Saturday, March 30, 2013

This week at the library; or, Spring Break and I am happily not broken

Random Commentary
  • No programs this week! I've gone back and forth on doing spring break programs and my decision after last year was to only do the Annual Spring Break T-shirt Party. This year the schools are having spring break through Easter Monday, so I'm doing it then.
  • I had Wednesday and Thursday off and we're closed Friday, but on Monday and Tuesday I managed to clean out my summer reading closet, start getting ready for the t-shirt program, pull a whole bunch of display books for our upcoming poetry and earth day displays starting next week and the incubator project starting in a couple weeks and finish programs plans for a couple more weeks. On top of our adult services librarian leaving, our temp just got a job offer and our reference assistant is going on vacation, so I'll be spending a lot of time at the desk over the next few weeks.
  • Yay for vacation! This is what I plan to do:
    • Finish cleaning the kitchen
    • Clean out the "junk shelf" that I never cleaned out when I moved here over a year ago.
    • Get wire mesh to go over my container garden and hopefully foil the squirrel from his nefarious digging activities.
    • Get the rest of the bricks out of my car (long story)
    • Finish my sister's birthday present
    • Clean out my beading stash and finish all the earrings I had bought pieces for (how have I survived this long without my guinea pig earrings??)
    • Match socks (don't ask)
    • Finish cataloging my comics
    • Catalog my record collection
    • Finally use my bread stone and try out those fancy bread recipes
    • Finish reading and reviewing my No Flying No Tights books, including a special retrospective review on Elephant and Piggie books (I have 5 books read, 10 to go - some of these are short little series that I'll do together though)
    • Finish my last little stack of 2011 galleys
    • Get through at least some of the middle grade fiction Random House has been randomly sending me
    • Start making inroads on my galleys from ALA Midwinter 2013
    • Schedule reviews out through...well, let's hope for May. I have nonfiction reviews done through April, but no fiction after this week!
    • Finish some quilt projects
    • that enough?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hardy Boys Adventures: Secret of the Red Arrow by Franklin W. Dixon

Yep, you read that correctly. They are booting up the old franchise again (Nancy Drew as well - the first volume of her new series is Nancy Drew Diaries: Curse of the Arctic Star).

The story is told in the first person with Joe and Frank taking turns by chapter. After numerous legal battles and other problems, Frank and Joe have agreed to stop sleuthing - if they're caught going back to their vigilante ways, it's reform school. As part of the Deal, their father has also retired and is now writing books. Frank thinks his biggest problem now is giving a speech in public on civics and Joe is just interested in girls.

But the other kids don't know about the Deal and when a series of weird pranks start happening, culminating in a particularly frightening and painful prank played on a bully whom Frank and Joe busted for steroid use, several fellow students ask the teen sleuths for help. Frank and Joe manage to solve the mystery and get out alive, but it's only the tip of the iceberg as they discover corruption and dark secrets in Bayport. The story ends on a cliffhanger with a few chapters as a teaser for the next installment.

Before you wonder why I'm spending acres of electronic ink on...The Hardy Boys?? allow me to explain that I write this facing two six foot tall shelves filled with series from the early 20th century, especially boys' adventure series. Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, Ken Holt, Don Sturdy...yep, I love them all.

So, I had high hopes for this new series - that cover looks awesome. Was the publisher finally going to get it right and take us back to the carefree days of mystery where clues littered the ground, there's always a motorcycle and a helpful policeman around when you need one, and two brothers and a few friends can track down the bad guys, escape the death traps, and Serve Justice?

Sadly, no. The cover isn't even accurate - the boys are caught in a trickling-water deathtrap, but they're not tied up or gagged and they're trapped in a storage container - no open sky involved. This first story is mostly set up for continuing adventures, but once again the publisher tries way, way too hard to make the stories realistic and relevant while still being readable by the original middle grade audience. The thing is, Hardy Boys (and pretty much every other adventure or mystery series like this) are total fantasy and wish-fulfillment. Kids want to feel powerful, like they can make a difference. They want to read exciting adventures and imagine that they too could track down the bad guys and be famous. You don't need to tell them it's not realistic; they already know it's just for fun.

