Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chick and Chickie Play All Day! by Claude Ponti

My favorites of the TOON comics for beginning readers are the Zig and Wikki series and the Benny and Penny series - my patrons seem to concur with me on this, as those are the most frequently checked out TOON titles.

Chick and Chickie looks like it's one that I'm going to be on the fence about. Chick and Chickie, distinguishable only by their slightly different colors, are having fun. First they make masks and scare each other.

Then they drag out a letter A to play school with...a letter A with a face, and flexible structure. They tickle it, throw it, bring it food, threaten it, and leave it alone, all the while discussing how they are making it feel. It finally runs away while they talk about playing with B the next day.

Like the other Level 1 TOON books, it's formatted in a horizontal rectangle, instead of the traditional easy reader vertical rectangle. Each page has a single panel, some of them running the length of the entire spread. The art is simple with the focus being on Chick and Chickie and their activities against an empty background.

The first episode, where they scare each other with masks, is a good story. It has suitable words, fun expressions, and a plot that young children will identify with and enjoy. The second episode, with the A, was strange. It was oddly disconnected and the two chicks manipulating the letter's emotions is just...freaky "When we are nice...he is happy. When we look scary...he is afraid!" Apparently, the author is well-known for his "explorations of the nonsense world of dreams" and there is certainly a dream-like quality about this tale.

Verdict: If you have a strong audience for the TOON books, you'll want to add this title, but it's not the most accessible and the oddly nightmarish quality about it may bother some children. The Silly Lilly series and Little Mouse Gets Ready are better choices for comics for beginning readers.


ISBN: 9781935179146; Published February 2012 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Prairie Dog's Hideaway by Dee Phillips

Today I'm looking at a title from one of Bearport's newest quirky animal series - The Hole Truth! Underground Animal Life. This particular volume examines prairie dogs.

First of all, they are so cute! Like furry guinea pigs with extra fat bottoms! *pause for the cuteness*

Ok, now we can move on. The book introduces the young reader to a prairie dog town and basic facts about the prairie dog, then explores their underground homes with cut-away illustrations and photos. We learn why they live underground and how they escape from predators as well as how their underground homes fit into their life cycle - diet and baby prairie dogs.

The illustrations are a mixture of photographs and pictures with bubbles of extra text, captions with arrows, and  a new feature, boxed text asking questions that students can think about like "This female prairie dog is carrying grass to her burrow. What do you think she will use the grass for?" Some of the captions are unnecessary, like the picture of a prairie dog digging, next to the text about prairie dogs digging their homes, has a caption reading "a prairie dog digging a burrow." There is one typo on page 20, "prarie" instead of prairie. The book ends with a "science lab" game, figuring out the closest hole for a prairie dog to run to. There is a section of "science words," burrow, mate, prairies, predators, squirrel and territory, each with a small picture and definition. The final page has a brief index, additional resources, and link to more information on Bearport's website.

Verdict: This is an interesting topic, but the couple oddities - the superfluous captions and typo - detract from what would otherwise be a solid offering for beginning and intermediate readers. I like the addition of questions throughout the text for the reader to think about, but the "science words" section was a little odd - since when is "squirrel" a "science word"? However, the subject matter and easy text outweigh these minor issues in my mind and I'd definitely put this series on the library's wishlist.

ISBN: 9781617724084; Published 2012 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Added to the library's wishlist

Saturday, February 25, 2012

This week at the library; or, Cutting back...I hope

Monday. Have I mentioned recently how much I love my vendor, BWI? Soooo easy to use, can always quickly get in touch with someone, and they fix things asap! Even when the mistake is my fault!
9-1 Desk time. It might have been a little quieter than usual since many people assume we're closed on President's Day, but someone brought over a large number of homeless people to spend the day in the library, so it was rather busy.
1-5 Staff meetings. We determined, among other things, that we have set an impossible pace and it is time to cut back programming and focus.

Tuesday Planning. Book bundles. Cleaning off my desk (layers dating back several weeks and not a clear spot in sight) Putting together minutes from the previous day's staff meetings. Planning. Took books to preschool. Finished off the day with a couple hours at kindergarten registration. A little different this year because it's only 4k, not five year old registration and I only stayed an hour and a half, not the usual three hours. Trying to stick to my New Year's resolution of not working 12 hour days anymore (have only done...um...maybe 2 so far this year). One of the highlights of the evening was when I met a woman who looked vaguely familiar...and she turned out to be the mom of one of my storytime regulars (her babysitter brings her) a little girl so bright she sparkles! Her mom said she sings our storytime songs, especially Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day, at home all the time. Awwwww.

Wednesday Huge group again at Preschool Interactive! Will hopefully make up for next year, when 4k is going to five days a week and my entire storytime group will disappear *sigh*. After storytime I had an Early Head Start group. Only three families, and two did not speak English, so the Head Start teacher translated. I picked some different books to make it easier to translate and we:
  • read Where is Tippy Toes by Betsy Lewin
  • read Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson
  • sang five green and speckled frogs
  • read Little Dog Lost by Carnesi
  • sang Sunny Day
  • made the peacock crafts from Preschool Interactive
  • and they brought their lunch. I also talked about library services and showed them our Spanish collections.
Lego Club was fairly large, about 40 people. We are running out of Legos! I don't think we have less than when we started, I think a lot of the kids have started to form friendships and build collaboratively, and they're all building larger edifices.

