Saturday, June 30, 2012

This week at the library; or, Sailing into calmer waters

Monday went by fast, from staff meeting to Tiny Tots storytime.

     I did toddlers 'n' Books for Miss Pattie. This was one of the better programs - they're usually awkward and chaotic. We had some Jim Gill music with shakers to start, then I made some announcements and was going to read a story but the kids were NOT ready - so we sang Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day a few times to calm everyone down. Then we read Edward Gibbs' I spy under the sea, then Ashley Wolff's Bear Sees Blue with flannelboard, then we stood up and sang the animals in the ocean, then we read Giles Andraea's Pop-up commotion in the ocean and then we made octopuses with paper plates and crepe streamers.

     Our first Storywagon was successful! We had a magician, The Great Scott (Scott Obermann) and the kids loved his funny show and magic tricks. And all the magic books I had collected checked out! We've been having some disappointing numbers for Storywagon, so the 100+ count was a great relief! The a/c is working, which makes up for the electricians turning all the lights off and going to lunch...
Wednesday - Preschool Interactive. Busy.

Thursday - Super hot, but the a/c at the library has been fixed! The Community Room was beyooootifully cold! Even though about 60 people showed up for Lego Club.

Friday - still busy

Saturday - even busier

So, my attendance total for June is 1,058 (this doesn't include Miss Pattie's storytimes) and we have over 300 kids participating in summer reading and almost all of them are turning bookmarks in every week! There has been a little confusion with people thinking that they have to return bookmarks during the week printed on them, but not enough that I want to change this part of the program.

Also, our circulation for the month of June is well over 20,000. We've had 20,000 months before, but not quite as big as this. To those who say libraries are becoming obsolete, I say words of scorn. Very un-children's librarian-like words of scorn.

Friday, June 29, 2012

You can't have my planet but take my brother please by James Mihaley

Giles feels invisible between his perfect older brother and prodigy younger sister. He's still hurt that his brother grew up without him and seems to think his grades are more important than their tree house business. Then the aliens show up and suddenly Giles is the only one who can save the human race from eviction! Can Giles finally get something right?

There are three main themes to this book; cutesy/creepy robots and aliens (definitely below the Pilkey line), Giles' obsession with having a girlfriend and getting kissed (very middle school) and "if all the kids just work together they can clean up the city and save the environment). It's also 243 pages long.

There's not a lot of science fiction for kids out there, so I was frustrated by this book. It had a lot of promise and good stuff going on. The "humans have destroyed the planet" plotline was cliched, but the being evicted spin was funny and fresh. The robots and aliens would have made a good younger chapter book, although they lacked the depth of, say, Pamela Service's Alien Agent series. The middle school/feeling like a loser plotline was good, but didn't mesh well with the other parts of the book.

Verdict: Funny and has interesting ideas, but too long and scattered for my audience. The older kids who would be interested in the girlfriend part will roll their eyes at the robot/alien line and the younger kids will be discouraged by the length and uninterested in the girlfriend line. Split it into three books and I'd buy them all!

ISBN: 9780312618919; Published 2012 by Feiwel; Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron

Abby has a best friend, Olivia, but the person she really cares most about is her dog Tam. When he's lost in an accident far away from home, her world falls apart. As the seasons change, both Abby and Tam struggle to find each other and discover new strength and hope as well as the unexpected kindness of strangers.

I'm really not an animal stories person. I read all the classics as a kid - Lassie-Come-Home, Big Red, Old Yeller, etc. but it was never a favorite genre and I can't remember the last time I read one as an adult. However, there are quite a few kids who love these stories, and the sheltie on the cover is very cute (although I prefer the ARC cover with a sheltie running through the woods) so I thought I'd give it a try.

In short, this is a good debut novel, the author shows promise, and kids who want animal stories will probably love it, but it does have some flaws.

The story is told in alternating chapters, in first person from Abby's point of view then third person for Tam. Tam's is the simplest story as he struggles to escape from his crate and the river it falls into, then braves more rivers, animal attacks, being attacked or helped by humans, making friends with a coyote, and so on. Abby's story is more complicated. At the opening of the narrative, she and her mother are living with Abby's grandmother, Meemaw, on her small farm in Harmony Gap. Abby's father is a traveling musician with a band. When he gets a contract in Nashville, she and her mother have to leave Meemaw, the llamas Abby's mother loves, and the small town Abby's grown to think of as home to go live in the big city. Abby goes to a big school, makes new friends, and brings some new ideas to the city kids as well. At the end of the story there are hints that there will be more changes in Abby's future, but the reader doesn't know exactly what will happen.

In some ways this is a very classic animal story, especially in the chapters focusing on Tam as he struggles to get home to his girl. Abby's chapters are more complex, but the number of events and conflicts seems to be too many for the story. Abby herself is a strongly built character, but every time the reader starts to get to know her, something happens and another character pops into the story. We never get a really good feel for her best friend Olivia, her new friend Cheyenne, or the other people she encounters. Abby's chapters have a lot of dialogue and in a way more action than Tam's chapters of wilderness adventure, but the amount of change she goes through is a little bewildering. I also felt that the introduction of Meemaw's and then Abby's talent of Sight was an unnecessary complication to the story.