So, Frank has a crippling fear of public speaking (to make him more relatable?) and there are numerous gratuitous mentions of technology, "current" music, and that this is the 21st century. Since teens can't actually go around solving crimes, there have to be all sorts of legal problems involved. Just for fun, they add in family problems with Frank and Joe's refusal to quit sleuthing destroying their dad's job, presumably causing their mother endless worry (at least in the original books she got to cook and even had a few lines of dialogue) and putting their future in jeopardy. Apparently teenage sleuths don't get to go to college, get good jobs, and have families (yes, that's almost a literal quote).

I'm not saying these books should never be updated; the originals had a lot of extraneous text, including the random racist lines and outdated language. There's nothing wrong with adding a little technology, although being more generic would make the books last longer without feeling outdated. The first-person, alternating chapters isn't bad, although it puts pressure on the authors to make the teens sound more authentic, something that's difficult to do within the confines of the formula and which ends up with weird conjunctions of 1950s and 1990s dialogue colliding in mid-sentence, resulting in an explosion of Britney Spears and Angry Birds.

However, why break up a winning formula of light-hearted and pulse-pounding mysteries with a happy ending for all by throwing in all these extraneous problems? It's not even credible; even the boys point out that it's unbelievable that they've lived and investigated crimes in Bayport their whole lives and never even noticed this huge conspiracy going on all around them.

Verdict: I was, personally, very disappointed. Nancy Drew has always been the higher circ at my library, but my personal preference is for the Hardy Boys. Will kids check these out? Yes, despite the flaws, the cover is attractive (if misleading) and they will circ, if only briefly. I don't think these will have much staying power and I'll think twice or more about buying any of the sequels. I certainly won't buy them in hardback.

ISBN: 9781442465855; Published 2013 by Aladdin; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bunnies on Ice by Johanna Wright

Johanna Wright has done several unusual picture books; The Secret Circus, Bandits, Best Bike Ride Ever, and I always enjoy seeing something a little different, even if it doesn't quite work for my library. This one I can see many parents and kids loving, so I am excited to add it to our collection.

There's no note on how the art was done, but it looks to me like it was painted onto very thick, textured canvas. You can see the grain of the background on which the paint was laid. It adds an interesting dimension to the pictures. They're not strictly representational, but there's a warmth and coziness to the haphazard shapes that is very enjoyable.

The text is short enough to make a good read-aloud even for very young and wiggly ones, but still has an essential beauty. It captures the imagination and determination of a young bunny (or child) who is assured of her expertise and won't let anything - even a few spills - keep her from enjoying the wonders of winter.

Verdict: This won't have the instant popularity of, say, Pete the Cat, but it will win a place in many homes as a favorite bedtime or winter read and would make a great addition to storytime.

ISBN: 9781596434042; Published January 2013 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan; Galley provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013; Purchased for the library

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Cane Toad by Leon Gray

As the subtitle says, this is a book about "The world's biggest toad." It could just have easily have said "World's most disgusting toad." This one will be a sure winner with lovers of the gross and icky. It is delightfully disgusting.

I know, I know, all creatures are beautiful and so on, but really, cane toads are icky! A quick perusal of this 24 page book will inform you that they not only eat bugs and worms, but also small animals like opossums, snakes, and birds. They ooze poison out of their skin so potent that it can kill an animal even after they eat the cane toad. They are an invasive species, especially in Australia and nobody has found a way to stop them yet.

Additional information includes a comparison of the cane toad with other toads, a picture glossary, index, three more titles about toads, and a link to more information online.

This particular series, Even More Super Sized! is directed towards beginning readers and the text is simple with a large font. It compares favorably to Pebble Plus, in my opinion, with more photographs, text, and information without being too wordy or daunting for young readers. You get a lot more for your money with these titles, especially since their library bound editions are inexpensive and contain more information than just a few sentences.

Verdict: This will not only be useful for kids writing their first school reports, but also for those young readers who like everything gross and weird and want to be able to read on their own. If you're looking for more animal titles for young independent readers, I'd recommend this series. Although I wouldn't read this particular title before eating. Especially the page with the toad eating the opossum.

