summer logs reprinted, and then I went back to work and had to get the publicity done...I went home around 4:30. Gah. And then I spent a couple hours working on collection development and migrating some of our google sites which I had initially hooked to my personal email and personal work email to our general email so they won't die if I move on, which is one of my projects this summer. Took me forever b/c I had forgotten one step and couldn't figure out what was wrong.
  • Another Saturday...I worked my colleague's Saturday shift so she would work my Friday shift b/c I thought I was Going Somewhere on Friday but that fell through, so...Saturdays. They're like Mondays only shorter. One of our circ people was out b/c she was having her baby RIGHT NOW. That is an acceptable excuse!
Random Thoughts on Summer Reading so far this's only been two weeks and already I can see there are still a lot of bugs to work out.
  • People really like the extra "challenges" on the ages 6-12 logs, so I can see that some kind of passport type of summer reading could be very popular.
  • Quite a few of my advanced and/or enthusiastic readers can easily finish their 20 hours of reading in the first week or so and then what's left for them the rest of the summer? I'm thinking about doing a thicker brochure with reading and projects for each week and doing registration AT the schools the last week so kids going on vacation can sign up.
  • As regards our new Beginners Club reading program for ages 0-5, I think a lot of parents don't want to take it for the little ones because it's just One More Thing, especially if they have multiple little ones, or multiple kids under the age of 12 for that matter. I wonder if it would be possible to put together some kind of "family log" with activities and reading that people marked off all together?
  • I think we're busy enough to consider a separate summer reading area next year, especially after big programs. We'd need some kind of table and volunteers to staff it and we'd have to figure out when to staff it as well. This is one of the reasons a combined services desk is a headache, but we don't have the staff to staff our upstairs reference desk, and anyways half our patrons don't realize we have an upstairs. Our director has been talking about the possibility of making an information desk area right at the door as you come in and that could be very nice, although we would still have a lot of computer-illiterate adults on the computer lab by the children's area.
  • The beginning prizes and children's prizes are very similar - and as always, very messy to dig through. I have combined them one big box but I wonder if some kind of box with dividers or a giant fishing tackle box or something would be better than digging through the big plastic tub? We have tried separate prizes for separate levels in the past and it's pure insanity.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rachel Spinelli punched me in the face by Paul Acampora

Zachary isn’t happy about moving but he didn’t want to stay. The endless fighting is over and his mom is gone. It’s just Zachary and his dad and a new town. Zachary, uncertain and miserable, meets the aggressive Rachel, her brother Teddy, and starts to put together a new life for himself. There are a lot of issues and plot points mixed into this slim middle grade novel. Absent mother, mental disabilities, trumpet music, death, cleaning up a park, friendship, promises, crushes, and more.

Despite the very busy plot, Acampora’s writing brings all the elements together into a cohesive and believable story. The reader can sympathize with and understand the reasoning behind each of the character’s actions. 

Verdict: An interesting and fast-paced tween story that introduces ideas about maturity, relationships, and new beginnings in a funny and moving story. Recommended for readers who like realistic fiction.

ISBN: 9781596435483; Published August 2011 by Roaring Brook; ARC received from publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Knights' Tales: Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier

In the latest installment of The Knights’ Tales, Gerald Morris turns the story of Gawain and the Green Knight into a lesson on the importance of chivalry; specifically, being courteous.

I realize this doesn’t make a great deal of sense. However, in my humble opinion, the story of Gawain didn’t make any sense to start with, regardless of the countless drivel that has been produced under the guise of literary criticism (I am not a fan of Arthurian legends or fantasies) so this could only be an improvement. Morris manages to smooth over the *cough* less appropriate nuances of the tale and create a funny story with adventure, interesting characters, and a legendary flavor. It even makes a weird kind of sense, which is more than I can say for the original story. If you’re going to retell Gawain, especially as a beginning chapter book, this is as good as it’s going to get! I doubt any kids will become more polite as a result of reading this tale, but they will enjoy a fun read and maybe even go digging for more Arthurian tales.

It’s still a weird, weird, story though.

Verdict: I wouldn’t buy this one on its own, but if you’re doing the Knights’ Tales, this is the next in the series and you’ll need it. I really, really loved Sir Lancelot the Great and Sir Givret the Short and I’m looking forward to another…more conventional story along those lines.