Verdict: I wouldn't recommend this to struggling readers, who would probably find the alternate chapters confusing, but strong readers who like realistic animal stories will gobble this one up. Recommended if you have readers who like such stories, especially with a happy ending.

ISBN: 9780061986741; Published February 2011 by Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins; ARC provided at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Linnea's Windowsill Garden by Christina Bjork, illustrated by Lena Anderson

I seem to be out of nonfiction that is review-able at the moment. Most of what I'm buying is hot topic, super popular stuff, but nothing that I really feel like talking about. So I'm falling back on an old favorite today.

I love the Linnea books. I love her enthusiasm and independence and I love the flowers and plants that swarm through her stories. This is my favorite of the Linnea books, although it makes me sigh with longing every time I read it - my own windows face north and I've not been able to grow anything but a few polka-dot plants. But someday...

With the help of her friend Mr. Bloom, Linnea grows a myriad of plants in her small apartment. From orange trees to avocados, cress and beans, Scarlet Runner beans, Busy Lizzie (impatiens), and more, each one of them blooms and flourishes in Linnea's windowsill garden. With each plant, she learns something as well.

Linnea learns about the water cycle by planting a peperomia in a jar and creating her own miniature water cycle. She learns about how to take care of plants - watering, getting rid of bugs, etc. with her Busy Lizzie. She makes a game out of plum seeds, grows an amaryllis, and uses beans to learn about germination; and have a growing contest!

Verdict: This is an older book, translated in 1988, so some of the ideas will be a bit outdated; Mr. Bloom filling a bag with cigarette smoke to get rid of aphids for example. But most of the projects are as fresh and fun as when the book was first written and it has a delightful charm. Try making your own mini garden or dying a white rose and enjoy! Well worth looking for at the library or digging up a used copy.

ISBN: 9129590647; Published 1978 by R & S; Reviewed from my personal copy

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This week at the library; or, Starting with a stereotypically Mondayish Monday

This was an Alexanderine Monday. I spent about an hour at 7am trying to update the new website and still made mistakes. When I went in to work at 11:30 I ran into an issue which I accidentally started last week (but I was only peripherally involved in). The next snafu, a patron miscommunication, was my fault. I get flustered and say stupid things and I can't remember faces and the two combined have gotten me into trouble before. I will now stress out about this for the next three weeks or so, possibly longer. The arrest in our lobby was nothing to do with me however, but I am disappointed that I didn't get to see the police dogs who came to sniff for more drugs. My director did nicely pick up the extra cardboard for tomorrow so I could just go home after we closed at 8pm and we got through a quick standing meeting (literally) to make some budget changes. Oh, yeah, and I forgot the dead fish. Did I mention the dead fish?

June 19, the day of the Star Wars party, dawned bright and stressful. I got a lot of work done even though I was out at the children's desk all morning (finally, that desk has been neglected!) then Aide 1 helped set up for the party - we had a giant pinata for afterwards, 100 pieces of PVC pipe (cut in 2 or 3 ft sections) and tons of duct tape to make light sabers, cardboard, paper bags, ribbon, etc. to make costumes and instructions for making the original Origami Yoda, paper airplanes, etc. plus lots of books.

Result - pure chaos. We ran out of pipe in less than 10 minutes (that's 100+ kids right there, if you're counting) and I think we had somewhere around 150 or more people come. Nobody could hear a word I said, the room was crowded to the gills, and the pinata was an exercise in dangerous living. Despite my frantic cries and the assistance of some parents and Darth Vader and his bright red saber, I was unable to get the kids to move back and there were close calls. Fortunately, the only person who sustained a solid thwack was me. I don't know how anybody felt about it because it was so chaotic - a few people later said they enjoyed it, but others were unhappy with the crowds and the dangerous swinging of light sabers. So was I.

This is the final straw. I have been holding back on doing registration - one of the big pluses for our patrons is our drop-in programs - but we have gotten too big for this, especially if parents are going to expect me to exert control over 150 people while they watch in interest (to be fair, many parents are willing to help out, but someone still has to be In Charge).

Also, last year I had trouble with my two aides running into each other so this year I scheduled them separately. Of course, now I need two people at once. Argh!

Wednesday - Preschool Interactive. Very hot. We're out of summer reading bookmarks. Partly because I estimated approximately 200 per week and last week we gave out 400. Partly because, and I have no idea why, out of 4500 bookmarks we have given out 3135. Where is the other thousand or so? We do not know.

Thursday - First Messy Art Club of the summer with my new format, I'll be posting more on that later. Well, not really a format but a handout and more closely themed book display.

Finally Friday arrived and Girls' Night Out. Last year we called this Body Art and had it on a Tuesday night starting at, if I remember correctly, 6:30. At approximately 9:30 I told the girls they had to leave! The year before that we just called it henna tattoos. This is the only program I have consistently gotten teens to attend. This year, I tried telling girls they could bring their moms and you had to be 11 to come. We had henna and enough applicators for three people, temporary henna tattoos for those who wanted something less permanent, jewelry-making (still have tons of beads from a failed Twilight party a few years ago) and a cousin of Aide 1 who does awesome nail art (that was why last year went so late). This year I offered her an honorarium. I also tried to get the girls to bring snacks to share. We held it on Friday night, starting at 5:30 everyone gathered, then at 6 the library closed and the party got started.