ISBN: 9781617727276; Published 2013 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Series added to order list

Saturday, March 23, 2013

This week at the library; or, Last week before Spring Break! and Snow, Snow, Snow

Random Commentary
  • Just to make sure I appreciate Spring Break, I had all my outreach visits this week. When it's not outreach week, I always start thinking of more outreach I could do, then outreach week arrives and I realize that my voice barely lasts through three storytimes in a row and I simply cannot do more without skipping meals, working 10 hour days, or cutting something else. I have become determined to make sure these kids graduate 4K knowing the difference between mammals and reptiles; amphibians would be a bonus.
  • I was going to finish my storytime and other program plans through May, but I'm still waiting for some of the books and ended up putting together a bunch of reading lists and cleaning out my signs/displays/handouts/reading lists folder and doing a bunch of other little things. You can check out my many awesome reading lists here under the reading lists tab.
  • Again with the snow? This is because I saw one little green spear in my garden, isn't it? However, it warmed up a bit by Thursday and I had about 50 people at Lego Club, including a deaf family that I've been trying to invite to programs for almost a month now and several new families and return visits from people who have been away because of the weather, sickness, school activities, etc. As I was leaving, a group of very forlorn Brownies showed up, saying they had somehow got locked out of the school and could they meet at the library because they were FREEZING so we put them in the teen room and the teens playing Magic went off to the quiet reading area.
  • Our ballet program has been in the works for a long time. The Dance Factory, which is located in the next town over (a whole five minutes away) asked if they could do a demo of their Angelina Ballerina program last fall, but we didn't have a date that worked for both of us until now. With my patrons and the people from the other towns (they encouraged their Angelina Ballerina dancers to come) we had about 60 people. I had expected more dancing, but they didn't realize we had so much space and were also a little worried about stepping on the toes of the dance studio in our town, Toe to Toe (heh. see what I did there?) so they mostly read Angelina Ballerina stories with actions. However, now that they've gotten a look at our space and I've assured them that I will be doing other collaborations with the other dance studio (or I plan to anyways) we'll have some more programs with more dancing and music. Anyways, the parents loved it, the kids had fun, only the really little ones got super wiggly, and they all checked out lots of my ballet books I had collected and put on hold.
  • I went home early on Friday because I work Saturday, so I was not at the library when the internet for the whole system crashed - apparently one too many people were watching March Madness basketball on the computers?!
  • Saturday - crazy, busy, phew!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A year with friends by John Seven, illustrated by Jana Christy

The cover picture doesn't really do justice to the simple pleasure of this little book. I think I saw it at ALA Midwinter and borrowed a copy as soon as I got home to investigate further. I've looked at a  couple other books Jana Christy has illustrated and while the pictures were pretty, they didn't really stick in my head. This one did.

Each spread opens with the month in the top left corner, then both pages are covered with a variety of panels, and a simple action completes the sentence. For example, " time for bugs." shows twelve mini panels, each with a different bug on the left and an exuberant small boy, racing through a meadow with a bug net held high, a stream of colorful insects tailing behind him. The two children on the front cover take turns in the illustrations, alone and together. There are more tiny illustrations in even softer pastels around the panels; tiny pumpkins in October, flowers and caterpillars in May, etc.

Verdict: The simple, colorful pictures and imaginative text are a lovely combination. I especially appreciated that the author and illustrator picked non-specific things to highlight, so this book can be easily used in many seasonal storytimes. Add this to any storytime and have fun talking about what things you and the kids like to do in any given month.

ISBN: 9781419704437; Published 2013 by Abrams/Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas! by Philippe Coudray

This is the second volume of comics about Benjamin Bear and his nameless rabbit friend. Each page is a different mini story, with a simple name "See-Saw", "Keep Going", or "Something out of nothing" for example.

The pages range from three rectangular panels to six smaller squares or a mixture. Each one has a deadpan sense of humor, with a silly twist at the very end. In "Can I get a ride?" Benjamin picks up more and more animals until in the final panel they are all carrying him. In "Hot and cold" a visibly sweating sheep complains of the heat and Benjamin helpfully shears it. Then it's too cold! In the final panel, a disgruntled Benjamin is knitting a sweater.

The simple art, with small touches of details, is perfectly suited to the dry humor of the stories. Benjamin, with his slightly fuzzy outline and almost always blank face, is the perfect vehicle for the situational humor that pops up in almost every story. The simple colors and outlines are decorated with details - a swimming fish, tiny flowers, etc.

