Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Bad Case of Ghosts by Kenneth Oppel

I'm always on the lookout for more beginning chapter books. Not necessarily series, which are a very specific genre in my library (must be at least 5 in the series, must be paperback, can only buy at the end of the year when I shift/weed/update series, etc.) but books that kids will enjoy reading whether or not they are in 2nd-3rd grade because they're funny, have pictures, and aren't too long and daunting.

This book has been on my wishlist to read for a long time. It's one of those that I no longer remember why I put it on the list, it is simply there. Oppel is best-known, at least in the US, for his middle grade/teen fantasies, including Warrior-esque bats. These never seem to circulate well for us though. Anyways, I decided to get another book off my to read list.

Giles is feeling a bit "meh" about his family's new house. He's not really happy about moving and although it's a lot bigger, it's very creaky and run-down. In fact, it's rather...spooky. This is confirmed when Tina and Kevin, self-proclaimed geniuses and next-door neighbor kids show up. They have a "ghost-ometer" and offer to measure the spooks Giles is sure are inhabiting his house. After a little bit of pooh-poohing by the grown-ups, it turns out there really are ghosts, and lots of them, flying about the house. Literally. After a little investigation, it turns out the previous occupant was an old lady who died alone, leaving her many birds to starve and haunt the house as ghosts. A quick solution and everything ends on a cheery note.

Something I've noticed in British beginning chapter books and shorter novels. They seem to end rather abruptly, often leaving major portions of the plot hanging. It's almost as if their technique for making beginning chapter books is to write the usual lengthy tome, in slightly easier language, and then chop it into sections. (I've just noticed this was actually published in Canada, and I haven't really read enough Canadian chapter books to judge, but it feels very British anyways).

Verdict: Nothing much really happened in the story, spook or mystery-wise. This is out of print and was never published in the US, so although it was a mildly amusing read, it's really not worth the bother of tracking down.

ISBN: 9781554685288; This edition published 2000 by HarperTrophyCanada (HarperCollins); Purchased online for about $5.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ALA Midwinter 2013: Financials and General List of Obsessively Detailed Stuff I did

This is what my conference cost me and what I did there. Please note this is not a criticism of anybody who could not afford to go, could afford to go, spent more than I did, spent less than I did, or did something different. This isn't even the same as what I did at the last two Midwinters I was able to attend (San Diego and Boston). For one thing, I had regular meals. Also, the Roosevelt Hotel where we stayed was AWESOME. My library gave me Friday and Monday off from work. I was not compensated for Saturday-Sunday or the half of Tuesday I spent traveling. I seem to fall midway between those who were paid every day they were traveling and conferencing and those who had to take vacation days for all of it, so I am content. This is what my library did before and I think it's reasonable.

Financials (because, admit it, you really want to know how much money I spent)
  • $110 Membership in ALA and ALSC (This is the first year I've been a member - it gets more expensive)
  • $333 Bundled registration for midwinter and annual (reimbursed by my library)
  • $281 Air fare to and from Seattle
  • $69 (roundtrip bus fare from airport to Beloit and fee for leaving my car in their park 'n' ride)
  • $50 Checked bag both ways (first way it had my mini suitcase inside it, going back they were both full of books!)
  • $27 (shuttle from airport to hotel and back again)
  • $209 Hotel (my half - shared with Sara the Librarian)
  • $28 (misc. items from a crochet hook to lollipops, toothpaste to nuts for the trip)
  • $7 postage for posters (my library would have reimbursed me for this, but I cannot find the receipt anywhere!)
  • $120 food. This was a bit more than I had hoped to spend, I was trying to keep it under $100, but it's not bad for the 8 meals I ate (I didn't bother with food other than some nuts after breakfast on Monday until I got home Tuesday afternoon.)
  • $30 Purchase of books at conference (reimbursed by my library)
Now, as to what I did...
  • We left around 6:15 on Friday morning and made our way to the O'Hare airport via bus at Beloit. It was snowing. We arrived in Seattle around 2, checked in, registered, and had a very late lunch or early dinner, depending on how you look at it, at the Cheesecake Factory. Then we explored the exhibits for the first time (really the first time for Sara the Librarian!)
  • We went to dinner with my committee at Tango. We discussed our libraries, our lives, blogging and review copies, STEM, after school programs, and a little about the topics our committee would be tackling on Sunday. Later had a long discussion about choosing and joining committees and potential ALSC presidents as we walked back to our hotel with another committee member (clarification: Sara the Librarian is not on my committee, she just came to observe)
  • On Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed (time change!) and got crepes for breakfast, then went to the discussion on Dewey vs. Genre. It was, however, VERY full. We decided we didn't feel like sitting on the floor. We went to a publisher Book Buzz instead (where they present their upcoming list) and then to the exhibits, where we lost each other. I had a long talk with Peachtree, one of my favorite small publishers, about upcoming easy nonfiction and after we found each other again we stopped off at Simply Read Books for a long time, they are a small publisher from Canada with much awesomeness. Spent a long time looking at the various Make kits, then we went and got lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.
  • Yes, we are aware Seattle has much awesome food. Every time people asked where we were eating, I would say "I have a very tight budget" then they would recommend places where the appetizers cost my entire budget for a whole meal. Clearly, my idea of affordable is not the generally accepted one.
  • We returned to the exhibits and spent some time at the small press exhibit talking to the OwlKids representative, who is a friend of Jean Little! Small moment of fan awesomeness here.
  • We talked to Playaway about their View products (it's not for us, but I just smile and nod), introduced Sara to Zest Books, and went back to Make to discuss which kits my library needs.
  • I spent the evening reviewing my committee information and websites, discussing our schedule for Sunday and Monday, and we had appetizers and dessert for dinner at, yes, the Cheesecake Factory (did I mention it was down the street?)
  • Sunday was committee day! My committee didn't start until 9:30, so we had time for breakfast (oh the yumminess of crepes! Also the affordableness!)
  • The committee was awesome. Sara observed, I took notes, lots of people stopped by, and we had the most fun committee ever! Also, we stayed longer than anyone else. A few ideas outside our committee work - putting new book posters in bathrooms, putting rhymes and fingerplays over changing tables, and lots of trading of ideas and information.
  • We then went back to the exhibits, talked to Simply Read books again for a while, I did some networking for board books for review with a small publisher and about 3:00 we went for lunner (you know where). We missed most of the Penguin presentation (our waiter disappeared and it took us forever to find him and get out) but we came in time to get their massive catalogs. Then there was a presentation from Scholastic and I spent some time talking to them about their new Branch series for beginning readers.
  • Sara and I had a ripping party with the Penguin catalogs, then she went to a showing of Fat Kid Rules the World and I transcribed my 7 1/2 pages of notes from the committee meeting.
  • Monday! Last day! Going the awards is a LOT more fun when you go with people! We went with my committee and some bloggers I grabbed at the last minute to join us. BOMB DESERVES ALL THE SHINY, YAYYYYY!!! Then we went out to breakfast with some No Flying No Tights folks at Lola's (we were going to Dahlia Cafe, but I guess they are just a bakery or something) and friends. The ideas flowed like milk and many business cards were exchanged. I can't wait to get the info on the mini-weapons program!
  • We zipped back to the hotel, then to the exhibits again, wandered through and got the last-minute free books, I mailed my posters, then we had a little sight-seeing. We went to See's Candy (lollipops for me!) and Evolution (their strawberry lemonade was vastly inferior to their grapefruit juice). Then we went back to the hotel and figured out our travel plans, then walked back to Dahlia for treats (for Sara). The awesome Dahlia people found me a sewing shop where I could find a crochet hook and I stopped at a World Market (no turkish delight, alas). We stopped by a Barnes and Noble and I snapped a bunch of pictures with my phone, then our trip was over.
  • And I spent from 5:30pm on Monday to 12:15pm on Tuesday on planes, in airports, and on buses, but that's another story.