Thursday Came in early b/c my dentist appt. ended early. Spent all my extra time coming and going as I tried to run errands but had to keep coming back for things I had forgotten.
   I like the idea of the Elephant and Piggie Kids' Club but I'm having a lot of problems with this program. When I revamped the Preschool Interactive, I spent several months promoting it, doing marketing, reworking it, and make storytime plans. I only spent a few weeks on E&P and so few people are aware of it. I also have no backlog of plans and am finding myself planning the program a few hours before I do it. Plus, I don't think I have the time to do this program as well. I am afraid I will have to cancel it after April. On the other hand, the parents don't seem to care, they just like coming and hanging out and I've gotten ok numbers. I planned today's about an hour beforehand and we:
  • sang Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell
  • Read Watch me throw the ball by Mo Willems
  • Limelight Larry by Leigh Hodkinson
  • sang Cat goes fiddle-i-fee with my flannelboard (I need to tell parents to keep clapping even when I stop to put up the pieces!)
  • read The wolf and the seven little kids (I wimped out and just said that the wolf was never seen again. I had some very sensitive parents and younger kids)
  • read Chopsticks by Amy Rosenthal
  • made button people
  • played in the puppet theater
Then it was a busy evening with Daisy scouts, new books, and Amazon orders. And a very snowy, slushy drive home.

Friday More snow. Lots of snow. But that didn't deter anyone from coming to Open Storyhour. When there's no school, Miss Pattie doesn't come, since she works through the school district (except in summer, which is a different thing). I have observed that we get a lot of older kids on these no school days, and I got tired of the endless "where's Miss Pattie?" questions (despite telling people weeks ahead of time that she would be gone) so I'm going to try making it clear that this is NOT me being a poor substitute for Pattie's Toddler's 'n' Books, but a whole different storytime program for all ages. However, the only thing certain about programming on no school days is that nothing is certain, and six inches of thick, wet snow did not help. We had about 20 people, very disparate ages - grade school kids from Elephant and Piggie that I invited (who got bored with the younger stories and wandered out) and very young toddlers and babies from the regular storytime (who got wiggly with the longer stories and went out to play. We:
  • sang Boots by Laurie Berkner
  • read I will not read this book by Cece Meng
  • read I want my hat back by Jon Klassen
  • did a flannelboard of Five little snowmen
  • read Kitten's Winter by Eugenie Fernandes
  • read Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson
  • sang Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell
Then I worked three hours on the desk. Then I did our sewing workshop. Only four girls had signed up, but about five more had promised to come. We ended up with three girls and a boy (who refused to be photographed or have his presence recorded in any way). There was a lot of variety in the sewing ability, but it worked out pretty well. One thing I did that made things a lot easier was use darning needles and embroidery thread instead of regular needles and thread. It worked fine b/c we were sewing on knit material like hats and on flannel and was easier for the kids to see and manipulate. Finished up and left about 5:30

Friday, February 24, 2012

I will not read this book by Cece Meng, illustrated by Joy Ang


I liked this book until the end. A little boy dramatically declares he won't read a fairly thick-looking book. The words are too hard. He reads too slowly. 

He won't read the book even if you dangle him over a cliff. Upside down. With sharks below. From a rope that's breaking!

But then...it turns out he's being dangled upside-down by his mom and in the end they're going to read the book together before bedtime.

Ok, I realize there's a trend in education for teaching kids to read younger and younger, but most kids don't start to hate reading until at least first grade, usually second or third. Few moms can dangle a second or third grader upside down, let alone throw him in the air and catch him, especially a woman as skinny as the mom pictured! Would an older child even want that? It's more something you'd do with a preschooler. I just felt there was a clash between the child's age and attitude and it bugs me. And there's no real reason for him to suddenly change his mind and want to read the book.

Verdict: The pictures are cute, very Santat-like, and the mounting list of horrible things is hilarious, but I can't handle the ending. I might read it on a school visit, where I don't have to finish it!

ISBN: 9780547049717; Published September 2011 by Clarion; Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Loopy Coop Hens: Pip's Trip by Janet Morgan Stoeke

I usually find picture book sized easy readers annoying - where do you shelve them? Who do you give them to? But Janet Morgan Stoeke could never annoy me. Everything she does is amazing!

Her new chicken series, Loopy Coop Hens, is as perfectly delightful and exquisitely simple as the Minerva Louise series. Midge, Dot, and Pip are three chickens who thirst for adventure. Or do they? Only Pip is brave enough to actually climb into the truck and go out into the world! It's an amazing adventure!

Until she realizes that, um, she didn't actually go anywhere. But her friends reassure her she was still brave - and they find a much better adventure right at home.

The large type and short, simple sentences, "Pip shuts her eyes. She hides. She waits." are perfect for a beginning reader, but Stoeke's combination of subtly humorous illustrations and tongue-in-cheek text makes this a fun read-aloud for toddlers as well.

Her chickens' silly, scared, and funny expressions are the stars of the story. Like her Minerva Louise characters, she puts an amazing amount of expression into the simple lines of the chickens' faces and bodies.

Verdict: Highly recommended - hand to parents with pre-readers and read aloud to toddlers. The story is divided into chapters, which beginning readers will love!

ISBN: 9780803737082; Published January 2012 by Dial; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Zig and Wikki in The Cow by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by Trade Loeffler

I reviewed the first Zig and Wikki last year, when I was first starting to focus on adding more nonfiction to my easy reader section. Since then, I've added a lot of nonfiction - the most popular being the National Geographic early readers. While Zig and Wikki aren't as popular as these, the first book circulates frequently. Zig and Wikki and Benny and Penny are the most popular of the TOON books I've added to the library.