The text is a little more complicated. This is supposed to be an easy reader, a level 2 for grades 1-2 in Toon's levels. However, each story has only a few speech bubbles, usually at the beginning, and some are wordless. Put another way, there are 56 panels with words (including those saying "ok", "thanks" or similar one word bubbles) and 66 wordless panels. Now, I agree that not every easy reader has to be crammed with new words, that there are different kind of literacy, and that Toon books do a good job of showing many different ways of reading. That's not the point. The point is, will the parents in my community (who are obsessed with lexiles, leveled readers, and making sure their kids in four year old kindergarten are "reading") want their kids to pick up this book, or will they flip it open, say "not enough words!" and put it back on the shelf? I decided not to add Fuzzy Thinking, the previous volume, so I don't have any circ stats to compare. The libraries who have it in my consortium have wildly differing numbers and have put it everywhere from picture books to beginning readers to graphic novels.

Verdict: While I originally decided to put all the Toon books in easy readers, I am going to break my rule and place Benjamin Bear in graphic novels. I think it will attract kids looking for cartoons more than kids (and parents) looking for easy readers. How this will circ depends a lot on your library and community!

ISBN: 9781935179221; Published 2013 by Toon Books/Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: What's for lunch? How schoolchildren eat around the world by Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

This book is from a Canadian press and takes the readers around the world not just looking at what kids eat for school lunch in different countries, but issues of food justice. In Tokyo, kids not only eat politely, they take turns serving the food and cleaning up. Children in refugee camps in Kenya subsist on a cup of mush distributed by the World Food Programme. Many children in Roswell, New Mexico, have free or subsidized lunches, but most of the food is heavily processed or comes from fast food outlets like Domino's Pizza or KFC. In France, the children have a meal with several courses, served family-style with real silverware and napkins. Soft drinks aren't allowed in French schools, so they all drink water.

Interspersed with the information on what children eat around the world and the various issues faced by different countries - poverty, starvation, obesity, cultural issues - there are special segments on different movements around the world. In Italy, the school kitchens are run by a local co-op that uses as much local produce as possible. In Bangladesh, seventeen boats are combining classrooms and floating gardens to try and find a way to not only supply healthy food and education, but also survive the floods that continue to increase and threaten the area. In Canada, kids attend a program at a community center that helps them learn to make healthy food choices and think about food justice around the world. In Peru, a school reclaims their Quechua heritage through a communal school garden.

A final message to teachers, parents and students discusses some of the issues surrounding food and how you can not only help others globally, but make changes in your own school. There's also a glossary included.

Verdict: This is a fascinating look at food around the world. However, it is rather wordy and I found some of the explanations of the photos confusing; they don't identify everything in the lunch and I wanted to know what some of the other food was. I don't see many kids just picking this up on their own. However, I think it's a book that teachers might be interested in using, especially paired with It's Our Garden, the book I reviewed last week. This is one I'll get because I think it's important, even if its circulation isn't really high.

ISBN: 9780889954823; Published 2012 by Red Deer Press; Borrowed from another library in our consortium; Added to the library's order list.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