ISBN: 9780547418551; Published April 2011 by Houghton Mifflin; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Start it up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions Into Pay by Kenrya Rankin

I’m always on a rather hopeless quest to find books and other materials that will get teens doing something. I get very frustrated with the large numbers of aimless teens who seem content to hang out (a phrase I am rapidly coming to hate) instead of, well, doing something! They’ll never have so much free time again in their lives and while many teens are certainly overscheduled with activities, I think many more are drifters, lacking any kind of interest or passion. Argh!

Ahem. Anyways, I really like Zest Books’ teen nonfiction. It’s fresh, funny, and practical (although the sex book was a little, ok a lot, too much for our library). I was excited when I saw a prepub notice for this title and even more excited to see a review copy of it on NetGalley.

Start it up is a practical guide to starting your own business for the modern teen. But it’s more than the traditional have your own babysitting/lawn mowing business book. The first chapter begins with an explanation of the qualities needed for entrepreneurship, ideas for setting goals, benefits of having your own business – and downsides – and finishes up with quizzes and suggestions for finding your own passion.

Further chapters give instructions and advice on mentors, investors, and partners. There is a detailed chapter on creating a business plan, including forms. More information on the gritty details of starting a business – coming up with a name, legal issues, tax questions, and more follow. The fifth chapter deals with money, from the prices you charge to what you do with your loot. There is also information on supervising employees, marketing, and customer service. The final chapters talk about “Doing Good,” using your business to give back to the community, or support good causes, and what to do with your business when you are ready to move on; what happens to your business when you go to college? Get another job? The book concludes with a detailed index, notes on the author, and a list of other Zest Books.

Every chapter includes quotes and stories from teen entrepreneurs talking about their successes; and failures. There is also a list of resources at the end of each chapter and various tips and ideas to add more information to the topic spread throughout the chapter.

Verdict: This is a must have for your teen section. Hopefully it will inspire a few of bored teens to explore the world a little and try out some new ideas; if not, it will provide a great resource for the ambitious and involved teen who wants to turn their passion into a profitable job. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780981973357; March 2011 by Zest; Ebook provided by publisher through NetGalley; Purchased for the library.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This week at the library; or, I'm too tired to think of even a marginally witty caption

  • I have no idea how many people signed up on Saturday. Putting the names into my online spreadsheet is turning out to be a HUGE job and I simply haven't had time to finish it. 
  • My intern started today. Welcome Abby! [edited to add - 228 signed up Saturday. We had 70 sign up last year]
  • We had Check it Out in the afternoon, basically a very simple Make it and Take it. We had four tables covered with new books, bookmarks, lots of glitter, and lamination to laminate the combination of those last two. Good times. About 20 people showed up. This program wasn't as successful as I had hoped - it was mostly small kids and families and I had hoped for elementary and middle school kids. They thought it was a storytime. Whatever.
  • I went home and baked cupcakes for Tuesday. (evening storytimes started today as well)
  • Our big program today was our Fancy Nancy party! (morning storytimes started today as well)
  • We did beading, bookmarks, butterfly masks, fairy wands, decorated cupcakes and made scrap paper bows. We had about 100 people there and lots of positive feedback!
  • Baby storytime is back in session
  • We had our first Lego Building Club of the summer, run by Abby (intern) and Melissa (aide). They did a great job! 65 people came!
  • I debuted my new program, Preschool Interactive. It was highly successful, we had 20 people, and lots of positive comments. Happily, I started a great teen volunteer today who was a big help!
  • I spent all morning at the middle school, beginning around 8am, doing storytime for about 100 kids going into kindergarten in the fall. I do a storytime for each glass of about 20 kids. That's five 30 minute storytimes, back to back. Hard on the voice, I'm tellin' ya. How do teachers do it? I wasn't as happy with what I did this year - usually, I do frogs for summer school 1 and fish/water for summer school 2, but I must have sent the wrong things to the secretary b/c I got put down for fish first. And then, with the other stuff going on and our insanely huge summer reading this year and just...stuff, I am running a bit behind and wasn't as well-planned out as I'd like. Would have helped if I'd had more sleep too...anyways, the kids all loved it and the teachers were appreciative of a few minutes to relax!
  • I started by asking them if they'd gone swimming or fishing yet this year - lots of enthusiastic yelling responses! We sang Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day twice, with motions, to get everyone ready to listen, then we read All the water in the world by George Ella Lyon, which is amazing. Then we segued into Fabulous Fishes by Susan Stockdale, which I may need to exchange - I've done it so often I've gotten past the point where it's memorized and moved on to accidentally switching out the rhyming phrases because I'm not looking at it! But it's such a great storytime book. We do it twice - once reading the text and echoing, then we go back and identify all the fish (there's usually at least two classes that fall apart over the lionfish, squealing "ewww" etc. I have no idea why. I think it's kinda pretty.) Then we stand up and do The Animals in the Ocean to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. We had a lot of weird suggestions this year, including sea slugs and alligators. We finish up with Giles Andreae's Pop-up Commotion in the Ocean - which I consider a learning experience in the unfairness of life since there's not enough lift-the-flaps for every kid to do one...and then everyone got a giant paper fish from my die cut to color. Phew!
  • I closed today - working from 3-6
Aaaand, that was my week. Sleeping now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