ALA Midwinter 2013: What I brought back (other than various aches and pains and a resolution never to fly with Sherman the Sea Lion again)

I can see you all across the internet bugging out your eyes at my list and asking jealously "and what are you going to DO with all those books?" Well, various things. They will all be read (or at least skimmed). Many of them will be reviewed, either here or at my secondary blog, "Real" books (as opposed to ARCs) will mostly be added to the library. Galleys will be used as summer prizes. F&Gs will be tested in storytime, dissected for art projects, and used to decorate the bathroom walls (a fabulous idea which I got from a member of my ALSC committee). The sturdier, bound F&Gs will probably end up at a daycare. A few select books will become my exclusive property. Some will be passed on to colleagues, teachers, and school librarians. A few will go directly into the hands of kids. Rest assured, they will all be loved, wherever they go.

And yes, I fit this all into a medium-sized suitcase, carry-on suitcase, and canvas bag, along with my change of pants, borrowed netbook, See's lollipops, undies, and crochet thread. What else does one need at a conference after all?

Chapter Books
I tried to not get any sequels, since I rarely review them and don't like giving them out as prizes, but sometimes mistakes were made. I looked zealously for beginning chapter books, but they were few and far between. When it comes to galleys, teen books seem to get most of the shiny love. I got:

  • Starbounders by Adam Epstein
  • Cloneward Bound by M. E. Castle (accidental sequel)
  • Magician's tower by Shawn Odyssey (on purpose sequel, so that I will read the first book as I have been planning lo these many days)
  • Tangle of knots by Lisa Graff
  • Undertown by Melvin Bukiet
  • Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Charlie Joe Jackson's guide to summer vacation by Tommy Greenwald (on purpose sequel)
  • Lightning catcher by Anne Cameron
  • Stuck in the middle (of middle school) a novel in doodles by Karen Young (mostly to remind me to buy more sequels)
  • Dorko the Magnificent by Andrea Beatty (only THIS SECOND realized this is by the author of Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies!!!)
  • Scholastic's beginning chapter series, Branches
    • Notebook of doom: Rise of the balloon goons by Troy Cummings
    • Looniverse: Stranger things by David Lubar
    • Boris on the move by Andrew Joyner
    • Missy's super duper royal deluxe picture day by Susan Ness
    • Lotus Lane: Kiki, my stylish life by Kyla May
  • School of S.P.I.E.S: Play with fire by Bruce Hale
  • Hide and seek by Kate Messner
  • Spotlight club mysteries: mystery of the bewitched bookmobile by Florence parry Heide (reissue)
  • When the butterflies came by Kimberley Little
  • Hold fast by Blue Balliett
  • Genie Wishes by Elisabeth Dahl
  • Athlete vs. mathlete by W. C. Mack
  • Kelsey Green, reading queen by Claudia Mills
  • Life of Ty: Penguin problems by Lauren Myracle
  • Galaxy Zack: Hello Nebulon by Ray O'Ryan
  • Critter Club: Amy and the missing puppy by Callie Barkley
  • Fish Finelli: Seagulls don't eat pickles by E. S. Farber
  • Like bug juice on a burger by Julie Sternberg (I hated the first one, but the kids liked it, so I thought I'd give the series another chance)
  • Wig in the window by Kristen Kittscher
  • Rules for ghosting by A. J. Paquette
  • Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance
  • Grasshopper magic by Lynne Jonell
  • Platypus police squad: the frog who croaked by Jarrett Krosoczka (i usually hate fake noir, but i am EXCITED about this one)
  • OMG: the glitter trap by Barbara Brauner
  • Odd squad: bully bait by Michael Fry
  • Ninja meerkats: the clan of the scorpion by Gareth Jones
  • Thrice upon a marigold by Jean Ferris (this is a sequel, but I have some serious Ferris fans and I plan to somehow auction this off to them. Mostly depending who I see first)
  • Starring Jules as herself by Beth Ain
  • Center of everything by Linda Urban
  • S.W.I.T.C.H. Ant Attack by Ali Sparkes (I'm reading the first on Netgalley and I wanted to see how the sequel went)
  • Gum Girl by Rhode Montijo (this has nothing to do with Andi Watson's Gum Girl, although both are girls and superheroes and get their power from gum  and are comics and have lots of pink)
  • Garden princess by Kristin Kladstrup
  • Vote by Gary Paulsen (oh yeah. I'm going to put this on display at my desk and award it to the kid who tells me the funniest joke. Or something)
  • An army of frogs by Trevor Pryce
  • Scary Tales: Home sweet horror by James Preller
  • Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut: Bowling Alley Bandit by Laurie Keller (not a fan of Arnie myself, but many kids are)
  • Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint (this galley is for ME. and I promised to share it with Sara the Librarian, since I snagged the last one)
  • Stranded by Jeff Probst
  • Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George (miiiiine)
  • Elvis and the underdogs by Jenny Lee
  • Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
  • Cul-de-sac Kids by Alison Acheson

Teen Books
Now that I have a few Midwinters under my belt, I have a better idea of what to pick up. That would NOT be teen, in general, but I did get a few things.

  • I asked the very nice ladies at the Zondervan booth for recommendations of realistic, contemporary teen fiction with a religious/inspirational element, but not too heavy-handed. I have quite a few Christian teen girls, some homeschooled, who would like more of this genre. And they handed me books! I never cease to be amazed at the generosity, knowledgeability, and enthusiasm of the small publishers. They gave me:
    • Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker
    • Insight by Diana Greenwood
    • Interrupted: life beyond words by Rachel Coker
    • Like moonlight at low tide by Nicole Quigley
    • and a Berenstain Bears book
  • Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge (I am soooo excited about this new graphic novel from the author of Page by Paige)
  • Notes from ghost town by Kate Ellison (I'm not sure how I ended up with this)
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (this is a real book. some teens have asked for it, but I didn't have the budget. now we have it!)
  • Prodigy by Marie Lu (I have a teen who will be thrilled beyond words to have this)
  • Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch (this was a real book, a freebie! we don't own it, so it will go right into the collection. The cover is a bit ripped, but that's no big deal)
  • Lincoln's grave robbers by Steve Sheinkin (squeeeeee!!!!!)
  • Junk-Box Jewelry by Sarah Drew (free book from Zest!)
Adult Books
I mostly get these as consolation for my colleagues who were unable to attend, but I had very little space this year. Occasionally they are something I personally want.
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys (Between Shades of Gray ended up in adult, so I thought our adult selector would like a look at this)
  • Dreams and shadows by C. Robert Cargill (I am actually interested in reading this myself)
  • Julia Quinn was signing books and I got an ARC of her anthology, The Lady Most Willing...I read a copy from the library and liked both this one and the title before it. They're fun!
  • Tarnished by Karina Cooper (I was just looking at this series - steampunk/urban fantasy/victoriana. Sounds interesting, but I'll need to read the first one first probably)
Other Stuff
Lots of little things, posters, etc. I mention only a few.
  • Activity kits from Chronicle (I think they're available online too). Wumbers, Chloe, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, Press Here, It's a tiger
  • F&Gs. If you aren't familiar with these, they're like galleys of picture books but they're not bound (unless you are Roaring Brook Press, in which case you make awesome little bound pamphlets out of them) they make excellent posters, collage projects, and are fun for looking at what's coming soon.
    • Uh-Oh, Dodo! by Jennifer Sattler
    • Speed by Nathan Clement
    • Grandma and the great gourd by Chitra Divakaruni
    • Bunnies on ice by Johanna Wright
    • Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore
    • Trixie Ten by Sarah Massini
    • The spooky box by Mark Gonyea
    • This is our house by Hyewon Yum
    • Boom Boom Boom by Jamie Swenson (It has guinea pigs!)
    • Exclamation Point by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
    • Stripes by Susan Stockdale (I am CRAZY EXCITED about a new Susan Stockdale book!)
  • Starring Jules bookmarks (a whole pack! very cute!)
  • Various stickers
  • Handouts from many publisher's book buzzes
  • A wookiee tattoo
  • Two packs of awesome notecards from Workman Press, which will be summer reading prizes for the adults.
  • In a spirit of innocent enthusiasm and the screaming death of a thousand trees, Penguin distributed their entire 2013 winter and spring catalogs at their book buzz program, two massive collection that measured an inch thick each on thick, glossy paper. Sara the Librarian and myself spent an enjoyable evening in our hotel room, ripping out the pages we were interested in, and then recycled the rest.
  • Cognotes - I keep a couple for the other librarians and the awards edition to cut up for the bulletin board
  • Etiquette and Espionage buttons. I hate big buttons and refused to wear the Caldecott one, but I like mini ones, especially when they're clever. I will add them to my bag. I missed the actual galley, but it's coming out soon anyways.
  • A really awesome owl bag from OwlKids Press (and a fun conversation with the publicist who KNOWS JEAN LITTLE. Awesomeness.)
  • A variety of posters
  • Purchased (they sell things cheap on the last day. I bought a lot last year, but this year I weighed the, well, weight against the discount and it wasn't really worth it except for a few things)
    • No more blanket for Lambkin, No more biting for Billy Goat! by Bernette Ford and Sam Williams
    • Deadly Adorable Animals, Deadly High-Risk Jobs, Jennifer Lawrence from Lerner and I got From Sheep to Sweater as a freebie with my purchase