So how does the new Zig and Wikki measure up? Zig is worried about his pet fly, collected at the end of the last book. According to Wikki's information, flies are part of the earth's ecosystem and need to be there to survive. So Zig and Wikki take a trip back to earth, ending up on a farm. They learn about flies, dung beetles, cows, and how they all work together.

The art follows the same format as the previous story, with a combination of simple panels and dialogue bubbles interspersed with Wikki's definitions and information, shown in unbordered panels. The same natural tones are still used with a strong realism in the drawings and some photography and diagrams in the informational sections.

Of course, there are plenty of jokes about cow patties and snide comments from Wikki, who is jealous of Zig's fly friend and exasperated by Zig's habit of getting too caught up in his exploration to notice important things - like when a cow eats their spaceship!

Verdict: Funny and factual, this title will appeal to kids on a number of levels. I think this series will continue to be one of TOON's most popular offerings and I highly recommend it, especially if you are working on adding more nonfiction to your easy reader collection.

ISBN: 9781935179153; Published February 2012 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library


Saturday, February 18, 2012

This week at the library; or, NOW it snows!

Monday - must write myself a note, "shifting ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will!" Finally finished the shifting, after working all day Friday and today. Still have the labels to put on the shelves and all the collection development work for the series to do.

Tuesday - It took me THREE HOURS to print out the labels for the series. Of course, other stuff was going on. It was an insane morning. But still, three hours!! Then I had a ton of preparation for tomorrow's programs. Overall, it was a very Alexanderine day.

Wednesday - Gorgeous weather in the morning, which is probably why I had a smaller group at Preschool Interactive, 25. But lots of love for our food/farm stories and our new opening dance song, Boots by Laurie Berkner!
  • A gazillion things happened. Around 3pm I realized I felt woozy b/c I had forgotten to eat lunch. Oh well.
  • We made treasure boxes for Messy Art Club. 20? 30? people came. I had a bunch of premade paper mache boxes from various craft supplies, leftover scrapbooking paper, old magazines to cut up, stickers, tissue paper, and lots of glue. We used the glue to decoupage the boxes (or just stuck stickers everywhere). Lots of fun and I got several new people with younger kids coming over.
  • Finally left around 5:45. Got home and discovered glue on my pants. Probably from the after-program hugs with sticky fingers (-:) Cleaned it off. Ate some dinner. Found more glue. Decided to just throw the pants in the wash and walked over to Sara the Librarian's library, where she was working the reference desk, to plan the joint storytime we're possibly doing on Saturday.
  • Very tired.
Thursday  - Planning...still dealing with fallout from Tuesday...book bundles. I cannot keep up!

Friday - Just worked a half day, because I'm working tomorrow. Ran errands in the morning (why do I always end up running errands for the library on my half day?) Then had desk time. Had planned to do a lot of things, but it was a very busy afternoon/evening and I was kept busy popping up and down. I stayed a few minutes later to finish a backup/download and took stuff home to work on...

Saturday - I went to our county's Family Resource Fair. I was sharing a table with Sara the Librarian and Miss Pattie had another program so I ran her table as well. We packed up my car a little before 9, got our table set up, and had a fair amount of people stop by. I brought masks and bookmarks and Sara the Librarian brought coloring stuff and popsicle sticks. We did a quick storytime midway through - too noisy for a really good storytime but a few kids dropped by. Got home around 2. Phew! Oh, and I learned the dire news that 4k in our town is going to be five days a week, instead of having Wednesdays off in the fall. Argh! There goes my preschool programming!

Oh, and my flannelboards can now be found at my blog Storytime Extras

Rant of the week...

The This is What a Librarian Looks Like thing really annoys me. I would be more annoyed but I am too tired. How many non-librarians actually read these things? And who the heck cares if we wear our hair in buns and have boring lives?And if I have to break librarian stereotypes and be "interesting" on top of being the only youth services librarian serving a population of approx. 24,000, including marketing, outreach, programming, reference, reader's advisory, fundraising/grant writing, collection development and being part of the management team, I am going to curl up in a ball and cry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Bernadette Watts

This is one of my favorite of the Brothers Grimm folktales. It's not quite as well-known as the other wolf stories, but something about this one has always grabbed me.

An old mother goat leaves her seven kids at home while she goes out to look for food. Of course, she warns them not to let strangers in, especially the wolf! and reminds them they can recognize him by his gruff voice and black paws.

Of course, the wolf shows up as soon as she's gone, and the kids helpfully tell him they know he's not their mother - he has a gruff voice! So he goes off to village, buys a piece of chalk, and eats it to make his voice soft and gentle.

I always wondered what eating chalk would do to your voice...

He knocks again, but this time the kids get a look at his feet and know he's not their mother - he's got black paws. So off to the baker, who hands over dough to put on his paws and then to the miller for flour. The miller is the only one of the village storekeepers who realizes there's something a little odd about the wolf's requests, but the wolf threatens to eat him so he hands over the flour.

Which makes me wonder - are there a lot of wolves wandering around this village, eating chalk and wrapping their paws in dough?

Back at the house, the kids let in the wolf (did their mother not take a key with her?). They try to hide, each in a different spot, but the wolf finds and eats them all, except the youngest who has hidden in the grandfather clock. He goes off to sleep off his meal and the old mother goat returns home. Horrified, she calls her kids one by one...and when she gets to the youngest, he answers (Why not before? Did he think the wolf had somehow divined his siblings' names after he had eaten them?)