A new super hero is on the scene! It's Squish! Defender of amoebas everywhere! At least in his imagination. I hear Squish was the product of Babymouse's mad science, but he's definitely a character on his own. Squish, his genius best friend Pod and sort of best friend the utterly optimistic Peggy!!! make their way through a day at school, facing typical school problems like boredom, weird lunches, and bullies...who want to engulf you and digest you! Can Squish think of a way to save the oblivious Peggy from the terrifying Lynwood? Can he be Super Amoeba when he's needed most? Parents looking for a "lesson" in how to deal with bullies won't find it here. Squish spends most of the book confused, scared, and trying to placate Lynwood and keep him from eating Peggy - in other words, totally realistic behavior. Kids will snicker over the jokes, see some of themselves in the characters, and basically have a blast! In a departure from the tastefully pink Babymouse, Squish is all greens and whites, a fitting choice for the amoebas and molds that slide and lurch through the story.

Verdict: I didn't find this story as appealing as the Babymouse; it felt rather loosely structured and the solving of the bully problem certainly wasn't...well, expected to say the least. But kids will love the silly humor and weird characters. A must have, of course, buy in library bound and prepare for constant checkouts

ISBN: 9780375843891; Published May 2011 by Random; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen

Kevin is an expert liar. He's experienced, practiced, and perfect. As just one example of his expertise, he starts out the week by lying to the "I don't think of her as a girl" Katie. By the time he's finished, she thinks he has a terrible disease and is more than happy to do all the work for their group project. Everything's great..."Then I turned the corner in the upstairs hall on my way to lunch and fell in love." Kevin is completely bowled over by his sudden and complete fall for Tina Zabinski. He absolutely has to get her attention...and what better way than a few harmless lies? One thing leads to another and suddenly he's in deep trouble with almost every one of his friends and teachers - and the ones he's not in trouble with yet, well, they'll find out soon enough. Is there any way he can fix the mess he's lied his way into? Kevin is a more realistic and likable Wimpy Kid. He's funny, smart, and good-hearted, but he's also immature, cruel, and manipulative. By the end of the story, he's made a lot of mistakes, caused a lot of problems and hurt a lot of people, but he's also acknowledged his mistakes, admitted he was wrong, and made restitution.

This was a great story and the only drawback is...where do you shelve it? It's only 120 pages long, the art on the cover says "middle grade" to me, and the publisher puts it in the 8-12 range. But, Kevin is 14 and there are some definite edging-into-teen reactions to girls and some mild language that make me doubtful about putting this into our juvenile area, which right now is mainly beginning chapter books and fantasies. Then again, we're planning to move the tweens downstairs and this will take that section up a notch. Anyone have any thoughts/feelings on appropriate audience for this book?

Verdict: Once I've decided where to put it, I will definitely purchase this book. In fact, I think I may already have bought it. Paulsen perfectly captures a real fourteen year old boy and makes him funny, likable, and interesting. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780385740012; Published March 2011 by Wendy Lamb; ARC received from publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Puppet Play by Diana Schoenbrun

I requested this book hoping to find some suggestions for the huge volume of socks I have collected in the back of our storyroom. This book was a little too advanced for my programs, which are aimed at ages 6 – 12, but had some really fun ideas that would be great for a teen puppet program.

The book opens with general instructions, ideas for embellishments, and some basic sewing instructions. Each of the twenty puppet projects has a list of reused and recycled materials, embellishments, construction materials and tools, and shapes to cut from patterns (provided in the book) and freehand.

Each project is given a difficulty level and has a photograph of the finished project. Construction steps are given in short, clear increments. Where needed, the steps are supplemented with illustrations. The illustrations looked a little sketchy and I’m not sure how helpful they would be, but the actual book might be clearer than the pdf file I reviewed this from. Projects include “Betty the Elephant,” “Feilong the Dragon,” “Crazy Cat” and many more. The book concludes with some tips for putting on a puppet show, other ideas for using your puppets, and further puppet-making resources.