This week at the library; or, All the things I have done

Random Commentary
  • I decided to list just the programs I am actively doing, not EVERYTHING even though I am involved in most of Pattie's programs - selecting books, doing registration, taking pictures, planning, etc. It's just easier this way. We did cancel Books 'n' Babies this week - I'll sub for Pattie's programs when necessary, borrowing other staff if they'll let me, but none of the staff are willing to sub for babies and frankly neither am I. Having a stranger doing the class with that age group is just pointless.
  • The Lakeland visit was from the county's special education school - they brought a small group of teens at about preschool developmental level and I did a brief tour and then storytime with them. Of course, one of the highlights was putting pennies in our spiraling well thingy. I keep a supply for small tour groups like this. The storytime was AWESOME. Sometimes the kids just stare and don't respond, but as I read books they got more involved and even the most inarticulate ones were waving their hands by the end! We read Go away big green monster by Emberley, Squeaky door by MacDonald, Don't let the pigeon drive the bus and What will fat cat sit on by Thomas. I worked really hard on doing a performance, rather than interactive where the kids jump up and down and it paid off - the teachers loved it too. I admit I am not an ideal special ed person, although I do try, but hearing the guys laugh was great!
  • I didn't get any good pictures from the fire safety program. Only about 25 people came and they sort of trickled in, but the weather was rather gloomy and I don't think I marketed this program enough. The firefighter who did the program was awesome - he has a five year old, so he's comfortable with small kids. He showed them all his gear and talked about fire safety, then he sloooowly suited up. We did have a couple kids diving for the safety of mom's lap, but nobody actually cried! He showed a slideshow of fire truck picture and a cute utube video about fire safety and then we went and looked at the truck. The kids' favorite thing was stepping on the toes of his boots to see how hard they were! We finished right as it started sleeting, so that worked out well. I hung out with the parents and chatted afterwards and everyone enjoyed the program, so it was good.
  • I had a lot of little things and big projects to finish this week and decided to keep a log, to make sure everything got done and, as I periodically do, check on my efficiency and general completed-ness. So here it is, more or less in order and not including all the minor things like updating the website, tidying the teen displays, reader's advisory, reference questions, telling off the teens for eating hamburgers in the library, looking over boxes of new books, etc. etc. etc. 
    • Updated paperwork for Kohls grants
    • Scheduled preschool visits for April (this is a whole preschool that comes every year)
    • Sent Baker & Taylor and Amazon orders (NOT helped by stupid copier breaking down)
    • Made a new flyer for 1,000 books before kindergarten for community distribution (dr.'s office asked for one)
    • Staff meeting (Including discussion of the middle school problems and some issues our consortium is facing. There are, oddly enough, quite a few similarities between the two...)
    • Phone tag with a 4-H theater group that wants to meet in the Storyroom
    • Despite a constant stream of interruptions, I managed to go through all my programs from now through May and put together a supply order list, excepting a few things I still need from Walmart, including t-shirts which I won't know until closer to the date. I am keeping two budget lists now, one of expenses and one broken down by type of supply and program so I can do one giant order at the beginning of the year instead of lots of little ones - plus, I will be able to see how much each program cost, more or less.
    • Did a tour and meet 'n' greet with our last candidate for the adult svs position
    • Processed all the new books left from last week.
    • Confirmed community room dates with Parks and Rec through August and suggested some collaboration.
    • Posted the children's programs survey (and realized it was really too long to print out so we're going to just go with online responses now) (which is not going too well and maybe this was an idea that needed to gell more. oh well.)
    • Transcribed the staff meeting minutes (I am the official notetaker)
    • Ordered some titles we are missing from Amazon UK (looked at Book Depository, but they didn't have quite what we needed)
    • Ordered die cuts, a process fraught with annoyance
    • Completed program plans for storytimes and programs from Wednesday of this week through the end of March.
    • Picked all the books for storytimes through May. Placed on hold or checked out.
    • Put books on hold for ballet display for program next week
    • Went through my stack of catalogs and review journals and transferred everything I had marked as possible purchases to Baker and Taylor carts.
    • Completed written narratives for United Way grants.
    • Updated what's happening flyers, created new publicity flyers for programs through May (except two programs) but couldn't print them b/c of the copier STILL hating us! Also had to update the calendar and registration info. 
    • Finally got all the publicity printed and distributed to schools. Took forever b/c I had to print them one sheet at a time and then manually remove them from the feeder. ARGH.
    • Sorted the accumulated children's donations. Not much worth keeping though.
    • Sent order for board books for Rubber Ducky Readers! Funding for this came from United Way.
    • Wrote a recommendation for a colleague
    • Finally cleared out the rest of the paper misc. stash on my desk including lists of manga recommendations from a teen patron
    • Finished copying possible lexiled books from the massive list Scholastic generously allows you to download, but not browse. Came out to 23 pages, 15 of which I now have to check for availability and reformat. I have been working on this project for MONTHS.
    • Created a stock of book bundles
    • Took list of lexile books and checked for availability in catalog, formatted, and added descriptions.
    • Then took the 15 pages and individually looked up each title in Scholastic for the lexile and points.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Grandma and the great gourd, retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters

This story may be familiar to you from a previous retelling, No Dinner! by Jessica Souhami. This new, brightly colored version has quite a bit more text and would make a good read-aloud for an older audience.