I had over 20 girls signed up and about 18 girls came. However, only the eleven year olds who had signed up came! Everybody else was teens I had invited the day of. The snacks were miscellaneous, ranging from fancy cupcakes and brownies (the 11 year olds) to a back of doritos (last minute teen)

One package of henna wasn't enough - the bottles weren't full enough to squeeze easily. It worked out ok, but would have been easier if they'd been fuller.

Next year, we'll put everyone's names in a bowl for nails and draw names. The bigger girls pushed the younger and shyer ones out of the way. Drawing will be more fair, since there's no way everyone can get it done in the time allotted.

Some music would have made things "go" a little more, but I'm not sure what would have been acceptable to the wide range of tastes and personalities (homeschooled family, "nice" 11 year olds, and some girls who rode their bikes over and I doubt their parents knew, or cared, where they were).

Conclusion - I'm really bad at throwing parties, but this is as good as it's gonna get!

I actually was done around 8:30 (although I stayed to print out some things - I am one of those lucky people whose student loans got handed off to some shady company and I am panicking somewhat). Then I got home and discovered my computer had finally died.

All in all, it was a FUN WEEK.

Friday, June 22, 2012

12 Things to do before you crash and burn by James Proimos

After a number of picture books, James Proimos tries his hand at a young adult novel. I've looked at several of his previous works, Todd's TV, Paulie Pastrami, and the ever-popular Swim Swim, so I thought I'd pick this up.

I was first impressed by the length. Not many young adult authors can limit themselves to 121 pages, especially in this day of endless door-stopper series. And yet, so many middle schoolers (high schoolers just don't read) refuse to read these lengthy tomes. So, I was inclined to be pleased.

And pleased I was. This wasn't my usual kind of story; Hercules Martino has been sent to spend two weeks with his bachelor Uncle Anthony, the most boring man alive. Hercules dad has just died. Everyone thinks he was wonderful - Herc thinks otherwise. In just a week, with Uncle Anthony's boredom-preventing list, he will meet Strange Beautiful Unattainable Woman, get chased by dogs, eat at a homeless shelter, read Winnie-the-Pooh, shovel horse manure (or at least that was the original idea), and start to come to terms with his father's death and his own life.

This story is funnier than it sounds and more serious than you expect. If fits a lot into a little. Half the story is left untold, but the book tells more story than you would think possible.

[Yes, I am listening to Terry Pratchett at the moment]

Teens looking for funny, heartfelt, or "I have a report due tomorrow" will scoop this slim volume off the shelf and they won't be disappointed.

Verdict: Proimos' young adult debut is unconventional, interesting, well-written, and unique. There's a few mild instances of bad language and an oblique reference to sex which is later specified. I'd recommend this to older teens and/or reluctant readers.

ISBN: 9781596435957; Published November 2011 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Travels with my family by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

In my quest for more beginning chapter books, I came upon a review of the latest installment in Gay & Homel's humorous family/travel series. I was intrigued by the description and decided to try out the first volume. It turned out not to be a beginning chapter book - but it sure was a lot of fun to read!

Some parents take their kids to ordinary, fun places like Disneyland. Not these parents! Looking for special, off-the-beaten track destinations they traipse across America, accompanied by the unnamed narrator and his younger brother. From hurricanes on the east coast to a terrifying adventure in the Okefenokee swamp to desert tornadoes and Mexican revolutions, there's never a dull moment on these vacations!

Despite the wild adventures, the tone of the book is oddly peaceful. The narrator's resigned acceptance of his parents' eccentricities gives the stories a tongue-in-cheek, ironic sense of humor. Only the mother occasionally gets a little worried by some of the more dangerous incidents and it's she who decides when an adventure has gone far enough and it's time to try something else or return home. Black and white sketches illustrate the kids' reactions and some of the places and events they experience.

Verdict: Not every kid will pick up on the humor in these stories and although the book is fairly short (119 pgs) the text is too dense for a beginning chapter book, although the cover and illustrations seem aimed at that younger reading group. However, if you have a younger child who's a strong reader or kids who appreciate ironic humor, this will be a good choice. Otherwise, it would make a great family read-aloud!

ISBN: 9780888996886; Published February 2006 by Groundwood Books; Borrowed from the library

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Life in a Pond by Craig Hammersmith

I try to include at least one nonfiction title in all of my Preschool Interactive programs. I also provide materials for our baby and toddler programs and try to put together a mix of fiction and nonfiction for those as well.

It's HARD. It's very difficult to find books that are well-written, age-appropriate, and have engaging art or photographs. It's especially hard to find titles that are short enough to read to a toddler or preschool audience without having to resort to bland easy readers. Every year I find a number of gems by excellent authors like April Pulley Sayre, Catherine Sill, or Roxie Munro. I also watch publishers like Peachtree and Boyds Mills Press. But even so I find myself coming up short and having to fall back on the mass-produced, straight to curriculum standards nonfiction publishers like Scholastic and Capstone.