Monday, January 28, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Cool trash to treasure series

 I've been looking for a new craft series and this one was noted in SLJ's series edition. Each book begins with a section on getting permission, being safe, being prepared, and a generic recycling note, tailored to fit the particular types of material used in the book.

I always find these safety sections annoying. If a child needs to be told to be careful using "knives, scissors, or other sharp objects" and reminded to ask for help and permission, they probably are not old enough to use those items on their own anyways. But I suppose the publisher has to put those warnings in. The other thing that often annoys me in these recycled crafts books is the number of tools and materials that few people are likely to have lying around their homes. However, grumbling aside, it's time to look at the books!

Cool Odds and Ends starts out with a list of tools and materials. Mostly standard craft tools, but again the warning at the beginning of the book and the book's size - 8x8 picture book type style - is at variance with needing a craft knife, acrylic paint and sealer, hot glue gun, and jewelry supplies like ear wires and hang rings. The projects include making a dresser tray out of an old picture frame, a kitty bed out of a basket, gazing ball with a bowling ball and flat marbles, pencil art, swirly cd art, game piece jewelry, and dragonflies out of old screens. The dresser tray is something a younger child could do with help, the kitty bed seems rather pointless to me - who's going to have a basket big enough just sitting around and would a cat actually sleep on that? The gazing ball requires a bowling ball and you'd probably have to buy the flat marbles, the pencil art was rather a strange, the swirly cd art very young, the kind of thing a little kid would think was cute, and the game piece jewelry and screen dragonflies need high dexterity levels - a teen would probably really enjoy those last two projects.

 Next, we have Cool Plastic Projects. Plastic recycling projects always make me doubtful - does anybody really have that many little bits of plastic lying around? We certainly didn't when I was a kid, but my parents were kind of hippies. Apparently, most "normal" people with kids do have random bits of plastic. The projects - A button bouquet (do people have extra buttons anymore? Probably not that many cute ones). Bracelets made out of gift tags and jump rings (I'm pretty sure you'd have to buy most of the items for this, which defeats the recycling purpose). Necklace out of bag tags (would take a while to save up that many, and again you'd need to buy the jump rings, but I can see middle schoolers liking this). Frames made out of cd jewel cases - I think only adults like this kind of thing. Beach bag made out of a mesh produce bag - not really anything to this project. Calendar made out of old keyboard keys. Art made out of old bottle tops (and "decorations", again something you'd have to buy).

Cool Fabric Projects has a pretty good range of skill levels. Covering earbud wires with yarn, making a simple scarf out of leftover novelty yarn, decorating cards with fabric scraps, a coiled basket with a clothesline and fabric scraps, covering stains on a t-shirt with a stencil and paint splatter, phone or glasses pouch out of old ties, felted wool headband out of an old sweater. The stencil paint splatter t-shirt looked ridiculous - I cannot see any kid wearing that over the age of about 7. The felted sweater was silly - how many kids have old, 100% wool sweaters lying around? And the energy needed to wash it in very hot water and dry it in a hot dryer multiple times would use up any environmental benefit to recycling one sweater. Just buy some felt!

Glass and Ceramic Projects requires the use of a lot of jars. The first project is wrapping an old glass vase with tissue paper and modge podge. The next is sticking things to a glass jar with contact paper to make a candle holder. The "Remarkable Jar" was a pretty good idea - painting chalkboard paint to make a reusable label for a jar. Canning jars with pincushions in the lid was silly - I can only think of one or two kids whose parents sew and would even have pins. The tile coaster pre-supposes extra tiles - how many people have random tiles lying around, and cork board? Too many things to buy. I've done something similar to "Bottle Bling" painting the inside of a jar with acrylic paint, then adding decorations to the outside. It's fun, but you need a lot of jars for the number of people I normally have at a program. The birdfeeder made out of a teacup was a lot of work for something that will be difficult to clean. It would require a lot of patience and I'm not sure I want the kids using "Weldbond" some sort of heavy-duty glue? Same thing for the cupcake tiers, gluing dishes together.

Verdict: The Odds and Ends title has a couple projects I might like to use with teens, Plastic had nothing really useful, the Fabric book had a pretty good balance of projects for different ages and interests, Glass was almost all decorating jars. All the books are attractively designed, but lacking in content. There were several other titles, but I thought this was quite enough for a representative sample (metal and paper I think). Ultimately, none of these books are worth the price of library bound editions ($22). I will continue looking elsewhere for new craft books.

Published August 2012 by Checkerboard Library (ABDO); Borrowed from another library in my consortium.

Cool Odds and Ends; ISBN: 978-1617834356

Cool Plastic Projects; 978-1617834370

Cool Fabric Projects; 978-1617834325

Cool Glass Projects; 978-1617834332

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is: Cybils Finalists

When this posts, I will be in Seattle, only one day away from hearing the announcements of the various awards sponsored by ALA. I have previously posted lists of which award titles I am buying, generally with much accompanying muttering about how nobody is going to read them and how Cybils is much more awesome. So...exactly how many of the Cybils finalists have I bought or am I planning to buy for my library? And of those we owned already, are they circulating? Plus other random commentary.

Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books
  • A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva
    • I received a review copy of this and added that to the library collection, but this is one I would have purchased. Sometimes Toon hits the mark, sometimes not - this one is good. We've owned it since September and it has circulated 8 times. About what I expect for a TOON book, which don't circ heavily at my library (too many parents still not convinced that comics are really reading, plus a school district fanatically entrenched in lexiles).
  • Bink and Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo
    • This series is hard to know where to catalog it - I ended up placing them in easy readers, where they do ok, not spectacularly though. I bought this one in December and it's not cataloged yet. The previous volume was purchased in 2010 and has circulated 29 times.
  • Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes
    • As soon as I saw these, I knew they were ones we would need. I purchased this one in September and it has circulated 9 times.
  • Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes
    • This one was purchased in March and has circulated 14 times.
  • Pinch and Dash Make Soup by Michael J. Daley
    • This is why Cybils is awesome - I had totally missed this series and it looks fun! I put this title and all the others in the series in my February order list.
  • Ivy and Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows
    • I had never considered these until a parent suggested them a few years ago. They circulate like crazy! I bought this in September and it has gone out 6 times and is currently checked out.
  • Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner
    • I think I originally got a review copy of the first Marty McGuire book. I purchased this sequel in April and it has circulated 10 times and is currently on hold at another library.
  • Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell
    • I was a bit doubtful about the art in this one, but read some very enthusiastic reviews of it. I purchased it in September and it has circulated 6 times. A little lower than I'd normally expect for an easy reader.
  • Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett
    • I thought this was awesome and purchased it last April. I took it to my school visits and, sadly, the kids did not agree. It has only checked out twice. Usually, beginning chapter books go like crazy but maybe this is just a bit too odd for their tastes?
  • Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford
    • This is another one I wouldn't have found without Cybils, being an Australian import. It's in my February order, as well as some of the other titles in the series.
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
My teen and juvenile section have kind of blurry lines - some things upstairs (teen) are perfectly appropriate for younger middle school students. Some older middle school titles I moved downstairs because of theft problems. If something feels more teen, it's less likely I'll buy it because my teen section has low circ and therefore less budget. More on that later.
  • Beswitched by Kate Saunders
    • Purchased on the recommendation of Charlotte's Library in September, has checked out 5 times and is currently checked out! I wasn't sure if kids would be interested in it, as I haven't had time to read it myself, but they clearly are!
  • Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung
    • I went back and forth on buying this one. It sounded good, but some reviews were iffy, middle grade superhero books don't always do well at my library...but I trust Cybils' opinion and so it is on my February order.
  • The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet
    • I bought this back in January of 2012 and it has circulated 7 times, which is pretty average for a middle grade fantasy.
  • The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
    • I've looked at this several times, but in my library it would end up in the teen room and I have to budget my teen purchases very tightly. This type of fantasy isn't in much demand among my teens.
  • The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam) by Jasper Fforde
    • While I was interested in reading this myself, it's not something I would buy for the library. Just a little too offbeat. However, through a series of coincidences I ended up getting it on my Junior Library Guild order in November - and it has circ'd 4 times and is currently checked out. It is placed in YA and I wonder how many of those circs are adult fans of Fforde, but overall it looks like I was wrong about this one!
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    • I looked at this when there was a lot of buzz, but it didn't sound like something that would circ much, especially since it's not something that sounds easy to booktalk. However, I'm thinking it will probably show up on award lists other than Cybils and many people have told me it is awesome, so I have put it on my February order list.
  • The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
    • This is on my personal reading list, but my kids aren't interested in steampunk or fairies (except in beginning chapter books and ya romances). Did not purchase.
Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)
I did the circ stats and for the amount of money I spent on YA fiction and fantasy last year, the stats were uninspiring, to say the least. 5,000 total circulation for the ya fiction. This year I am strictly limiting purchasing in this area. I get 4-5 books a month from Junior Library Guild and will buy 4-5 a month (which pretty much just covers sequels). I put up covers on a window and told the teens to vote on what they wanted. Apparently, they want realistic fiction, romance, a little paranormal romance, and horror, in that order. Not much fantasy or dystopia. I think it's adults reading all the young adult dystopia. I'm also running out of space in the teen room, so that's also an issue. I'll some of these on my voting cards to see if any of the teens want them though.
  • And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst
    • As above, I don't think teens are actually reading as much dystopias as are being published, at least not the ones here. It's also not available through my vendor. Did not purchase.
  • Every Day by David Levithan
    • I have a couple of his titles with average circulation. Not so much that I feel justified in buying everything he writes. I read a blog review of this somewhere that did not inspire me to purchase this. I can't remember where, but it talked about issues with the female character and the way gender is addressed. Did not purchase.
  • Planesrunner (Everness, Book One) by Ian McDonald
    • No more series, pleeeease. The cover on this one will kill it dead on the shelf. Since we have no teen librarian and no staff for the ya room, I almost never have the opportunity to booktalk ya titles, so they have to live or die on their own covers. Did not purchase.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
    • I was reluctant to buy this because it didn't sound like it had wide appeal, and the cover did not grab, but it was donated! So we have a copy! It's gone out 4 times since it was donated in September.
  • The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton, and Maggie Stiefvater
    • Short stories don't check out. Did not purchase.
  • The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
    • I don't remember why I bought this, but I did, last August. It has gone out 5 times.
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
    • I bought this in October because it looked awesome and Sarah Beth Durst is awesome. I took it to my talks at the middle school and there was much interest. It has gone out 3 times and is currently checked out.
Fiction Picture Books
  • Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
    • I didn't like this when I read it, but Cybils got me to give it another look. It's still not high on my personal list, but I put it on my February order list.
  • Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
    • I still haven't found the right audience for reading this aloud - most of the groups I tried were too young - but I persevere. I bought it last April and it has circulated 17 times and is currently checked out.
  • Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
    • Love this one, although it is still not quite the creepy read-alike for This Book Eats People I have been searching for. I've read it to preschoolers and 6th graders and they all think it's hilarious. Purchased in August, checked out 9 times and currently checked out. Circ is a little low because I had it out for programs several times.
  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • I liked this one well enough, although I don't really get the wild love for it that has it up on so many mock Caldecotts. I tried it in storytime and it wasn't a huge hit. Purchased in January 2012, circulated 8 times. That's pretty low circulation for a picture book.
  • Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
    • This one did ok in storytime. I purchased it in June and it has circulated 9 times, which is pretty average.
  • Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
    • This one looks really interesting and different, but, well, a bit too different for my library.
  • One Special Day by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve
    • I loved this one when I first saw it - I'm a big fan of Jessica Meserve's art - and it was a hit in storytime, both preschool and toddler. I bought it back in August and it has circ'd 8 times.
Graphic Novels (Middle Grade)
  • Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
    • Usually graphic biographies/memoirs are really hard to circ but I took a chance on this one and it turned out to be really excellent. I bought it back in May and it has circ'd 5 times (not counting the months it spent on my shelf during Cybils)
  • Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
    • Personally, I'm a little tired of the fantasy/girl warrior graphic novel thing, but kids aren't and this one is fun. I bought it in June and it has circ'd 10 times.
  • Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
    • Occasionally, I will buy a book I don't expect to have much circulation; it's for those few special kids (and for me!). This one I was delighted to find spoke to many more kids than I had expected. I purchased it in June and it has circ'd 7 times and is currently on hold at another library (I am the only library in the consortium that owns it).
  • Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu
    • Again, graphic biographies/memoirs I almost never buy, but this one was pretty amazing. I would have shelled out the money for it, but I had a review copy from Cybils, so added that to the library collection. It is still being cataloged.
  • Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
    • I received review copies of both the Hazardous Tales books for No Flying No Tights and reluctantly added them to the library when I had reviewed them. I wanted to keep them for myself! Someone promptly stole One Dead Spy, so I'll have to rebuy it anyways. We've had them since August and Big Bad Ironclad has checked out once. I had expected them to be a LOT more popular, but I think having the first one missing has been a problem. I need to booktalk them more.
Graphic Novels (Young Adult)
  • Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver
    • I have ranted elsewhere about my dislike of memoirs for teens, so I won't go into it again here. This one I think does have some teen appeal, but it won't circulate in my teen collection. I added the review copy I received for Cybils to the adult collection and it's currently being cataloged.
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
    • I shelve Telgemeier in the juvenile graphic novel collection. Smile has gone out a gazillion times, been stolen, fallen apart, etc. It's one of those books that girls who "don't read" beg for. I pre-ordered 2 copies of Drama and when I took it to my 6th grade visits had girls who "hate reading" begging me to hold it for them at the library. We've had our copies since August and both have checked out 5 times (girls tend to check them out, then lend them to friends so they circulate slowly).
  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
    • Faith Erin Hicks is one the few graphic novel authors who checks out in my teen section (the other is Gareth Hinds, if you're wondering). Mostly the kids want either manga or superheroes. I bought this in March and it's gone out 5 times (I also bought a copy for myself).
  • Ichiro by Ryan Inzana
    • I think this will appeal to at least some teens with the sort of Miyazaki flavor of the underworld/fantasy sections. I took it to my 6th grade visits but nobody really bit. We just added it a few weeks ago (my review copy from Cybils) but it hasn't checked out yet.
  • Marathon by Boaz Yakin
    • I pushed hard for this one and I think it will have big teen appeal, especially to older fans of Rick Riordan and to my Gareth Hinds fans. It was asked for and much looked at on my 6th grade visits, but it's still being cataloged so I don't know how it will do in reality.
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Almost Home by Joan Bauer
    • This is another one that went on the list, off the list, on the list. Ultimately, I didn't see anything really compelling in the reviews, but since it was a Cybils finalist, that tips me over to buy it. On my February order list.
  • Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
    • These are never as popular as I think they should be - maybe because they are in the teen section. Hmmm, maybe I should move them downstairs. I put this one on my February order list.
  • Fourmile by Watt Key
    • This is one I would not normally buy, but a recommendation from Cybils puts it on my list. Added to my February order list.
  • Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
    • I never read Stead's first book - just didn't sound like my kind of book - but it was popular enough that I went ahead and bought this title last August. It has checked out 8 times and is currently checked out.
  • The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader
    • I took this to my summer school visits last year and it was much asked for. I bought it last April and it has checked out 8 times.
  • The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
    • I don't buy civil rights books. They don't check out, no matter how well they are written.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • I resisted buying this one for a long time because it has many elements I personally really, really hate and I felt that it was adults not kids interested in it but when people started asking for it (adults, not kids), I purchased it, since it sounded like many parents wanted their kids to read it. I bought it in June and it has checked out 8 times. 
Non-Fiction Middle Grade and Young Adult
  • Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
    • I buy everything Steve Sheinkin does. I have a number of boys who like history chapter books and I like his books myself. This is, I think, his best book yet. I bought it in September and it has checked out 6 times. The Catholic school currently has our library copy for their in-classroom library.
  • Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War by Marsha Skrypuch
    • I read this a while ago and really, really liked it. It's the kind of biography kids will actually read! I have the sequel sitting on my shelf right now for review. I just realized that I forgot to actually buy this one though, so it's on my February order list.
  • Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose
    • This is one that's really interesting and will probably win quite a few awards (I hope) but it's a gamble whether kids will check out something this long to read. In this case, the library won! I bought it in July and it has circulated 8 times and is currently checked out (Catholic school). I booktalked it a lot.
  • Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery
    • I've gotten quite a few adults to read this one, as there's a lot of interest in Temple Grandin and autism right now. I bought it in may and it has checked out 8 times and is currently checked out (Catholic school)
  • Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
    • I bought a lot of Titanic books last year, but mostly for younger kids. I went back and forth on this one, but Cybils puts it forth and it's on my February order list.
Non-Fiction Picture Books
  • Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet
    • I bought this in March because so many people were talking about it, but picture book biographies really, really do not do well at my library. I cheated and put it in the 791's and it has checked out 7 times, which is pretty good.
  • Dolphin Baby! by Nicola Davies
    • I was sure I had bought this, but then realized that it was Davies' Just Ducks I bought and I just borrowed Dolphin from another library to use in storytime. It's on my February order list and will probably be cataloged in picture books, where I put most nonfiction that works well as read-alouds.
  • Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be? by Janet Halfmann
    • Like this one, which I put in the concept books. I bought it in May and it has checked out 8 times. Concept books are in the play area, so most of them get their use with people reading in the library, plus I and my colleague had it checked out for long periods for storytime and then I lent it to various daycares for long periods, so that's why the numbers are a bit low.
  • Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin
    • I bought this one in September and it has checked out 3 times.
  • Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman
    • This one is interesting, but it's not going to circ well (if at all) at my library. Did not purchase.
  • Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter
    • I went back and forth on this one - on the one hand, picture book biographies don't circ well, on the other hand, pandas! It looks like it's circ'ing very well at other libraries in the consortium, so I'll go ahead and buy it. On the February order list.
  • Nic Bishop Snakes by Nic Bishop
    • Bought, of course, in September. Has circ'd 5 times and is currently checked out.
I almost never buy poetry. We have shelves of it in the juvenile nonfiction, most of it dusty and old, with little to no circulation. I did try to weed some a few years ago, but that didn't work out. I generally only buy poetry books that can be cataloged as picture books.
  • BookSpeak! Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas
    • Did not purchase.
  • In the Sea by David Elliott
    • This one I purchased in May and put into the picture books. I've also used it in storytime. It has circulated 11 times.
  • Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis
    • I received a review copy of this and thought it was hilarious, but would probably get me into trouble if I added it to the juvenile collection. So, I put it into YA last August and it has circ'd 3 times, which is pretty good, and doesn't count all the kids who read it in the ya room and snicker.
  • Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge
    • Did not purchase.
  • National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! compiled by J. Patrick Lewis
    • This one I would like to buy, but I am afraid it will just blend into all the dead poetry anthologies sitting on the shelves. Put it on the backlist to buy at some future point when I am allowed to weed the 811s.
  • UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian
    • We have a lot of Douglas Florian and unless they're on a Battle of the Books list they sit on the shelf, gathering dust. Did not purchase.
  • Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs
    • I meant to buy this one, because I can put it into picture books, but I somehow forgot. Added to my February order.
Young Adult Fiction
  • Boy21 by Matthew Quick
    • Put on the voting board. Did not purchase, although it's a possibility for the future.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    • Adults asked me for this one. I bought it in June and it's gone out 8 times and is on hold.
  • Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
    • Put on the voting board. Did not purchase, although it's a possibility for the future.
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
    • Put on the voting board. Did not purchase, although it's a possibility for the future.
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    • Received through Junior Library Guild in April. Has checked out 4 times.
  • Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
    • Put on the voting board. Did not purchase, although it's a possibility for the future.
  • Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson
    • Put on the voting board. Did not purchase, although it's a possibility for the future.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This week at the library; or, Rainy skies await me!

  • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
  • Preschool Interactive
  • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
  • Lego Club
  • We Explore Winter (Pattie)
Random Commentary
  • I am excited that the local Catholic school, St. Pat's, called me to set up a remote collection in their middle school classrooms. I've visited them and suggested this several times. They do have a little school library and a part-time volunteer librarian, but it's all donations so they rarely have new books. I picked out about 35 fantasy, fiction, and non-fiction books for the teacher to choose from and she's going to keep them in her classroom for the kids.
  • We had a department meeting with the new head of the Parks and Recreation department (sort of, I guess she's actually just recreation maybe? But I'm used to saying Parks and Rec). Hopefully we will have lots of good collaboration in the future, but there are a lot of changes and challenges ahead. How does your library work with your local parks and recreation department? Inquiring minds want to know!
  • I was so busy over the winter programming break that I never had time to put together my storytimes, meaning that now I'm doing them the day before every week. Not good, especially when the books I want are checked out. Argh.
  • Random House sent me a selection of new and reprinted Little Golden Books. Now, they are not really something I am going to review, but they did inspire me to start a new tub for...Little Golden Books! So I'll be buying more of these in the future. (I keep tubs for 8x8 books and paperbacks - so far we have Barbie, Disney, Disney Princesses, Nick Jr - Olivia, Spongebob, Star Wars, Superheroes, Dora, Berenstain Bears, Thomas, Curious George, and Little Critter. I got this idea from the Batavia Public Library)
  • I KNOW the kids at the middle school are not allowed even the faintest whiff of inappropriate language (as witness the questioning I underwent when I brought Math Doesn't Suck) so why do they think they can use bad language at the library? Argh!
  • I left for ALA Midwinter on Friday, so Pattie did a winter storytime. I don't know what she did, but I'm sure it was fun.
  • As you read this, I will be at ALA Midwinter, attending committees, seeing new books, and enjoying the lovely weather!

Friday, January 25, 2013

What happens next? by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

This crossed my radar some time ago, but the "flip the flap" had me worried it was a lift the flap book, which don't last long in my library. We are hard on our books. So I had to wait until someone else bought it!

Yay! It's not a lift the flap, more a turn the flap. The pages are a kind of slick cardstock, with half-pages to be the flap. The first spread is part of the endpaper and shows a chameleon on the left and a grasshopper on the half page. Turn the page and the the pictures match up to show THWAP! the chameleon eats the grasshopper.

There are five scenarios. The last spread (included endpaper) shows small cameos of the all the animals and has a little lift-the-flap of a girl drawing her own picture.

Besides the chameleon eating the grasshopper, there's a beaver building a home, peacock spreading its tail, honeybee guiding the hive, and chimpanzees eating termites.