They go for a walk. Nature heals, you know. Luckily, they come upon the wolf and see something moving in his stomach. Old mother goat cuts open his stomach (he SLEEPS through this??) and out pop the goats. They replace the goats with stones. When the wolf wakes up, he's thirsty and goes to get a drink...and falls in and drowns. The goats celebrate and live happily ever after.

There isn't really a moral to this (Always make sure your mother takes her key? Get a bigger peephole in your door? Don't fall asleep after eating 6 baby goats?) But the folklore rhythm of the story and the repetition is irresistible to children - and I still love this story myself.

The best edition I've found is Bernadette Watts. Her pictures are delightful and I love that she's made all the protagonists animals, so the doubtful miller is a cat (which makes the wolf's threat much more believable) while the storekeeper who sells the wolf the chalk is a rather dim-looking sheep.

Verdict: A little long for a toddler storytime, but a perfect choice for longer storytimes. If you have abnormally sensitive kids and parents you might want to skip the wolf's death, but most kids will be pleased by the logic - you eat someone's kids, you drown. Makes sense to me.

ISBN: 1558584455; Published September 1995 by North-South (out of print); Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wrong Way by Mark Macleod, illustrated by Judith Rossell

A delightfully naughty duckling persists in going his own way. His siblings, Right Way and Your Way, do just what mother duck wants, but Wrong Way insists on marching to his own drummer. Whether his legs are bored with walking or he insists on eating snails when everyone else is going for a swim, he does things his own way. Eventually, his mother and siblings agree that it's not the wrong way - it's just different.

The story is a bit light and a little too heavy-handed in its moral in places, but the real appeal of this picture book is the pictures. The ducklings are adorably fluffy and Rossell has perfectly captured their gawky awkwardness and long legs. Their mother is comfortably fluffy and agreeably indulgent. The soft pastels and delicate details of the ducks and landscape are extremely appealing.

Verdict: A delightfully calming book for toddlers and well worth the extra effort to purchase it - Kane Miller titles can be purchased here as well as through independent bookstores and Barnes and Noble.

ISBN: 9781610670777; Published March 2012 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by publisher; Added to the library's wishlist

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cybils Awards Announced!

The Cybils Awards have been announced! If, like me, you are planning to do a huge display of award-winning books in March (after everything has finally been ordered...maybe April) check out this list!

You can see all my Cybils fun this year here, including my thoughts on the finalists and nonfiction picture book reviews.

Now to start squirreling away nominations for Cybils 2012!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Recycling

One of our circulation staff brought it to my attention that we had only one very outdated book on recycling. So I requested a selection from other libraries and I'm going to look through them today.

Recycling Step by Step by Jean M. Lundquist

This is an entry in Capstone's Step by Step series. It walks the reader through the basics of recycling and then what happens to four types of recyclables, plastic, metal, glass, and paper. We're shown how each one is sorted, crushed or melted, and reformed into something new. A little girl named Erica is pictured in most of the photographs and the book is loosely framed with her as the first step in recycling. The book includes additional resources

Verdict: Clear, plentiful photographs, and good basic information on the different ways materials are recycled. There's much more text in this volume than in Capstone's Pebble series, but it's still only available in a pricey library bound addition.

ISBN: 9781429660266; Published July 2011 by Capstone; Borrowed from the library

Recycling Earth's Resources by Barbara L. Webb

This book has large type and simple sentences, suitable for a beginning reader. It begins with an explanation of how people use earth's resources and the importance of recycling instead of throwing away so we don't use the resources too fast. The description of how things are recycled is very brief, but does include composting. There's a project to recycle paper and additional bibliographic resources. The glossary definition of resources is "natural things we can use" which bugged me as that's not the correct definition of the word resource, although it fits the context.

Verdict: This would be an acceptable choice if you need recycling books suitable for beginning readers to read on their own. It's available as a paperback, library bound, and bound by my vendor, which is about the cost of a trade hardcover.

ISBN: 9781615902996; Published August 2010 by Rourke; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

Remake it: Recycling projects from the stuff you usually scrap by Tiffany Threadgould

I have a couple recycling craft books, the best of which is Jane Bull's Make It, but I could always use another. There's a huge variety of projects, but I'm a little doubtful about the audience for this. Many of the projects - like making a bank out of an ice cream container or a play desk out of a cardboard box - are best for younger children. However, the directions are text-heavy and the illustrations small and sometimes difficult to follow. There's something for everyone here, but it would be best for teens and adults making things with or for smaller children. And, of course the one drawback with making recycled projects is you have to have the recyclables first!

Verdict: I've used some of Threadgould's projects before and they generally are best for adults or children with extensive adult supervision and help. If you already have a good selection of craft and recycled craft books and need more, this is a good additional purchase. It's only available in paperback, but Sterling's paperback bindings are usually decent.

ISBN: 9781402771941; Published March 2011 by Sterling; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

Green Matters: Making good choices about recycling and reuse by Stephanie Watson

This title would be useful both for students doing a research project and for those wanting to read about the topic. There's a basic introduction to how trash is collected and disposed of, including how landfills work, the importance of recycling, and various recycling programs. It ends with some of the arguments against recycling. Chapter 2 describes what items can be recycled and how they are sorted. Chapter 3 covers the history of recycling, various programs, and how recycling occurs around the world. Chapter 4 gives advice on how kids can be involved in recycling. The book has a glossary, further information, bibliography, and sources.

Verdict: This is a good choice if you're looking for an accessible book for middle grade and older students.