This particular example, Life in a Pond, is part of the Pebble Plus imprint, so it has a few more words than the Pebble line, which offers outrageously priced library-bound books with a sentence or two per page. Each page has three or four short sentences on the left and a full page photograph on the right. The text is intended for beginning readers and of course conforms to all the lexile and other school standards needed. An example: "Ponds are often home to turtles. Turtles spend time swimming in the water. But they also rest in sunny places to warm up."

Not particularly inspired, but it gets the information out there and the photographs are detailed and expressive. While these are really directed at easy readers, I've been able to satisfy my beginning readers' thirst for nonfiction with National Geographic and Dorling Kindersley titles. However, Pebble titles are available in paperback and until publishers start turning out a bigger volume of read-aloud nonfiction I'll have to make do.

Verdict: These titles would be in high demand in a school library and I find them useful to fill the gaps for read-aloud nonfiction in storytime, but I still wish there was more nonfiction intended to be read aloud, like Cathryn Sill's About series or Kathryn Galbraith's Planting the Wild Garden.

ISBN: 9781429668163; Published 2012 by Capstone; Borrowed from the library

Saturday, June 16, 2012

This week at the library; or, It doesn't look like I'll be breathing this side of August

Remember last week? Wash, add more programs, plus staff meetings and meetings at City Hall, rinse, repeat.

  • Monday evening, Tiny Tots - Miss P. was stuck up north and couldn't get back, had to cancel. Much sorrow but we survived.
  • Tuesday morning, new staff member L did toddler storytime for Miss P. I am working on getting some  more staff comfortable with subbing - it's hard to work with a toddler group that doesn't know you, especially with the love for Miss P, but L did a good job for a first time!
  • Tuesday afternoon, Fancy Nancy party. Oooooh what a party! To prep for this, it's mostly collecting stuff here and there, publicity, etc. It's the day of that's a real workout! It took us exactly an hour and a half to set up. 10 minutes before we started, I noticed a couple families were poking their heads in, so I shut the doors so we could finish setting up. Opened them 10 minutes later and there was about 100 people in the lobby! We counted 120 at one point but more came - we're going with a total of 135. We had two tables of fancy books and over half checked out. We had hundreds of butterfly masks with large sticks to tape them to, sparkles, gems, ribbons, feathers, stickers, buttons, crayons and markers. We had clips with fancy paper, ribbon, buttons, glue dots, clips, and clothespins. We had fancy fans with fancy paper and ribbons. At the last minute I decided to go with tissue paper flowers on pipe cleaners instead of beading. We had tons of glitter glue everywhere. We had mini pink cupcakes and frosting and sprinkles to decorate with along with pink lemonade. It was awesome. It took over two hours to clean up (with the help of my aide). But it was awesome!
  • Wednesday morning, Preschool Interactive - good start back for the summer session. More people will come in July when the first session of summer school ends.
  • Thursday morning (at the icky hour of 8am), pre-kindergarten storytime. Five groups of about 20 kids each, back to back elephant storytimes! My voice actually held out to the end, although I did get a bit growly.
  • Thursday morning, baby storytime - Miss P.'s fans were happy to welcome her back!
  • Thursday afternoon, Lego Club - Good thing we set up all the tables - 65 people came and I had to bring out more tables. Now I'm wondering if I got enough pots for Messy Art next week!
  • Friday morning, toddler storytime - again, much excitement for Miss P's return. The new storytime room organization seems to be working well.
Stories of the week
  • Adult svs librarian (via chat my morning off): "help! parent has child who wants scary stories at 1000+ lexile!" Me: "Tell them it's summer - read whatever scary stories they want."
  • Aide called me right before we closed to view disturbing situation in juvenile series. Very oddly shelved and out of order. Was it the new aide? Did we not train her well? *panic*, it was a helpful little girl earlier that I had noticed was pushing all the books back (kids often like to do this and I don't really care) but I hadn't noticed her "tidying" the series. Once I took a second look it was clear what she'd done - she'd collected all the loose series and pushed them together so the shelves were exactly full, then put all the pink books together. Cute, but now we have to reshelve everything. Oh well.
  • We acquired a fish tank last Saturday, courtesy of a local teen who has recently gotten into fish. He set up the acquarium, brought the fish, and is keeping a close eye on it. A few days ago, he noticed some kids were tapping on the filter and glass, so the tank now bears a handwritten sign reading "do not touch tank management". He came in Thursday to "make sure we're feeding the fish". 
More Notes
  • As of Friday early afternoon, about 160 kids had returned the first week's bookmark. Last year 878 kids registered and 187 completed 10 hours of reading. We're very close to that "completion" number. I'm hoping to hit at least 300 participants this summer.
  • As chaotic as this summer is, I had to look back at last summer to remember how much better this year is going. The summer reading program is much less labor-intensive, our system did a lot of printing for us which saved money, and I'm doing fewer programs. The intensive organization I put together this year doesn't hurt either!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bramble and Maggie by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend

On rare occasions I buy a book I have not read, reviewed, or thoroughly researched. It happens a bit more often now, since I have a little more money to spend and a rapidly increasing list of other duties in addition to collection development *sigh*.