Most of the projects require some sewing abilities, ranging from simple stitching to more complicated stitches. There is quite a bit of initial cutting involved and a hot glue gun is needed for many of the projects.

Verdict: A fun book for a few younger kids at a sleepover or with a parent, or for a teen program if your teens have some sewing and craft abilities. You’ll need at least a couple hours for even the simplest project, so if you’re planning to use these as a teen program, you may need to stretch it over several days. Recommended for a fun teen program.

ISBN: 9781449401191; Published; April 2011 Andrews McMeel; ebook review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This week at the library; or, Yea, and Summer did verily come upon us without warning

Agh! Frantic Getting Ready For Summer! I was out Monday - my plane didn't get back until noon and I had taken the rest of the day off. Because I had to get up around 4am so...yeah.

  • Last school visit! This was my third elementary school. We're having a heat wave and those poor kids were HOT. Especially the 5th graders when we packed all of them into the room right after recess...Lots of kids I know at this school and I'm sure there will be lots of enthusiasm - maybe their librarian will even win the sparkly queen of summer reading crown this year!
  • My big "thing" this week was refining and developing our new preschool program, Preschool Interactive. I got all my notes together and my first plan is ready to go! I just need to finish all the plans for the rest of June (I'll do July and August later...)
  • Some new books, a generous donation from our local VIP services, fratchety tweens, aide scheduling and a brief but very gloomy meeting over what will happen if the Wiscnet budget thingy passes. Basically, our library will have no internet. Yay.
  • I did stuff today...oh yeah, I basically  moved books all over the place. In the hot, sticky library. Yuck.
  •  Worked on getting all the teen drawing prizes ready (it's not done yet) prepping programs, and trying to get my aides' schedules and duties worked out. Normally, I have 1 ten-hour a week aide and a temp aide for an additional 10-12 hours in the summer. This year, I have my regular, I have our tech services/circulation aide/page for the additional 12 hours, and I have an intern. So far I've got the aides' schedules and assignments worked out and a list of intern-ish stuff. She's starting on Monday and I am determined to give her the Best Experience Ever, not only for her sake, but so our library will get more interns! Also made final shopping trip to Walmart for summer supplies and...some other stuff I can't remember.
  • Technically, I have a half-day today b/c I'm working tomorrow. Ha ha hah ahah ha. I am still tying up loose ends, creating flannel boards, planning programs, organizing prizes, oh and working the information desk all morning.
  • 7:30am Checked the weather and realized it was likely to rain, also my laundry is still wet b/c it's so humid. Yuck, damp pants.
  • 7:45am My hair, also very damp, declined to stay up (modern hairpins. argh! anybody know where I can get hairpins meant for seriously thick, long, straight hair? everything I use falls right out) I take the whole thing down and start over.
  • Breakfast of ibuprofen and bagel and I am off.
  • Arrived at the library around 8am, set up summer reading at the information desk.
  • Lugged boxes of books and tables out to the entrance and my summer reading stuff out to the car.
  • Drive over to the park (we are joining in Bike Safety Day), the police got a work truck and came back with me to move the tables and boxes, and then I started set up.
  • We had a table for adult svs, a table for me, and a table for our school district's Parent Connections. I lined up my free book boxes under the table. Happily, we were under the picnic shelter since it misted quite a bit. Everything was clammy and cold.
  • I had about 100, 120 kids sign up!
  • I closed up around 11:30, lugged everything back to the library with help, put everything away, checked on sign-ups at the library, refilled all the summer stuff there, and got home around 1. Phew
  • I haven't counted up registrations yet, but I'm hoping we got near 200. We had about 70 last year, when we had a magician at the library, but we replaced that with going to bike safety this year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

Marley is invisible. Popular kids, teachers, even his old best friend Stanford Wong; they all ignore him. The only kids who pay attention to him are the three bullies who make his life miserable. He has a few friends in the AV club, but they’re not really the friends he wants. When Marley’s life gets too miserable to bear, when the bullies are after him, when he feels like he desperately needs to get away, he runs. The more he runs, the faster he gets. Finally, someone noticed just how fast he is. Will Marley still be invisible? Does he even want to be noticed?