ISBN: 9781435853126; Published August 2009 by Rosen; Borrowed from the library

Hot Topics: Garbage and Recycling by Debra A. Miller


This title is directed towards older students, probably those doing a project or research paper. It's very text-heavy and deals with a variety of issues related to waste management. Issues with sending trash to developing countries, pros and cons of recycling, and more are included, as well as many additional resources.

Verdict: Unless you have a large number of middle school and high school students coming to the library for homework help (I don't) this is a purchase for a school library.

ISBN: 9781420501476; Published October 2009 by Lucent; Borrowed from the library

Can the earth survive? Waste and recycling challenges by Louise Silsbury


This easier book from Rosen talks about the growth of waste, both in the US and globally, as well as e-waste, pollution, sewage, and more. It covers how waste affects people's lives all over the world, ways it is broken down including landfills, and a variety of "sustainable solutions." There are lots of photographs, charts, graphs, and other documentation as well as further resources.

Verdict: This book is probably the best overall coverage of the topic. It includes a wide variety of solutions, pros and cons, and breaks down the complex issues of recycling and waste in a way that kids can understand. The layout does a good job of breaking up the text with lots of charts and other information. It's available in paperback as well as the expensive library bound edition. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781435853553; Published July 2009 by Rosen; Borrowed from the library; Added to the library's wishlist

Helping our planet: Waste and recycling by Sally Morgan


This book tries to make recycling simple for kids, focusing on a "what you can do" approach, but many of the recycling issues, like recycling e-waste and cars, are completely out of kids' control. The large size type makes the layout look confused and crowded.

Verdict: Tries to cover too much and oversimplifies. It's also only available as an expensive library bound edition. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9781842346082; Published January 2011 by Cherrytree; Borrowed from the library

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This week at the library; or, what happened to my peaceful February?

This always happens. Every time I think "oh, I can do all those projects in my off time" my to-do list magically expands and fills the time. I was thinking February would be slow. Blizzards! Freezing weather! No big programs (other than running two booths at the Family Resource Fair, Open Storyhour and Sewing Workshop on the no school day, and a couple school visits)! But things keep HAPPENING!!

Monday - crazy busy morning, as always. Staff meeting. Secondary staff meeting with fewer people to talk about summer reading. Third (thirdly?) staff meeting with one person to divvy up prize sources. In our town, this basically means deciding who gets what bank. Realized after I got home that if other staff members didn't immediately "get" the new summer reading program that it needed a LOT more tweaking, or parents and kids really won't "get" it. Thought about it most of the evening. Dreamed about it (better than my dreams of shelving, not as fun as my dream libraries).

Tuesday - Still thinking about summer reading. Sent a lengthy email at 7am of summer reading thoughts. When I got to work (on time despite lengthy emailing) I prepped for tomorrow's storytime and went full steam ahead on the new signage for the massive series project and changes in the children's area. Must remember to do before and after pictures...left early at 3pm for an appointment. Inspired by Kelly, I spent most of the evening finally using my Pintrest account and filling up boards with all the ideas that were clogging up my email (I also made a quick trip downtown for toffee. I earned it!)

Had a BRILLIANT idea about how to organize my storytime extras - songs, rhymes, etc., around midnight. Of course, all my ideas are brilliant, but this one is extra sparkly. More on that later!

Wednesday - 7:00am Just couldn't resist playing with my brilliant idea - my new blog for rhymes, songs, movement, and more Storytime Extras! Just a few things so far but I will add more soon...

So, Wednesday, always the highlight of the week! HUGE group for Preschool Interactive, 47!! Makes me wonder if my other groups were actually this big, I haven't been able to count but I made sure I did it today and it felt as big as my other ones that I've been estimating at 35.

Next group - the primary class from Lakeland School, the special education school. They're coming every month and we're having fun! It's a small group, 6-8 kids and two teachers. Today we...
  • read Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby
  • read How do you hug a porcupine by Laurie Isop
  • read Cupcake: a journey to special by Cherise Mericle Harper
  • sang Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell
  • made valentine cards with paper, stickers, markers and crayons
it was a little shorter visit because they had a basketball game to go to!