This book came up on my new releases list from BWI Titletales (best vendor ever btw) and knowing we needed more easy readers and liking the cover, I added it to the list. When it showed up and I skimmed it, I took it home for a more intimate discussion.

Bramble has gotten bored going around and around the ring giving riding lessons. Maggie is picking out a horse all of her own. Is Bramble the right horse for her? As the riding instructor, Mrs. Blenkinsop says "Bramble has her little ways." Bramble and Maggie meet, negotiate, and finally settle down to a happy ending in four chapters. The writing is at the higher end of easy readers, about Arnold Lobel level, but still maintains the simple vocabulary and short sentences needed by beginning readers. Within the confines of the easy reader, Jessie Haas produces a story that is funny, touching and has a gentle underlying message - there's a place for everyone.

Alison Friend's pop-eyed characters are a delightful accompaniment. She perfectly fulfils the requirements of an easy reader illustrator, giving clues to the reader and adding dimension to the simple story. The combination of text and art adds even more humor to the story and children will be delighted to read and watch the growing friendship between Bramble and Maggie.

Verdict: I can't wait to put this out on the shelves and watch the kids grab it. It's not so specifically "girl+horse" that boys won't pick it up and both children and parents will enjoy the humorous story. This lucky pick was definitely lucky and I can see it becoming a beloved classic!

ISBN: 0763649554; Published March 2012 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Juniper Berry by M. P. Kozlowsky

One of the interesting things about reviewing galleys a bit *cough* late is how rapidly trends change. I received this galley at ALA Midwinter 2011 and the big thing last year seemed to be fantasies based on Grimm. Lots of buzz around those, not so much. I'm seeing a lot more talking about realistic fiction and just plain fantasies.

Of course, that might just be me.

On to the book! Juniper Berry's parents are famous actors and she loves them very much. They've always had a wonderful life together, acting out her scripts, playing games together and being a marvelous, if somewhat eccentric family. But slowly that's all changed. Now her parents hardly notice her, fans are clamoring at the gate, and Juniper feels that she's slowly becoming invisible and forgotten. She's delighted when she meets Giles, a scrawny weakling of a boy who lives next door and has sneaked in to her estate. He has something to add to the mystery - his parents also have become strangely distant and increasingly odd but he's actually followed them and thinks the solution to the mystery can be found in an ancient tree in the forest.

Together, Juniper and Giles explore a world they never knew existed and, like their parents, face their own fears, desires, and decide what they truly want most in the world. As the subtitle says, this is "A tale of terror and temptation" and while readers will recognize several fairy tale and mythic elements and characters, the real heart of the story is choosing what you want out of life and what you're willing to sacrifice to get it.

The story has an atmosphere of horror and growing tension as Juniper discovers more and more oddities about her parents, culminating in several scenes of horror. Giles' story is more centered on his temptation to be what he isn't but desperately wants to be - accepted, strong, popular, normal. Juniper wants to go back to the way things were, Giles wants to move forward to the way things might be. There's never much doubt that Juniper will choose to save her parents; but will she be strong enough?

[Note - there was no art in the galley I reviewed, so I haven't commented on that aspect]

Verdict: This book is tautly plotted and skillfully written. It's an easy read for the average middle grade reader and will appeal to those who like creepy fantasy and atmospheric, haunting tales. If you have children who like stories that are a little more thoughtful and dark, this will be the book for them. My patrons lean more towards straight fantasy and contemporary, so this isn't for us, but it would definitely find an audience in a larger library.

ISBN: 9780061998690; Published April 2011 by Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011

Monday, June 11, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: 97 Things to do before you finish high school by Erika Stalder

If your library is infected with a large population of aimless teens, as is mine, this may just be the book for you. While there's nothing more determined than a teen who doesn't want to do anything (except annoy adults and bat condoms around like balloons - true story) the 97 fascinating, weird, exciting, and fun things to do just might inspire a few of them to get out there and actually experience life!

The ideas are organized into nine sections: Personal development, With/for friends, With/for family, For your body, To get to know the world around you, To express yourself, To benefit your community and environment, Because you should, and Because you're only young once.

The ideas are much more varied and far-ranging than the usual entertainment/weird pranks/grand adventures I've seen in similar books in the past. They range from trying a new hairstyle to making a budget, taking a dance class to volunteering, researching your family tree to learning a foreign language.

The introduction emphasizes that this is a browsing, try a few things and move on kind of book - you're not supposed to do everything in the whole volume. Some things require travel or extensive time, some you might have already done. The ideas are peppered with interesting facts and extensions of the projects, websites to visit, and more ideas to try. The color scheme is navy, orange and green which gives it a nice, casual feel. The book is small and compact, about six inches square, and some libraries might be a little concerned about the small paperback, but I've never had problems with Zest's paperback bindings.

Verdict: While this might be most useful as a present to a teen (specifically one of those unmotivated and prone to boredom individuals) it's also a fun book to leave out in your young adult area and wait for inspiration to strike some of the aimless teens milling about.