What makes this unique is not only the design of the book, and the brilliant pictures, but the selection of scenarios is much more than just the average food chain/metamorphosis examples you usually see in children's books.

Verdict: The bright colors, simple text, and interactive elements will make this a great book for toddler storytime. However, the book is written in a way that makes room for dialogue with older children as well. There's a whole series of these books and I would recommend buying them all.

ISBN: 9780763662646; Published 2012 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On the run by Clara Bourreau, translated by Y. Maudet

I wavered on buying this - the reviews didn't sound very enthusiastic and it's translated from a French novel. European fiction is often a bit too morally ambiguous and depressing for my little midwestern town. I finally decided to purchase it because it was short and about a kid whose dad was in prison. I glanced at it when it came in, but didn't have time to read it. When I later received a review copy, I did sit down and read the whole thing and now I rather wish I hadn't bought it.

Anthony hasn't seen his dad in years because he's traveling - he's a wildlife photographer. At least, that's what he always thought. But he's getting older and has started realizing there are family secrets. He sneaks into his older sister's room and reads her letters from Dad, discovering the truth; his dad is a bank robber and he's in jail. Anthony has vague ideas about building a relationship with his dad, especially when he escapes from prison, but reality sets in and nothing is the way he had expected. In the end, he helps his dad escape the police and the story ends on a morally ambiguous note, as Anthony promises himself he'll always be there for his dad.

This story could be a starting point for a lot of discussions about crime, its effect on families, loyalty to a parent, and what it's like to have a parent in jail. But there were a lot of oddities in the characters that will make this a difficult read for the average kid in my town. Anthony is supposed to be in third grade. He still sleeps with a night light (when he's not sneaking into bed with his sister for comfort) and his family kept his dad a secret because he's so young. However, while he's hiding out with his dad he meets a girl, the daughter of one of the policemen chasing his dad, and she decides to make him her boyfriend and there is kissing implied. I don't know a lot of nine year old boys who would want to kiss a girl. There are lots of little jarring notes like that throughout the book, as well as the ethical issues.

Verdict: Some foreign books translate well, both text and culture wise, some don't. This one, in my opinion, doesn't. Some kids will probably read it and get something out of it, but I can't see any of my kids with parents in prison being at all interested in this. If you're looking for realistic fiction about kids with parents in jail, this isn't it.

ISBN: 9780385742764; Published 2012 by Delacorte Press/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for my library

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Two Horse Series

I usually buy series at the beginning of the year, so I save up notes for myself all year long about what new nonfiction series we need. We need a new horse series. The one we currently have covers the different breeds, but it's old, very text-heavy, and doesn't have enough pictures. Mostly younger kids ask for the horse, dog, and cat breed books.

I asked Bearport if they had anything, since they are my go-to nonfiction people and they offered me a sample from an older series, Horse Power, which showcases the jobs of different types of horses. This particular volume is Race Horses by Michael Sandler. It follows the general format for Bearport's narrative nonfiction with an overarching story - a new race horse, Barbaro running a 2006 race - with additional information and history grouped around it. However, this is just a little too old. Weird to say something from 2007 is too old, but Bearport's style makes the contemporary story date a little too fast. Nobody knows who Barbaro is anymore, especially since he died at the end of the race. That was a little unexpected and I was surprised they chose this particular story to form the book around. There's also books on military, police, show, therapy, and working horses.

The second series I tried, Horse Breed Roundup, is produced by Bellwether Media. I don't think I've ever looked anything of theirs before. They were listed in SLJ's new series listing. Each book covers a different horse breed. This particular one is The American Saddlebred Horse by Rachel Grack. It's 24 pages long, a little smaller than picture book size, about 8x8. There's an introduction to the breed, history, description of how the horses are shown, list of some famous horses, and a brief "where the breed is now" kind of section. There's a glossary, bibliography, and index. This one is a little thin on information, and I found the lengthy section on different paces utterly boring, but it's what the kids will want - pictures and information.

Verdict: The Bearport series might work if you want a series on working horses, but it's just a little too old. I would love it if they brought out a new series like Cat-ographies, only for horses. Meanwhile, although Horse Breed Roundup isn't perfect, it will do and I will probably add a selection of the titles, but not all ten. I have a budget to watch!

Race Horses by Michael Sandler
ISBN: 1597163988; Published 2007 by Bearport; Review copy provided by the publisher.

The American Saddlebred Horse by Rachel Grack
ISBN: 9781600146541; Published 2012 by Bellwether Media; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Select titles added to January order list

Saturday, January 19, 2013

This week at the library; or, Back to full programming

  • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
  • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
  • Preschool Interactive
  • Learning Curve (3 visits)
  • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
  • Tibbets (Kindergarten)
  • Messy Art Club
  • We Explore
Random Commentary
  • We're back to full programming speed and this week was also the book sale, starting on Thursday and running through Saturday.
  • I think I've conquered the urge to work 50 hours a week, so I can relax about keeping track of my hours (at least until summer).
  • With all the hoopla over ebooks, I'd like to put this in perspective. Our big change this year was deleting the rest of our vhs and audiocassettes. This is Very Traumatic for many of our patrons. This week I had a lady CRYING because we are deleting our audiocassettes.
  • Yay for flu season. Me, my aide, and a number of other staff are feeling icky, but work goes on and who has substitutes? Share the love, share the germs. On the bright side, I did not actually throw up on the kids.
  • We were supposed to have a We Explore Kindermusik session on Friday, but the presenter called on Wednesday to cancel. I called all over the place looking for a sub, but no good. So then I had to contact everyone who had signed up, change all the publicity, plan a different program...some days I wish I'd just stayed in bed. I ended up just pulling a bunch of interactive/favorite stories (Jan Thomas, pop-ups, etc.) and having beading and pipe cleaners to craft with. About 25 people wandered in.
  • I was going to leave after the We Explore program because I was working Saturday and then staying to be the available staff person for the book sale, but..yeah, that didn't really happen. Whatever.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Chicken Doesn't Skate by Gordan Korman

This isn't the best of Gordon Korman's work, but it's still pretty funny. It's told from a variety of viewpoints and it's mostly a funny story about coincidences and different people working together. Mostly funny.

Adam is obsessed with hockey, but as a stereotypical jock he's not very bright and failed sixth grade science. Zachary is obsessed with his horror screenplays, and as a stereotypical nerd gets constant wedgies and is picked on by Adam and the other jocks. Milo is a typical science nerd; the teacher is thrilled with him because his dad is an important scientist, but Milo doesn't see what the big deal is and hates having to move from California to Minnesota when his parents divorced. Milo decides to focus on the life cycle of a chicken for his science project.

Then Kelly Marie goes nuts over "Henrietta", Milo's science project. Henrietta ends up as the hockey team's mascot, everyone goes crazy over the chicken, especially the science teacher even though, as the coach says, "the chicken doesn't skate."

Of course, this is a Gordon Korman story, so it's not going to have a completely typical ending. The hockey team does win its game, but not without the help of Henrietta, a last-minute surprise talent of Zach's, and some interference from Kelly Marie.

The three main characters were pretty heavily stereotyped and I found Zachary's screenplays annoying, but I don't think this will bother most readers. Reluctant readers especially will like the change of viewpoint in each chapter and the piling on of funny and wacky accidents and events.

Verdict: This was reprinted in 2011 with a shiny new cover. If you have any hockey fans, I'd say it's worth adding to your collection, otherwise not so much as there's a lot of discussion of hockey included, about equal with the funny chicken incidents.

ISBN: 0590853015; Published 1996 by Scholastic; Don't remember where I got this, Bookmooch I think?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

Ben is sleepy and then furious when his dad drags him out of bed to go on a road trip to rescue a border collie...then tells him he's quit his job and hockey camp won't be happening that summer. Ben figures this is just another enthusiasm from his eccentric dad, although it does explain the arguments his parents have been having recently. So, he does the only thing he can think of: invites Theo, his best friend whom his dad dislikes, to join them. Accompanied by Atticus, who has his own views on this crazy trip, they find themselves on a wild ride.