Final program - Lego Club! I did a whole new room set up, you can check out the pictures in the library photos slideshow to the left. We had a big group today. I always tell people that Lego Club is easy, a quick and stress-free program. But...I've been thinking about that and it's not true. Of course, it depends on how you do your club, how many people come, who comes, etc. Today was a typical Lego Club and this is how it went:
  • 2:30pm start breaking down last week's creations, recycling paper labels the kids wrote and sorting out the minifigures into their tub (suspiciously, there seem to be fewer every week...)
  • lug the giant tub, stacks of books, and misc. stuff including newsletters, sign-up sheets for upcoming programs, donation jar, etc. over to the Community Room. This involves several trips across the library.
  • Chris, one of my 7th graders, shows up. I invite him in to help and he agrees. We move tables. We move more tables. My new set up is cool but it involves moving four heavy tables to the other end of the room and taking out and setting up another four heavy tables from the storage closet.
  • 3:00pm my aide, Melissa, arrives. She sets up chairs, all of which are at the wrong end of the room. Chris goes back to my office to collect the rest of the Legos. I set up Legos and arrange the display tables. I suddenly remember I forgot the large whiteboard arrow sign and set it up.
  • 3:25pm Everything set up! I take pictures so we can remember how the set-up goes next time and Chris does a little building before taking off for the computers and Melissa goes off to shelve.
  • 3:35pm Kids arrive...and arrive...and arrive. A steady stream of parents and kids come between 3:30 and 4:30. This week was slightly unusual in that we had an unusually large number of new families - 5 I think? Overall, we had about 45 people. Oldest kids (not counting Chris) were 5th graders, younger kids were a couple preschoolers (not counting babies and toddlers hauled along by older siblings).
  • I talk to parents about upcoming programs, their favorite books, concerns about children, and what's going on at school. In between (and sometimes at the same time) as these conversations I help kids find Legos, tell new people how the program works and about our other programs, remind as many people as possible that next week is Messy Art Club, and keep an eye on several kids whose parents leave them at Lego Club while retrieving and redistributing other children (this is done with my permission and the parents - and kids - are really good about it, the kids know the rules and how to behave and are comfortable with the other families in the room. I'm glad to do this for the parents, who are all very nice about the arrangement and always want me to tell them if for some reason it doesn't work anymore. But it is another consideration - I need to keep an eye on these kids while I'm doing everything else) I also smooth down various disagreements and make sure the transition to our new arrangement goes smoothly.
  • 4:30pm kids start finishing up their creations. I escort kids over to display their creations (in the children's area at the other end of the library) for various reasons - they've made something so big they can't carry it, this is their first time and they don't know where it goes, and I always go with younger kids if their parent is busy with another sibling so they're not walking over by themselves. Once I've started doing this, the Lego Club group starts shifting over to the children's area. In between ferrying Legos and kids back and forth I do a lot of reader's advisory and help with questions about library services in the children's area. I also collect any families I see in the children's area who often don't realize there's a program going on at the other end of the library (yes, there's a whiteboard in their face when they walk in. People don't read signs.) This time I netted a couple teens who were babysitting and two more families.
  • 4:55 Everyone has finished and today everybody did a really good job cleaning up the room - sometimes there are a LOT more Legos to pick up. I clean up the last few bits of Legos, help the last couple families with coats, say goodbye, collect all the Lego tubs, display books, donation jar, etc. etc. This is usually 2-3 trips. Put everything away, reshelve books, and make a new Lego Club sign to let people know when the next meeting will be.
  • 5:15pm Done! I finished early b/c everybody did so good a job cleaning up. I didn't put the tables back and we'll see if there's repercussions about that, but there's no way I can lift them by myself and there's no one left to help by that time.
So, it's not "just" a program - it's networking, reader's advisory, reference, etc. etc.

Home and working on my new blog...does anybody know how to record a song? I want to put the tune of a storytime song I use and can't find it anywhere - I don't think I made the tune up, it goes to something else but I can't think what! Anyways, I am ready to sacrifice myself and sing it for posterity, but how do I record this?

Thursday - Was planning to do a whole slew of things and got roped into running errands for everybody instead. Oh well. Decided no time like the present and cleaned out the Storyroom storage closet, which is also the puppet theater. Kids were falling over stuff last time we did Elephant and Piggie. So, today's Elephant and Piggie Kids' Club...at 3:35 a girl showed up. A few minutes later a boy showed up. Two more kids at 3:45. We ended up with only about 15 people total. Alas! I am afraid that not doing it every week is going to severely limit the attendance, but I simply cannot handle a third weekly program. Twice a month is all I can do. Anyways, I kinda mixed it up because of the people drifting in. So, we:
  • read Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
  • read Pigs make me sneeze by Mo Willems (with the help of my stuffed Gerald and Piggie and the kids who put in the sneezes)
  • read Beetle McGrady eats bugs by Megan McDonald
  • Sang Anansi by Raffi
  • read Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric Kimmel (the kids all got a tongue depressor to be their "magic stick" and chanted the magic words)
  • read One cool friend by Toni Buzzeo
  • made spider puppets - the basic idea came from The Best of Dr. Jean and then I tweaked it. We stapled together paper plates with a hole at each end, crunkled and stapled on strips of paper for legs, drew on eyes with markers, and then decorated them with bleeding art tissue paper.
  • played with the puppet theater.
Then I did my evening on the desk and it was Daisy night! Which means tons of questions, lots of excitement, and lots of kids!

Friday Got to work around 8:30 and until 5:30 pm, in between putting together an Amazon order, endless questions on and off the desk, and other miscellaneous distractions, almost completed my big shift/reorganization. Pictures will soon be posted to the slideshow on the left. I took down the nonfiction display, shifted the shelves, and moved all the juvenile Spanish (noting that the call numbers are awful and should someday be changed). I took down the new picture books and easy readers and put them on display above their shelves, then shifted all three ranges turning it into the new nonfiction display. I put together new shelving and replaced all the old Spanish shelves, cannibalized more shelves from other spots, and then shifted the juvenile graphic novels onto those shelves. My aide came in around this point and went to work scraping off the old labels. Sadly, we discovered that some came off and some...didn't. She'll work more on this on Monday. I moved all the new juvenile series and beginning chapter books to a separate display area and added a place on it for suggestions. I cut the juvenile chapter book display down to one range of shelves and shifted the shelves. My aide started shifting the juvenile fiction back into the extra spaces. I put the extra shelves left over from Spanish into the places missing shelves (two different types of shelves, which is why all the moving around). I reorganized the displays on top of the picture book, juvenile series, and easy reader shelves, including moving a bunch of the Lego creations. I put up new signage everywhere. We still have to get the rest of the sticky residue off the series shelves, shift the series and easy readers, and finish shifting the juvenile fiction. My feet hurt.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc

I earlier reviewed Marianne Dubuc's In Front of My House and loved the unique sequential storyline.

Dubuc has a similar structure in her new story, but it's even more storytime-friendly, if that was possible.