ISBN: 9780979017308; Published May 2008 by Zest; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, June 9, 2012

This week at the library; or, Hyperventilating my way into summer reading

  • First day of new schedule, now working Monday evenings
  • Clearing up of accumulated Monday morning work
  • Training new summer aide
  • Began plotting theft of colleague's summer intern. Waaaaaant!
  • Another reading record crisis
  • Panic
  • Booked fall program with Kohl's Wild Theater
  • Posted about upcoming Saturday programs on Facebook
  • Patron found that some of the kids had rearranged our display Legos into...inappropriate positions.
  • Last big school visit, 9am to 2pm
  • Note to self - you cannot do a full elementary school visit on a piece of watermelon and a muffin. You will feel sick. Visit to grocery store.
  • Sorting school visit books, new books, other libraries' books. Things have got confused.
  • Drove over to next town to pick up the rest of the missing reading records
  • also some mulch. I don't know if my ongoing war with the squirrels is increasing or decreasing my stress
  • More sorting and beginning to clean and organize storyroom, which currently has my summer supplies lying in heaps all over the floor and tables.
  • I came early to set up for the 80 fifth graders and teachers who visited from 9 to 10:30. I did a short tour, then a scavenger hunt, then book talking in the teen room. This went much better than I had expected! The kids were all reasonably well-behaved (I'm not counting the character whose question was "when are you going to stop talking?") and enthusiastic. The tour is kinda hard, b/c of the sheer numbers, but there's nothing I can do about that. One teacher suggested splitting the kids for scavenger hunt and booktalk and since it sounds like everyone would like to repeat this again next year, that's probably what we'll do.
  • Major cleaning of storage room - head of circ very kindly took time out of her insane schedule to drive over to Lowes and get another giant metal shelf (she has a truck!) and then helped me put it together. More cleaning, organizing, etc. etc.
  • Finally decided enough was enough and left around 5:45. Will continue tomorrow.
  • 2nd grade class from the elementary school came for a tour and storytime
  • Was planning to get my June order finalized, but encountered a massive issue with Amazon (our fault, not theirs!) and spent about 2 hours fixing it.
  • Finished cleaning and organizing storyroom.
  • Went home a whole hour early!
  • Took the morning off, went in to work at noon.
  • Cleaned off desk.
  • Finalized my June order
  • Got most of my first storytime for June finished (I know, I'm late! It's all that sleeping in since there's no storytime, ha ha ha).
  • Summer reading kickoff. I was at the library at about 9:30, along with one of my aides, to get everything set up. New books, tables, displays, summer reading, the works.
  • From 10:30 to 12 we had the Welty Environmental Center they were awesome!
  • The local animal shelter brought some dogs by for a few hours
  • The adults were doing things but I didn't pay much attention.
  • One of the teens brought by a fish tank and set it up for us! We'll see how it goes - all the other fish I've tried have died, after first driving me crazy for weeks by looking dead, thus inspiring an endless series of "is the fishy dead? why does the fish look sick?" questions.
Roundup of School Visits:
Pigeon vs. Elephant and Piggie - Pigeon wins, hands down
Most requested beginning chapter book - Hooey Higgins (even the older kids want it)
Loudest yells - Star Wars party
Most frivolous request: Fashion Kitty (mostly by fifth grade boys)
Most requested book I did not have a good booktalk for: Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader
Most asked for book that I wasn't 100% sure was appropriate for sixth graders: Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Gross science book of the summer: Exploding ants by Joanne Settel tied with Disgusting Hagfish by Meish Goldish, but the Disgusting Hagfish got a kid sent to the principal's office, so it wins the tie.
Personal favorite booktalks: Fangbone, Third Grade Barbarian and Fluffy Fluffy Cinnamoroll

Friday, June 8, 2012

Need a house? Call Ms. Mouse! by George Mendoza, illustrated by Doris Susan Smith

This isn't so much a review as a paean of joy to that special moment of rediscovery when you find a book you'd loved as a child.

Reading aloud was a huge deal in my family, at least for the older kids. One of my few memories of my grandmother who died when I was twelve is of her reading a Christmas story to us. My mom used to walk us to the library and bring back a wagonload of books. She read aloud to us as a family - as did my dad - until I was about eleven and figured out that I could read faster silently than my parents could read aloud, and promptly sneaked the current read aloud and finished them off on my own. Then I read aloud to my younger siblings. I also picked audiobooks for our longer commute. Some of them were appreciated, but I finally gave in and didn't make my brothers finish listening to Anne of Green Gables and the unabridged Robinson Crusoe gets pretty blah after he's rescued.

So I have a vast number of books lurking about in the back of my brain. Especially picture books from the 1980s when I was a child. Some of these are, to put it mildly, odd but I love them anyways. Like Jon Buller's Fanny and May, about two elephant sisters, one of whom just can't control her appetite...and eats their house. Which is made, naturally, of cake.

Or there's my beloved Tangle and the Firesticks by Benedict Blathwyt, which tells the story of a misfit miniature furry creature. The real draw of course, is all the tiny things in the illustrations...

The best moment in rediscovering a childhood book love is that moment when you pick up a book and suddenly realize you've read it before. And all the delight you felt reading it as a child floods in.

So, finally arriving at the focus title of the random meandering...I have no idea why Need a House? was on my to read list. I might have seen it on some blog...or it could have been a leftover from one of my many lists. In any case, I requested it from inter-library loan with no recollection of ever having seen it before. I looked at the cover and thought, "hmm, that looks kind of familiar" opened it up and...

ohhhhhhhhh, the love! I loved, loved, loved this book. It has two of the things I loved most in picture books as a child; small, detailed drawings and organization. Yes, a cataloger from my youth...Ms. Mouse, a brilliant career mouse, designs houses for all her friends. The text is pretty blah - and I don't really remember reading any of it. But the pictures...ohhhh, the pictures. Just looking at them makes me so happy. It's like a combination of Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge miniature books and Doris Burn's Andrew Henry's Meadow, with the houses designed for each child (both were also favorites of mine). Ms. Mouse not only builds a different style of house for her friends, many of them are also set in different cultures. So Cat has a Japanese-style house with sliding doors and an inner garden courtyard set high in the mountains, where he can lazily sun himself on the open terraces and fly his kite. Trout has a kind of formal French garden maze set with coral hedges. If I knew more about architecture I could probably identify the other places, but you don't need to be an expert to fall in love with this book.

Interestingly, when I was looking for some pictures, I found an old design blog with some of the interior illustrations. You can check them out here.

Alas, I must now return this gem to the library from whence it came, but I've had another lovely "oooohhh" moment and now have a new book to add to my childhood favorites wishlist.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hooey Higgins and the Shark by Steve Voake, illustrated by Emma Dodson

Steve Voake, author of the charming beginning chapter series Daisy Dawson, has started a new series featuring the irresistible Hooey Higgins.

Hooey and his best friend Twig have fallen deeply in love - with a giant chocolate egg! Unfortunately, they have no money but they do have Hooey's big brother Will, a master of planning. Together, the three boys set off to capture a shark and set up a show with it to earn money.

Hooey is wackier and funnier than Daisy Dawson, but also much more British. Beginning readers may find unfamiliar British words but there's nothing wrong with a little new vocabulary! Just as Voake perfectly captured the character of daydreaming, animal-lover Daisy, he's got a great set of characters in Hooey, Twig, and Will. Kids will love their insane exchanges as they set up their shark-catching plans.

"He took a deep breath and put his head to one side, listening for any underwater swooshing noises that might give the shark's position away. "Can you see it?" called Twig. "Not yet," said Hooey. "Maybe it's swimming upside down so we can't see its fin," Twig suggested. "Cunning," said Will. "Very cunning.""

While the boys' shark-catching scheme doesn't work out quite the way they had expected, they still manage their hearts' desire, if not quite in the way they had hoped. Dodson's ink and wash illustrations have a splatter effect, which added to her wacky stick-like figures fits the story well, although I find the characters' eyes a little creepy.

Verdict: Beginning chapters books continue to grow rapidly in popularity at my library as more and more kids look for easy books but want to move on from easy readers. Both boys and girls will enjoy this new series. Recommend to kids who like funny stories and won't be put off by a few Britishisms. Kids who have seen their older siblings reading Wimpy Kid but aren't old enough to tackle it themselves will also snap this up. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763657826; Published April 2012 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Giant Squid: Searching for a sea monster by Mary M. Cerullo and Clyde F. E. Roper

Is it possible to have too many giant squid books? In my opinion, you can NEVER have too many!

This Smithsonian title published by Capstone is lavishly illustrated with striking black and white tentacles, photographs, and historical illustrations. It has an excellent layout, different colored pages highlighting different arcs of the plot from historical legends about the giant squid to current scientific research.

The text follows the ancient tales of the kraken up to present-day explorations of the giant squid's deep sea habitat, focusing on the lifelong studies of Clyde Roper. Beginning with his observations of snails, he moved on to study other mollusks and eventually became fascinated with the giant squid. With the help of other scientists, he was able to discover many unknown details about the squid's life. The book ends with the first live photos of the giant squid and talks about some of the aspects of this mysterious creature that are still unknown.

A glossary, index, and further reading are included.

Verdict: This is a great look at current research on the giant squid, written for a younger middle grade audience. There's plenty of gory dissection pictures as well as scientific photos to wow the readers. Pair this with H. P. Newquist's Here There Be Monsters for older kids and have a squid book for every reader! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 1429675411; Published by Capstone; Ebook provided by the publisher through Netgalley; Purchased for the library

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This week at the library; or, Goodbye Spring, Hello School Visits!

This week officially started on Monday evening (yes, I know it was a holiday) when I went over to the library to get ready for my school visits, then took the library shopping list to Walmart for a couple hours. I didn't think I'd remember to get to work an hour or so early on Tuesday.

I didn't feel very enthused about summer visits this year. I wasn't well-prepared (other than buying a new little collapsible dolly instead of my usual massive bags) and with everything going on this year haven't been reading as much middle grade as I would hope, so many "booktalks" were just me reading from the jackets in an entertaining manner. However, once I had gotten started things smoothed out, the kids generally had a good time, I had a good time (aside from the normal sore throat). I hope all the school visits will be worth it and will pay off in increased summer reading participation!