School buses, tough diner waitresses who maybe aren't so tough, racing cops, thugs, and more plunge in haphazard order, interspersed with Atticus' dry, doggy comments, until they arrive at the end of their trip, a united family once more, and are joined by a new dog.

This is the first book co-written by Gary Paulsen and his son, Jim. It's not the best of Paulsen's work, and there's definitely a lot of wish-fulfillment going on, what with the blindingly sunshiney ending, cops who go on races instead of handing out speeding tickets, etc. but it's a fun, light read. At only a little over 100 pages it will be easy for reluctant readers to pick this one up, and who doesn't love a dog story where the dog is not only alive in the end, he's joined by a new puppy? Some readers might be bothered by the chapters from Atticus' viewpoint, but I think they make nice breaks in between the endless stream of happy coincidences and tough-characters-with-hearts-of-gold. Some parents will probably be bothered by the casual attitude towards whatever Theo did to get in trouble with the police and they pick up a girl who's being sexually harassed, but there's nothing graphic.

Verdict: It's not deathless prose, but Paulsen has a lot of fans who will enjoy this and it's certainly easy to booktalk. I'd purchase it.

ISBN: 9780385741910; Published January 2013 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Added to the library's collection.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Little White Duck, a childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

One of the fun things about Cybils is reading books you might otherwise not pick up - and finding gems. I, personally, dislike graphic memoirs. I find them generally depressing, boring, and completely lacking in actual appeal to child readers. Way too many adults decide to explore their childhood through art and think the result is of interest to kids. Waaaaaay too many.

So, I was completely surprised when I found myself not only liking this book as an adult reader, but able to think of kids who would be interested in it as well. Of course, it is Graphic Universe who does a pretty good line of graphic novels; almost always something fresh and different with strong child appeal.

There are eight chapters, each one a self-contained story. Some of them are odd, some sad, some strange, some funny. Na Liu remembers mourning the death of Chairman Mao, planning how to catch rats for school, celebrating the New Year, and visiting her frightening grandmother and impoverished cousins. The stories touch on some frightening and tragic elements; famine, poverty and death, but always through the eyes of a child, not an adult.

Na Liu never falls into the trap that so many graphic memoirs do, of remembering their childhood through the eyes of an adult. She remembers as a child, with all the hopes and fears of a child. There are notes and explanations throughout, explaining Chinese customs, translating, and providing background information, but never obtrusively and never changing the tenor of the story.

Martinez' illustrations capture the stories with simple, rough drawings of the backgrounds and people. The colors are almost all earth hues, brown, green, with sharp touches of red. The panels are neatly arranged, following each story's natural progression and drawing the reader into the author's childhood. Mixing into the gray, everyday world, are Na Liu's fantastic dreams with flying storks and mythological dragons.

Verdict: While this won't be an instantly popular title, like Guinea PI or The Elsewhere Chronicles, it's a well-written, fascinating account of a childhood very foreign to most of the children in my community. With a little booktalking, it will interest a lot of kids and show them a different world.

ISBN: 9780761381150; Published 2012 by Lerner Graphic Universe; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils; Added to the library

Saturday, January 12, 2013

This week at the library; or, 2013 officially begins with vomit

  • 6th grade visits (4 programs total)
  • Lakeland (special school) visit
  • We Explore Healthy Snacking (Pattie)
Random Commentary
  • Ahhh, the first Monday of the new year. Problem with orders, staff meeting, budget meeting, inane computer questions, kid vomited all over the rug in the children's area, and then I spent the evening doing more orders. I am the queen of Amazon at my library.
  • Tuesday - middle school visit from 8am to 1pm, with a break for running errands. Another broken window. A large, mysterious stain on the carpet. 
  • Wednesday - Savage battle with publicity. You wanna know how much publicity I do? Behold. In a moment of weakness told the special ed school they could bring a class over tomorrow. Not really a big deal to prepare, but does mean I have to clean out the storyroom NOW, rather than on Friday. Or Monday. And I'll need to rearrange the room with chairs, b/c these are older kids...and big tables...well, I wanted more collaboration with them, so it's worth the extra work.
  • Thankfully remember that I am opening today. I normally work later on Thursdays. Got everything ready for the school visit, and even got lunch too. This group of kids are about preschool/kindergarten cognitively. I scooped up a bunch of my interactive books from the professional collection and they loved them all! We read There are cats in this book, Don't let the pigeon drive the bus, What will Fat Cat sit on?, The Cow loves cookies and Go Away Big Green Monster. Then I drove out to our system office for a goodbye to our youth services consultant. She'll be replaced by a contract position, which should be interesting.
  • Friday was our first program back, which I happily had nothing to do with since Pattie is the one outside performer I don't have to supervise. She's really more like a staff member that somebody else pays. Got the publicity done through March, but now I have to plan the programs! Shifting project only half-done. I was going to take publicity to the schools, but parents reported a bad accident - car accident maybe? and I thought better wait, as they are probably dealing with it. Hopefully, no one was hurt!
  • Monday 12-8
  • Tuesday 8-4:30
  • Wednesday 9-5
  • Thursday 9-4ish
  • Friday 10-6

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mister Orange by Truus Matti, translated by Laura Watkinson

It's 1943 and Linus' oldest brother, Albert, is going to war. Everything is new and hopeful, from the new shoes handed down to Albie's younger brothers to Linus' new job as delivery boy. He has Albie's superhero, Mister Superspeed, his best friend Liam, and unbounded confidence. When he meets a new customer, Mister Orange, who has a whole new way of looking at art and the world, he's on top of the world.

But the realities of war intrude and Linus realizes that being grown-up isn't as easy or simple as he thought. What difference does Mister Orange's art or Albie's imagination in his superhero drawings make? Could they have made things worse? With some help from Mister Orange, Linus regains his hope for the future, although he's lost his naivety and childhood innocence.

This is different from any other historical fiction title about World War II that I've read. It focuses on both the art and vision of Mr. Orange (Piet Mondrian) and the inner imaginative life of Linus as he grows up. Linus' interactions with his family, Mondrian, and friends are interspersed with dreams and daydreams about Mister Superspeed. It's very introspective, focusing on how Mondrian thinks his art envisions the future and how Linus interacts with that art and it becomes part of his new maturity. End notes about Mondrian and his life and work are included.

Verdict: This isn't going to be of interest to most middle grade readers. It presupposed a certain amount of contextual knowledge of life in New York during World War II and the story moves at a slow, steady pace. Most kids are going to want stories with more action and less inner thought. However, for the thoughtful child and those who like historical fiction, this would be a good choice. It's not something I'd add to my small library, but would definitely be a good purchase for a larger library with more space and variety.

ISBN: 9781592701230; Published January 2013 by Enchanted Lion; Galley provided by publisher for review; Added to summer reading prizes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Little Wings 4: The one and only Willa Bean by Cecilia Galante, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

This is yet another beginning chapter book series combining a sententious plot, saccharine fantasy, and an over-the-top female heroine (white of course). That doesn't mean there's anything particularly wrong with this series, just that it's definitely nothing new.

Willa Bean is a cupid who will eventually "help Earth kids....if they feel mad, sad, or just plain stuck." She goes to Cupid Academy with her "flying friend", an owl named Snooze, and all the Cupids live in the clouds.

Willa Bean is obsessed with things being "onlies" and is really upset when a new girl shows up with a bigger owl with glasses. Now Snooze is no longer the only owl. After lots of little contretemps, Snooze shows her that they are all special in their own way.