Grandma loves gardening and lives all alone with her two dogs, Kalu and Bhulu. One day, she decides to visit her daughter. Along the way through the jungle, she encounters a fox, bear, and tiger all wanting to eat her. She convinces them to wait until she is on her way back; she'll taste much better after some of her daughter's cooking. Grandma and her daughter come up with a clever plan to get her safely back home; she hides in a big gourd and goes rolling home. She successfully tricks the tiger and bear, but the clever fox figures out her trick and breaks the gourd. Fortunately, Grandma still has her two loyal dogs nearby and they protect her from the fox.

The author's dedication says this story was originally told to her by her grandfather and the author bio says she was born in India. There are no other sources for the story, but it seems to be a fairly common one. I would have liked a little glossary for some of the unfamiliar words, especially a pronunciation guide for the different names, but you can figure most of them out from the context.

Susy Waters' art has a naive, primitive feel. The colors and lines are broad and bold, the backgrounds full of abstract shapes and splashy images. It looks like a variety of techniques were used in the art. Some images look like stamps or prints, while other, finer lines, are delicately layered on top of splashes of color.

Verdict: This is a little longer than I'd normally use in storytime, but it has enough repetitive phrases and interesting words to keep the attention of older preschoolers or kindergarteners. Even if you have No Dinner! I think this is worth buying to enjoy with an older audience.

ISBN: 9781596433786; Published March 2013 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan; F&G provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013; Purchased for the library

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: It's our garden: From seeds to harvest in a school garden by George Ancona

 I'm looking at two related books, one this week and one next week. These books focus on healthy eating and outdoor education in connection with schools.

It's our garden tells the story of a special school/community garden center over the course of one year's growing season at Acequia Madre Elementary School in Santa Fe. There are plentiful photographs of the garden and the children, teachers, and parents who use it.

The story opens with an introduction to the gardeners and volunteers who run the garden, the work the kids do to get it ready, compost, plant, care for, and harvest. There are photos and descriptions of community events in the garden during the summer, as well as information on how plants are tended and grow. The photographs are interspersed with kids' drawings of the garden. There are also descriptions of the many different educational activities that go on in the garden during the school year. There's a traditional adobe horno (oven) that bakes bread and pizza - topped with vegetables from the garden of course! The book finishes with a list of acknowledgements of those who collaborated, books suggested by Sue McDonald, the main caretaker of the garden, and websites.

Verdict: This is an inspiring story of a community working together, building not only healthy habits and learning about gardens and food, but building families and community. I'm even more enthusiastic about working with our schools to build a children's garden at the library, something I've scheduled on my idea list for 2015ish. In the meantime, I'll be taking this on my visits to the schools and seeing if any teachers are interested. Oh, and kids will enjoy this too - who doesn't like photographs of kids, gardens and food? Best for younger kids and in a classroom setting probably, although it does have many ideas that would be fun to do at home.

ISBN: 9780763653927; Published 2013 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased from the library

Saturday, March 9, 2013

This week at the library; or Thinking about next year

Random Commentary
  • The cover on the latest issue of American Libraries annoys me. It's supposed to represent the Emerging Leaders but looking at the photos on the inside does not match what I see on the cover. White girl in the front, of course, all three super skinny and, in my opinion, drawn to go with what I frequently see as a push to reimage librarians as young, urban, and hip. Not that some librarians aren't, but would it have killed them to NOT put a skinny girl on the cover?
  • I made a lot of changes last year to our programming structure and scheduling. I don't want to make constant changes, but now that we've been doing it this way for over six months, I see some potential changes I would like to make. I had a three-day weekend and I spent some of it designing a survey, tentative schedule, and thinking how I would present it to my director, school colleague, and patrons. When the idea fairy strikes, you just have to go with it!
  • Cancelled Toddlers 'n' Books on Tuesday in expectation of a heavy winter storm. Turned out snowy, but not really enough to justify cancelling, but people have to expect that when I've got an outside programmer like Pattie who doesn't work in the library.
  • The Headstart visit was just a tour, then Pattie did a storytime and they had lunch. It's 0-3 Headstart, so this is mostly her age anyways.
  • Then I found one of my new books with crayon scribbles all over it.
  • And...the bunny...the toilet...WHY?
  • This was a long week. After having Monday off, I stayed late on Tuesday because I got caught up in some stuff, then MSM took longer to clean up than I expected and I stayed late Wednesday, then I stayed really late on Thursday to meet some of our interviewing candidates...but I did go home early on Friday!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pomelo Explores Color by Ramona Badescue and Benjamin Chaud

After several readings, I became intrigued by Pomelo. It's certainly different, but it grows on you. So I thought I'd try out his next book. This one is different than the first, but still different in the same way, if you get my meaning.