Tuesday, 8:30am to 5pm. My first summer school visit was to the elementary school down the street, Jackson. This year the 5th graders are coming to the library on their own next week, so I only saw grades K-4. This visit was about three hours and I sort of accidentally got a kid sent to the principal's office, but he was exonerated and it was all ok...finished off the day with a staff meeting and other stuff. Wrote up the minutes after I got home.

Wednesday, 7:45am to 5:20pm My middle school visit, just sixth grade, groups ranging from 20 to 100 kids. The visit lasted from 8am to 1pm with several breaks. I didn't hand out anything this year. The kids are too divided between teen and kid to hand out the srp bookmarks I think. One was long enough that I could run some errands, give a break at the desk, and do a few things. Then I worked on the school visit lists, which go are published online and go to teachers and school librarians, and a couple hours on the desk. Then I set things up for my next school visit. Why no, kindly but ill-informed storytime patron I do not get to "sleep in" on days when there is no storytime. Break doth not equal vacation.

Thursday, 8:45am to 4:15pm I was on the desk from 9 to about 11:45. Then I went out to the second elementary school, Tibbets. I was there from about 12pm to 3:30. Usually I don't see kindergarten, which tends to be on field trips, but this year I missed the third graders although I left bookmarks for them. Then I came back and got my school visit for tomorrow ready. After I got home I edited the website (had completely forgotten to put on summer reading).

Friday, 8:00am to 6:00pm I decided to pass out summer session calendars instead of the bookmarks at our local Catholic school (partly because this is a smaller school and partly b/c I was so exhausted yesterday the thought of staying to print, cut, and count the bookmarks made me want to cry). This school has combined classes and this year they gave me their library times which meant...I got to see all the classes in order (no hopping back and forth from 5th to 1st grade) and I got to set up in the library! No lugging books from classroom to classroom! I love it! As I said, this is a small school so they have combined classes so I saw preschool through 2nd grade, then 3rd/4th and at the end 5th through 8th grade all came together. It's a little hard to pick books that aren't inappropriate for 5th grade but are still interesting to 8th grade! Nonfiction. Lots and lots of nonfiction. I have a nice format for this school where I talk about programs, booktalk, then they get to come lay hands on the books and argue over who gets to look at them and chat informally with me. Then back to the library to unload the car, off to the grocery store to grab some lunch and buy the last couple supplies for the Fancy Nancy party, wrote up my monthly report, discussed circulation statistics, repacked everything for next week's school visit, various other tasks, then three hours on the desk until closing. During those three hours the public copier crashed multiple times, several computers froze, the upstairs wifi stopped working, someone managed to hack from our opac to the internet and refused to leave, and a kid peed in the children's area.

Saturday, 9:45am to 12:45pm I stood outside our local grocery store for several hours, trying to get people to take summer calendars. I did this a few years before and it worked very well - lots of new, non-library users. It didn't go well this year, I doubt I got 20 people to take flyers. A. I was at the wrong side of the store (people exiting don't want to stop) B. there were hardly any kids (they were all at Bike Safety Day) C. last time I did it the store was having a "family fun day" this year it was just the 4-H kids at the brat hut. So, a few hours down the drain. Live and learn.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Letters to Leo by Amy Hest, illustrated by Julia Denos

One of the things I've learned from doing collection development over the past four years is that sometimes kids will love books I don't particularly care for. Profound, right?

One of the things I dislike, but that I've found kids often enthuse over, are books with what I think of as gimmicks - written in letters, written in verse, from an odd perspective, etc. Such is Letters to Leo, where we learn about fourth grade Annie Rossi through the letters she writes to her dog, Leo, and occasional notes to other characters.

However, one of the hallmarks of good collection development, which I like to think I have, is to be able to look at a book and think "I don't particularly like this, but I can think of these particular children who will." This might be actual, specific kids or maybe a subset of a population, like "girls who are intermediate readers and like dogs and school stories, but are discouraged by too much text" or "kids who like stories with heart" or "girls who like books written in epistolary style" and yes, that last one is a particular subset.

You'll notice I said girls, because I don't think many boys will pick up this title, even those who like more serious, emotional reads. Denos' illustrations are very sweet and cute and the little hearts on the front give this a kind of girly look. By fourth grade, boys are unfortunately genderized in their reading tastes and mostly prefer nonfiction, heroic fantasy, and wimpy kid books anyways. I've found more girls that are flexible about what they're willing to try.

Back to the book - Annie Rossi, whose mother died in the previous book Remembering Mrs. Rossi struggles to get along in school, having good days and bad days like any other kid. She works hard to make Leo behave, since her dad was reluctant to let her get a dog, and she worries about her dad being alone and tries to do a little matchmaking with her beloved teacher, Maggie Meadows. The book is decorated throughout with Julia Denos' black and white sketches and has a friendly and welcoming design, most of the text is written on lined notepaper, so they really look like letters and there are scraps of paper, notes, little maps, and pictures throughout.

Verdict: While this title wasn't to my taste, I can see that it's beautifully written and illustrated and also perfectly understanding of kids' ups and downs in school and life. Kids, mostly girls, will fall in love with it. Recommended!

ISBN: 9780763636951; Published March 2012 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library