I don't need any more series like this and although I'm sure it would circulate, at least initially, I have other series that do as well or better. I only add new series once a year in October/November in preparation for my annual series weeding and reorganizing in December. So what am I looking for in a series? To put it in perspective, these are the new beginning and intermediate series I added to our collection in 2012, to the best of my recollection:
  • Bloodlines - for a more mature audience than most of my series, but I have older kids who are reluctant/poor readers who browse the series for things to read. These are war stories with nonfiction and I think some graphics in them.
  • Club CSI - a little higher reading level than most of my series, but kids here really like the mystery/science mash-ups
  • Club Penguin - popular internet site/cartoon tie-in. By the time they fall apart, the show won't be popular any more.
  • Disney Princesses - My own personal opinion aside, I buy what's popular and these are popular
  • EllRay Jakes - African-American main character, very funny and realistic
  • Encyclopedia Brown - I replaced all the old hardcovers with paperbacks and moved them to the series. These never go out of style.
  • Heidi Heckelbeck - popular new series about a little girl's everyday school problems, but she's also a witch.
  • I survived - hugely popular historical fiction/disaster books from Scholastic
  • Lego - Hero Factory, Lego Ninjago, chapter books. Massive popular appeal.
  • Super Chicken Nugget Boy - Captain Underpants read-alike
  • Mermaid Mysteries - very sad there turned out to be only 4 of these. They have the fairy/fantasy element without too much pink glitter
  • Superhero chapter books - I get these from Capstone. I already had a bunch of Batman and Superman, I added Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. These are well-written as well as popular and include nonfiction bits and writing prompts/questions
As you can see, my new series are about evenly divided between super popular subjects like Lego, Disney, Club Penguin, and superheroes and books with something new and interesting about them that will grab kids' attention. The two series closest to Little Wings would be Mermaid Mysteries and Heidi Heckelbeck, but both have more going for them than just the fairy element and they aren't so sickeningly sweet, so they appeal to a larger audience.

Verdict: If you need more fairy element beginning chapter series, this one is no worse than any other. However, if, like me, you have a surfeit of this type of books, pass on and get something a little more interesting like Heidi Heckelbeck or Princess Posey.

ISBN: 9780375869501; Published December 2012 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

6th Grade Visits: The ideal plan and what really happens

Once or twice a year I visit the entire sixth grade at the middle school (approximately 200 kids). I try to go around Dec/Jan and in late May/June for summer reading. This is how I generally plan for this mammoth school visit.
  • Go through slideshows of new books, lists from previous visits, new items still in processing and browse the shelves to choose approximately 50 books.
  • Put together a list and slideshow for the other staff (when kids come in to ask for the books) and for the school librarian (she also hands it out to teachers).
  • As I check out the items and load them into my milk crate and collapsible dolly, I put together a mental booktalk for each title.
  • Put together publicity, flyers, and other handouts to take to the school.
  • I start each presentation with a quick introduction, talk about upcoming programs, then the kids get to pick what books I will booktalk and I finish with a few minutes for them to come up and look and touch.
  • I see 3 groups of 2 classes each in the library and one full team (about 100 kids) in their pod. I have 30 minutes with each small group, 20 minutes for the pod. First group at 8, pod at 9, second group at 10, third group at 12. Some classes can stay longer and then we chat about the books and programs.
This is how it really works:
  • Put together stacks of books. While packing them and getting ready to make the list, kid vomits all over the children's area and then I get stuck with someone's inane computer questions. Decide to make the list later. Hope that booktalks for some of the titles I am not sure on will magically appear.
  • Leave late. Realize I am out of gas. Have 5 minutes to set up for first group. They are sleepy. I am sleepy.
  • Repack and trundle books downstairs to the pod. Set up. Hang out for 30 minutes. Realize I'm on the wrong side of the pod (due to yesterday's craziness I didn't bring my schedule). Teacher and kids help carry the tables with books to the other side, everything is a little out of whack. One class stays behind to help me repack (and get a longer look at the books)
  • Trundle everything back upstairs. Get display into the original order I had planned, with sections for each group of books. Hope no teachers are upset by my book of roadkill poetry.
  • Run back to the library for more flyers and handouts, get gas, drop flyers off at high school, back to the middle school for last presentation.
  • Depart with the enthusiasm of sixth graders and teachers and their awesome librarian ringing in my ears.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst

This is another one of those tongue-in-cheek nonfiction titles Chronicle seems to specialize in. Each full spread features a different unusual animal with humorous commentary, facts, and sometimes poetry. A few creatures have only one page instead of two.

I'd say it's more a graphic novel/novelty book than a nonfiction title. The little jokes, poems and so on made me confused as to which parts were true. It's blurbed by Lemony Snicket and the subtitle says "a mostly accurate account of some of earth's strangest animals." I didn't agree that all the animals were unusual, but as the author says it's really just the creatures he thought were weird.

Some things like the Axolotl are pretty weird. Others, like the Bar-Headed Goose are impressive, but not what I'd call unusual. I wouldn't have called the wombat unusual, but that was before I encountered THE WOMBAT SKEPTICS, so now I'd say it warrants inclusion. I'd heard of most of the creatures, but I read a lot of animal nonfiction so that's not surprising. Series type nonfiction books I mean. The last time I showed kindergarteners a picture of a narwhal they said it was a unicorn, so...yeah.

There's also information on classification, contrasting lists of ordinary and strange creatures, an index, a section on conservation, and two pages listing the kickstarter supporters, author's websites, CD of songs about unusual creatures, etc. There are no sources for the information included in the book, although presumably there are some on one of the author's websites perhaps.

I thought the sudden break into conservation tips was weird and I personally prefer photographs in nature/animal books, but as I said earlier I wouldn't consider this a strictly nonfiction book, not the kind of thing you'd read for a report or to learn more about a specific creature.

Verdict: This will be popular with kids who like weird and wacky facts and want a nice, oversized book to dip into and exclaim over and giggle and tell their friends that wombats have square poop. Just for this, it's worth adding.

ISBN: 9781452104676; Published 2012 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's wishlist

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This week at the library; Or, It's a new year!

Random Commentary
  • Another half week, now that the holidays are over. School starts on Wednesday here, so it's pretty quiet.
  • New dvd shelving so everything needed shifting (not to mention putting the shelving together. this was very painful and involved much damage to my poor hands)
  • More publicity, more collection development, more sick staff. One of my poor colleagues is starting the new year with strep and we had an orgy of disinfecting after she had to leave.
Statistics! My circulation statistics for the year came in and they are beautiful
  • Total circulation - children's, young adult, av - was 107,520
  • This is how my collection development statistics work - chart below (I round out all the numbers. It doesn't have to be exact!)
  • I put together circulation numbers in each category. There are a few minor things I don't count, I add concept books to picture books, etc.
  • I figure out what percentage of total circulation each area is
  • I figure out what percentage of the total budget each area is and divide by 11 (months I order)
  • I adjust the budget, because prices for items vary, I might be planning to weed a category, I might want more circ in an area and buy more there, etc. This is where the psychic math comes in.
  • Based on the estimated price for materials in the category, I estimate how many items in each area I can buy each month. I also factor in the Junior Library Guild levels I've already purchased and leave space for replacements, etc. I have about $1,260 each month (taking into account what I've already spent on JLG) so that leaves me a little wiggle room for replacements or additional purchases.
Circulation % of Circ Budget Monthly budget Adjusted Titles Categories Purchased
3500 3 450 41 25 5 BRD  
22500 20 3000 273 300 30 PIC (tub, concept)  
8700 8 1200 109 200 20 ESR  
4240 4 600 55 100 10 JGN  
7400 7 1050 95 150 15 JFIC (1 JLG)  
7600 7 1050 95 60 15 JSER  
8000 7 1050 95 200 15 JNF (1 JLG)  
2000 2 300 27 50 7 YGN  
5200 5 750 68 50 5 YAFIC (5 JLG)  
1100 1 150 14     holbook  
280 0.3 150 14     parenting  
380 0.4 50 5     spanish  
        100 10 replace  
            add. Copy  
    9800 891 1135   TOTAL  

I also compared to last year's statistics.
  • Picture books up by about 4,000
  • Juvenile series up by almost 2,000
  • Easy readers, juvenile fiction,  nonfiction, up about 1,000
  • Juvenile graphics up about 800
  • Boardbook circ up 100
  • Young adult graphics went up about 300, Young adult fiction about 200
Approximate hours this week
  • Wednesday, 9-5
  • Thursday, 9-5
  • Friday, 9-5