The animals are going to a masquerade, starting with the lion, who, after much thought, decides to as an elephant. Of course that means the elephant will have to go as something else, say...a parrot! Then the parrot needs a disguise, and so on.

Dubuc's pencil crayon drawings are colorful set against stark white backgrounds. The text is oversized, perfect for beginning readers to try out their reading skills.

This title is longer than the average picture book, but it zips by fast, flicking from animal to animal. The natural breaks keep the progression from bogging down or getting too repetitive. There's a hilarious episode several pages long with Little Red Riding Hood and a bear, we learn that flowers don't wear disguises, and there are occasional interjections and humorous asides. The story isn't just animals either, familiar fairy tale characters and a few other surprises pop up along the way.

There are so many ways to use this book in programs and storytimes! Have children guess the coming animal, have them read the names of the animals if you're practicing print awareness, have them draw their own disguised animals, make masks and/or costumes, make your own progressive books, pass out pictures of various animals and have them draw disguises and make up their own stories to go along with the pictures, the list goes on and on!

Verdict: A unique and lovely little book. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781554537822; Published March 2012 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Captain America: The fighting Avenger by Brian Clevinger, illustrated by Gurihiru

I asked the kids what superheroes they'd like more of in the juvenile graphic novel section and they said Captain America. But it's not easy to find Captain America (or most other superheroes) appropriate for the under 12s, other than buying the expensive library bound ABDO editions, and not even all of those are appropriate for the kids. I have a lot of 6-8 year olds who love superheroes. What to give them?

I saw a preview of Captain America Fighting Avenger...somewhere, I think maybe in another comic, and it looked like one that would be both fun and appropriate so I got a copy to preview from inter-library loan.

Yes! It's great! The picture I uploaded here shows an individual comic, but I got a collection with four stories. The first is Captain America The Fighting Avenger. It's a story of Captain America's first mission as a soldier in World War II. He doesn't even have an official code name yet, he's never been on a mission, and the commandos who get to babysit him aren't happy with a green newbie. But when their mission to destroy a bridge goes wrong fast, Captain America learns fast and his companions decide they're glad he's along after all.

There was plenty of action and adventure, lots of little comic insider notes, like the creation of the Red Skull and Captain America throwing his shield for the first time, and plenty of yelling, fighting, explosions, etc. but no gore, bad language, or angst. Perfect! The art looks like an animated cartoon and the text is nicely clear and readable with lots of comic-style action words.

The other stories included are from Marvel Adventures. Marvel Adventures Super Heroes Captain America issue 5 has a tougher, more muscled Captain America going on a mission to rescue...a baby rhino. Instead, he finds himself stuck in a town of Hydra agents with an unreliable ally. This isn't completely stand-alone, as it helps to know a little about Hydra, but it's easy to pick up that they're the bad guys.

Marvel Adventures Avengers issue 3 features several Avengers cracking jokes at an awards ceremony for Cap...with an unexpected guest, the original Baron Zemo! Or is he? Working together, the team rescues Cap and defeats the Baron, who turns out to be the son of Cap's old enemy. The art here is typical of most of the Marvel Adventures, depending heavily on recognizable costumes and without much fine detail and packing lots of explosions and jokes - just the thing kids (and myself) like.

The final story, Marvel Adventures Avengers 37 has a more old-school feel to the art, as is appropriate for a story featuring old superhero companions of Cap, time travel, and the Puppet Master. It's a little difficult to follow if you don't know all the characters and the events are more than a little unbelievable, but there's plenty of jokes, mostly from Wolverine, so who could complain?

Verdict: While I'd prefer a complete collection with issues in order, that's not how Marvel does things. I don't know if there will be more issues of Captain America Fighting Avenger. Meanwhile, this is a fun and age-appropriate collection. Only available in paperback, so it won't last forever, but by the time it falls apart Captain America probably won't be popular anymore so it's worth the money.

ISBN: 0785151982; Published June 2011 by Marvel; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Iceberg, right ahead! The Tragedy of the Titanic by Stephanie McPherson

Some say there's no way you need another book on the Titanic. Some say you can never have too many Titanic books.

Some of us don't care. That would be me. Titanic fever totally passed me by (yes, I thought the 1997 movie was dumb. No, I didn't not have a lot of friends as a teenager)

However! I would have to agree with the you can never have too many Titanic books crowd. At least once a month I get earnest seekers after shipwreck books, specifically the Titanic. Inevitably, the fever gets them all at once (or else it's a class project nobody has ever informed me of) and everything vanishes for weeks.

So, with the anniversary coming up and all, I thought I'd look into some additional titles to our shipwreck section. Now, not being a Titanic person, as I said, I can't speak to whether or not this book brings anything new or just retreads old ground, but it seemed to me an excellent overview of the disaster and aftermath.

It starts with a dramatic introduction to the disaster, even I, non-expert that I am, know that this is required of all Titanic books. However, it then spins out into the history of Titanic - and of the shipping line that built it, details of the disaster, and the effects on history and individual passengers. Along the way, sections are included on the famous staircase, the use of the new SOS call, survival statistics, and more. Photographs and artwork from all periods of history are also included. The story ends in the final chapters with accounts of the enduring effects of the disaster, including the films and books it inspired and the various attempts to recover the ship and the controversies surrounding the salvage.

The book ends with a timeline, glossary of nautical terms, history of ships associated with the Titanic, source notes, bibliography, further information, and index. My only quibbles on this title were the two typos that popped up and whapped me in the eye, "sever" for "seven" on page 26 and a second one closer to the end of the book, which I couldn't find again, but which I remember thinking would have been caught by the most basic spell checker. Severance or something like that.