I’ve skimmed through several of Lisa Yee’s middle grade realistic fiction stories, but this one I sat down and read beginning to end. Every time I started to put it down, sure that the author was sliding into stereotypes and a clich├ęd plot, the story swung around. I like the how Marley is portrayed as an ordinary kid; he’s not a flawless underdog, he hurts his friends’ feelings, gets in fights with his parents, and sometimes just wants to be “normal” and “popular” whatever that is. Marley changes and grows throughout the story, but he’s still Marley at the end. He still doesn’t fit in with the majority of the kids, he still has his odd personality quirks, and he doesn’t get the girl he desperately wants. But that’s ok. The point of the story isn’t about defeating bullies, although Marley does get them to leave him alone through various methods. It’s not about friendship, although Marley learns how to be a better friend. This story is about fitting in with yourself, letting go of the idea that you are a reflection of the people around you, and figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

I did think the eccentric parents were a bit over the top, but they do blend smoothly into the story. The bullies are also given strong characters and don’t just fall into the “guys who have low self-esteem and/or problems with their parents so they hit people.”

Verdict: A strong story about finding a sense of self and breaking out of the expectations and misery of middle school. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545122764; Published March 2011 by Arthur A. Levine; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mal and Chad by Stephen McCranie

Fans of Calvin and Hobbes alert! Mal and Chad are on the scene. Mal is a genius whose plans don't always work out; Chad is his dog, who prefers to be treated like a human and sticks around even when the going is tough. The black and white art is fresh and enthusiastic and the lettering is large and readable, something I always look for in my juvenile graphic novels (seriously, a lot of kids won't pick up gns with small print, no matter how good the pictures look). What I loved about this story was how we started out with a perfectly normal scenario: geeky kid, talking pet dog, slight suspension of belief...and then they create a working rocket. Whoa! Complete shift in paradigm! We start realizing that sure Mal is a "normal" kid; he's obsessed with his crush on a girl at school, hates the know-it-all who is more popular and has more social skills...but he's also a genuine genius, whipping up time machines and shrink rays at the drop of a hat. Is he an alien? How does Chad talk? Do we care? Nope. We just want more fun, crazy, exciting adventures!
Verdict: This is going to be a very popular series, especially with fans of Calvin and Hobbes as well as some of the more thoughtful graphic novels for middle grades - Amelia Rules for example. Plus, it has giant dinosaurs! What's not to like? Buy it at once!

ISBN: 9780399252211; Published May 2011 by Philomel; ARC received from publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Totally Human: Why we look and act the way we do by Cynthia Nicolson, illustrated by Dianne Eastman

This oversized, 40 page volume explores common human behaviors, from burping, feeling ticklish, using right vs. left hands, memory, yawning, sleep, and more. Several questions have one spread with a question and illustration on the left and a detailed explanation of the biology and physiology on the left, with an additional column with more information. Other questions have only one page.

The illustrations are rather odd to my taste. They are collaged photos of people with various body parts replaced with animal parts, photos in color and black and white, black drawings of bodies with animal heads pasted in on top. For example, one spread shares two questions, "Why do your eyes face forward?" and "Why do you see colors?" and a photograph of a girl's head is set into the center of the page. Half of the girl's face is black and white with an owl's mask and the other half is in color with a butterfly wing mask.

The facts and explanations are interesting, but the chunks of text are very large and may discourage some kids from reading more than a few pages. There are quite a few "weird body facts" books out there and I don't think this one really offers anything new.

Verdict: Add if you really have a need for more body books, but otherwise I would recommend Kids Can Press' Don't Touch That Toad, a more kid-friendly title with a wider variety of facts and shorter sections of text.

ISBN: 9781554535699; Published March 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This week at the library; or, here today, gone tomorrow!

This is a really short week at the library! We had Monday off; I spent my three-day weekend shopping for summer supplies, sleeping, having Teen Titans marathons with my friend Sara, knitting, and cleaning my apartment top to bottom.

  • Jackson Elementary visit in the morning - I took about the same stuff as I did to Tibbets. The three visits I posted are pretty typical of each of the places I visit, middle school, parochial school, and elementary school, so I won't be posting any more specific school visit lists. Jackson kids are very enthusiastic, which is nice, and I know lots of them because the school is only a few blocks from the library! I was delighted to hear that, b/c so many kids asked for Elephant and Piggie after my visit last year, they now have many Elephant and Piggie books in their library!
  • Program meeting, staff meeting, and lots of budgeting and getting my June order lists ready.
  • St. Patrick's school in the morning - first time I've done them in groups, I usually go to individual classrooms. I did K-4th and 5th - 8th. One the one hand, I didn't have as much time with each group, on the other hand, I didn't have to confront the stare of death from the 7th-8th graders, because the 5th/6th were there to liven things up! I only see 7th-8th at the parochial schools, so it's difficult to switch gears and booktalk to an older crowd, especially when younger ones are with them. It also didn't help that I was a few minutes late...
  • Tried to get three weeks worth of work done in one afternoon and evening - thankfully it was a quiet evening on the desk and I got a lot of publicity done.
Thursday - Monday
  • Vacation! Several librarians have told me they go on vacation right before summer reading, to relax before the big push. I think I forgot a couple parts of this having everything done first (simply couldn't get it all done and I still have a school visit) and I'm going home to Austin which...will probably be kind of hectic, since most of my family is playing apartment merry-go-round. Hope I have somewhere to sleep! Oh well. These are the books I took with me to finish reading:
  • My Forever Friends by Julie Bowe
  • Bloomswell Diaries by Louis Buitendag
  • Under the green hill by Laura Sullivan
  • Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
  • Tale of two castles by Gail Carson Levine
  • Angel in my pocket by Ilene Cooper

Friday, June 3, 2011

Calli be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Sometimes I think realistic middle grade fiction is nothing but an endless list of How-not-to-parent-your-children examples. This is no particular reflection on this particular book, which I liked very much, just that there are sooooo many parents out there in fiction land who Should Know Better. Actually, there appear to be a lot in real life too, the stories I could tell...

Anyways, Calli Gold has the over-scheduled type of parents. All three of their children must have a passion and be doing something constantly. Calli, the youngest, is tired of being pushed into constant activities to find her passion and talent, which she is pretty sure she doesn’t have. She doesn’t feel like part of the Gold family – and sometimes she’s not sure she wants to be.

But then the Gold’s perfect, over-scheduled life starts showing a few cracks. Calli realizes her parents aren’t the perfect, happy, fulfilled people she always thought they were. Her older sister (who is, quite frankly, a nasty person and needs a hefty thwack on the head) turns out to not be the perfect overachiever either (although this doesn’t make her a nicer person) and her older brother shows some unexpected kindness. Calli herself has found something she really cares about; Noah, a second grader who has some issues. Calli is determined to stick with him for their class project no matter what and in the end she discovers that she does have a special and important talent.

I would like to digress here to mention my complete lack of patience with the “they’re going through a phase/growing up is hard” school of excuses for nasty older teen siblings. Just because you are suffering teen angst and you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you can take out your problems on your younger siblings. I actually see this a lot, just observing families. The older kids can call their younger siblings nasty names and poke them or whatever, and the parents just sigh and ignore them. Grr. Ok, digression over.

Every time I thought the story was going to slide into stereotypes, it popped around a corner and surprised me. There are a lot of tropes here that will grab readers; the underdog who is ultimately successful, the kid nobody thinks is important or good at anything who turns out to have a talent, the perfect family that develops some problems and then works through them. Hurwitz’ writing is steady and strong and she develops her characters and situations with enough familiarity to draw kids in and enough plot twists and turns to keep them reading. I look forward to more stories from this debut author!

Verdict: This is different enough from your usual “real girls in school and with their families” middle grade books to add to your collection even if you have a large number of these books. Especially recommended to girls with overachieving parents and older siblings….Recommended!

ISBN: 9780385739702; Published April 2011 by Wendy Lamb; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

I am so excited by some of the wonderful graphic novels coming out for the 8-12 age group this spring and summer! This is one I'm really, really excited about - I gulped it down in my hotel room at ALA Midwinter and I can't wait for a sequel! From the moment we turn to the first gorgeously colored full page, we're dropped into action, starting with two curious, squabbling children...who get flung into space. Immediately, we plunge into a heart-stopping adventure with Zita, determined to help her friend Joseph, who she accidentally sent to a dying planet. With the help of her new friends, Strong Strong, Piper, Mouse, and One, Zita must save Joseph - and the planet. Does Zita have the courage to continue, even when she's betrayed by her new friends?

Zita is exactly what I look for in a graphic novel for middle grades - strong lines and colors, action moving clearly between panels, a readable and fairly large type, lots of action, interesting characters, and a plot that grabs the reader from page one. Kids will instantly sympathize with Zita's fear at being stranded on a completely alien world, her bewildered fascination with the new things she sees every moment, and her stubborn insistence on rescuing her friend despite all odds.

Verdict: Well written, beautifully drawn, and with simply oodles of kid appeal, this is a must-have for your graphic novel collection and I am eagerly awaiting a sequel!
ISBN: 9781596434462; Published February 2011 by First Second; Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011