First, it's an oddly formatted book. It's about 6x6 inches square and very thick and it has about 60 pages. It cycles through a variety of colors, starting with "When everything begins to seem black and white, Pomelo looks around and suddenly rediscovers...the silent white of the blank page."

It goes on through different whites, then yellows (I foresee some parents complaining about "the always different yellow of wee-wee"). Each different type of color nuance has a separate page. "the acidic yellow of lemon" is cute, with Pomelo having little shaky lines around him as he touches the lemon with his trunk. After yellow comes orange, "the melancholy orange of autumn" and then "the promising red of ripening strawberries". Some of the comparisons are solid objects, others are more abstract like "the explosive red of anger" and "the starry-eyed pink of romance." The book continues to cycle through brown, purple, blue, green, gray, and back to black. It ends with a rainbow.

The art has a distinctive European flavor. There are, of course, lots of strong, bold colors and lines but there's also odd shapes, unique to this artist's style. I think kids would like the small format and the different comparisons and colors, but some of the vocabulary seems very advanced for the age of child who normally reads concept/color books. Many of the comparisons seem to be more abstract as well.

Verdict: It's interesting, but I still can't decide if I want to buy it or not. Is it too old for its audience? Too European for my small town? I have put it into my backlist wishlist until I can decide.

ISBN: 9781592701261; Published October 2012 by Enchanted Lion Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where's Leopold? Your Pajamas are Showing! by Michel-Yves Schmitt, art by Vincent Caut

One morning, Leopold wakes up with a mysterious new power: He can make himself invisible! In a series of comic strips, Leopold and his sister Celine deal with his newfound power.

Of course, what is an approximately six year old boy going to do with powers of invisibility? Well...blackmail his sister for caramels, play fart jokes, and get into all kinds of mischief is a good guess.

The art has all the cartoon conventions kids will recognize from comic strip books - bulging eyes, shocked surprise, and a variety of physical humor. There's quite a bit of detail in the settings, but nothing too elaborate to distract from the stories.

I read this as an egalley, so it's not very easy to tell exactly how the layout will look in the final book, but I liked the simple panel progression and it looks like it will be one short story per page, with an occasional story lasting two pages. The book is only 40 pages long, so this is a pretty slim volume, but it's funny and the cartoon style of drawing will attract young readers.

Verdict: Not a required choice, but an excellent addition to the small but growing number of comics for beginning and intermediate readers. I don't think the library bound editions are worth the cost, for only 40 pages, but Lerner's paperbacks are quite sturdy.

ISBN: 9781467707695; Published April 2013 by Lerner Graphic Universe; egalley provided by the publisher through NetGalley; Added to a tentative order list.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Butterflies

 I did a butterfly program for Messy Art Club at the end of January and was icked out when I went to pull butterfly books and realized that while we had quite a few new ones, we also had some very old and icky titles as well. So I requested a big stack from other libraries to look at some additional titles (we already have Nic Bishop, Dianna Hutts Aston, etc.).

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons. I like Gail Gibbons' older titles better than her newer ones. This is a simple explanation of the life cycle of a monarch from egg through metamorphosis and migration. It includes instructions on hatching butterflies and some additional monarch butterfly facts. Unfortunately, I'm really going for more photographs in my nonfiction and this is just too old - 1989. Even updated, some things I think have changed, including new information on the monarch's migration path.

Fly, Monarch, Fly by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. This information book about monarchs is written in the form of a story as a family of bunnies goes to a butterfly sanctuary. There are little crafts interposed. However, I found this a bit too long for reading aloud and I didn't really like the narrative. It was a bit bland. I have a lot of butterfly books in the picture books and if I want something to read aloud in storytime I'd use Nic Bishop's Moths and Butterflies or Dianna Hutts Aston's A Butterfly is Patient. The cut paper illustrations here aren't bad, but they're just too blocky and simplistic for the age of the audience that would sit still for this amount of text.

 Eggs, Legs, Wings: A butterfly life cycle by Shannon Knudsen, illustrated by Simon Smith. This is an entry in Capstone's First Graphics series. I reviewed some of these for No Flying No Tights and was not a fan, but this one works pretty well. The comic format is excellent for showing the stages of the butterfly's life and while the illustrations aren't amazing, they're very life-like and as close to photographs as possible. The reading level is about grade 1-2 and this is something I'd put into the easy reader section (where I already have some butterfly books, including National Geographic's migrations series). I think this would be useful for kids wanted to read on their own about the butterfly life cycle.
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A step-by-step guide for kids by Carol Pasternak. This is a very detailed guide to a butterfly's life cycle, focused on raising them yourself or as a class. This would be most suitable for an older middle grade audience as the print is fairly small and there's a lot of detail and text. There are, however, lots and lots of gorgeous photographs. I can see a lot of teachers wanting to use this in their classrooms, or kids doing a science project.

Inside Butterflies by Hazel Davies, illustrations by Melisa Beveridge. This is the most complete guide. It has lots of different butterflies and is packed with photographs, facts, information, drawn diagrams and pictures, and more. It does have 10 fold-out pages and I thought it was really annoying and unnecessary that some opened to the side and some to the top. I was also a little disturbed that the final section on collection seems to be encouraging kids to start their own butterfly collection with no cautions on rare or endangered butterflies, not to mention that with all the historic collections available online and in museums, do we really need to kill any more butterflies?
However, despite these drawbacks, it really is the best new browsing guide I could find that includes lots of different butterflies and information.

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons
ISBN: 082340773x; Published 1989 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Fly, Monarch, Fly! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
ISBN: 9780761454250; Published 2008 by Marshall Cavendish; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Eggs, Legs, Wings: A butterfly life cycle by Shannon Knudsen, illustrated by Simon Smith
ISBN: 9781429653671; Published 2011 by Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

How to raise Monarch Butterflies: A step-by-step guide for kids by Carol Pasternak
ISBN: 9781770850019; Published 2012 by Firefly; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Inside Butterflies by Hazel Davies
ISBN: 9781402778742; Published 2011 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This week at the library; or, Why don't I have a publicity fairy?

Random Commentary
  • Oy, what a week. Staff meeting on Monday, frantic rush to get newsletter done, which I wouldn't have managed without the help of our temp librarian. Grant-writing, budgeting, and vigorous discussions about current calendar and registration system (conclusion: inconclusive). Also trying to simultaneously plan the next 3 months and summer.
  • I gave the middle school kids fair warning. I told them our director was wrestling with the annual report and I was dealing with the newsletter and we would GIVE NO WARNINGS.
  • Many other things happened but I am too tired to talk about them.
  • It snowed again.
  • And again.
  • And I haven't even started on the publicity. I have an idea fairy, why couldn't I have a publicity fairy? Why?

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Stone Hatchlings by Sarah Tsiang, art by Qin Leng

This story isn't perfect, but it sparked off several ideas for me, which makes it worthy of inclusion in our picture book collection.

Abby finds two stones in her backyard. Despite her family's loving exasperation, she insists they are eggs and must be hatched. Once hatched, the birds must be cared for. But birds can't live indoors forever and one day Abby must set her beloved birds free.

This is a lovely story of imagination and wonder. I especially love the picture of the birds with their speckled gray stone bodies and iridescent wings. It's not perfect; some of the perspectives in the art are a bit off and the text is a little lengthy in certain spots. Some of the pictures are too small to be seen well and there is more white space that could have been used. However, this story is not only a delightful read, despite its flaws, it also easily lends itself to a variety of activities.

First and foremost of course, would be decorating and painting stones! Creating your own imaginary friends, drawing birds, you could also use this with several bird crafts. There's a really nice bird mobile craft in Paper Scissors Glue by Catherine Woram that would work well, although it needs a little preparation. Read this story and watch your imagination fly!

Verdict: As I said, not a perfect book but a lovely sentiment and has some very delightful moments. A recommended purchase if it sparks your imagination as it did mine.

ISBN: 9781554514335; Published June 2012 by Annick Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to an order list.