Verdict: Despite the typos, this is an excellently researched book and seems like a good, general coverage of the Titanic disaster with a few new nuggets of information. You'll need this on your library shelf for the increased interest due to the anniversary of the disaster.

ISBN: 9780761367567; Published November 2011 by Twenty-First Century Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Saturday, February 4, 2012

This week at the library; or, I have a cold

Monday I have a cold. *Insert rant about tax forms here*

Tuesday I still have a cold. I also had a youth services committee meeting in the morning, errands to buy supplies, and an evening workshop on child abuse.

Wednesday The cold continues. Resisted the urge to go back to bed with my antihistamines and decongestants this morning and sniffled my way to work, where I croaked my way through Preschool Interactive (trying not to breathe on any of the kids), moved furniture, had a meeting about summer reading, and did Messy Art Club for a smaller group than usual, about 25 - beading, which seemed nice and mess-free and the kids were very enthusiastic, although there was some initial disappointment from some of my new friends who came to Elephant and Piggie and had thought Messy Art was going to be painting, so had changed into their old clothes. Sorry guys, we'll do decoupage next time. *cough*

Thursday Cancelled my dentist appointment so I could sleep in on my morning off. It is faintly possible that I will not die after all. Took all the publicity to 7 schools and visited Step Ahead Preschool, where I have a remote collection set up. Did as much planning as the cold medicines would allow, worked the evening, and then back to my beautiful bed at 8:30.

Friday Usually when I'm working a half day it's either 10-1 or 2-6, but today I was scheduled on the desk from 12-3. Which let me sleep in a little. Happy happy! New books from Kids Can Press - and a publisher has finally heeded my plea and provided middle grade chapter books that are NOT 400 pages long! They are an absolutely adorable small square size. Yay!

Saturday Almost all better (or as better as I ever get with chronic allergies) last bit of feeling sorry for myself, I promise. After I worked 10-2, I drove out to Milwaukee as I needed some program supplies. But I went out to dinner with Sara the Librarian too. Where we discussed my series project. We really should clock in for these meetings... (Yes, I know I haven't actually had Saturday yet, but what could go wrong?) (It turned out to be a very mathematical day...had an elderly gentleman asking me to explain Roman numerals...and then another guy wanting books on theoretical physics)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wild Boars Cook by Meg Rosoff, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

The best picture books are about food and naughty animals. They just are. And if you can add a large mollusk, it's even better.

This book has it all. Food? Massive pudding! Naughty animals? Horrible wild boars. Large mollusk? That is one big squid.

Boris, Morris, Horace, and Doris, despite their clothes and apparently having a house, are undeniably wild boars. They have long skinny snouts, spindly legs, plump bodies, and wicked little eyes. Boris, Morris, Horace and Doris are nasty and stinky and rude. They are absolutely wild boars.

And they're hungry! After discovering (and partially devouring) a cookbook, they set out to bake a massive pudding, complete with chocolates, doughnuts, butter, puddles, and a squid (but no broccoli). Their creation is gorgeous, although the squid looks rather startled, and it's gone in seconds flat, because wild boars have no table manners. But don't worry, Doris still has the cookbook...

To get the full flavor of this book, heh, heh, heh, you have to read it with tons of expression. If you can wave your hands around a little bit too, that helps. Plus a little Southern accent on the "wiiiiiild boars!" and lots of yelling and excitement over the ingredients.

Verdict: Rosoff and Blackall have another Wild Boars title, Meet Wild Boars, but Wild Boars Cook is the one you really need, plus an extra copy for your storytime collection, to be pulled out in emergencies.

ISBN: 9780805072536; Published September 2008; Reviewed from my personal collection; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingram

I have a cold so I am pulling out some of my favorite storytime books as significant portions of my brain are no longer functioning.

I am not, in general, a fan of Ahlberg's work. Put away the pitchforks, please! We are all entitled to our own opinion! It just never grabbed me and I've felt generally unenthusiastic about the various illustrators he's teamed up with.

But when I discovered this book on our library shelves several years ago, I fell in love with it. It's now one of my favorite stories, although it doesn't always work well in storytime.

Banjo, a little boy, sits down to eat his dinner. But the dinner, a nice sausage, has other ideas and runs away. Soon there's a gingerbread-boy-parade of food, furniture, cutlery, and people running through the city. One by one things drop out of the race; the carrots escape, the peas are eaten, the chair gets sat on, the plate becomes a frisbee, until finally Banjo catches the sausage and...well, you'll have to read the story to find out Melvin's fate.

Ingram's illustrations depend on broad swatches of color, against which the food and utensils trot briskly on spindly legs. Background people and details are sketched in outline, focusing the story on the various animated objects as they have their adventures.

The real draw for this story is Ahlberg's text. He perfectly creates a flowing rhythm that draws the listener and reader through the story. Repetition and exclamation blend smoothly together creating a sing-song poetry of the quirky story. "Well, he was a little boy, this boy, lived in a house, slept in a bed, wore all the usual sorts of clothes, socks and scarves and such."

This story is a little long for the average storytime, but it has that special quality that catches children's interest and holds it throughout a longer tale. I've found it works best if you read it quickly in a good storytelling voice. Expression depends on the audience; younger kids need guidance to catch the jokes, while you can read it completely deadpan to older, say 4s and 5s, and get howls of laughter.

Verdict: This is one of my personal and storytime favorites and if your library doesn't own it I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 076361426; Published August 2006 by Candlewick; Reviewed from my personal copy; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal library