Saturday, May 31, 2014

This week at the library; or, Preparation, Perspiration, and why, yes, I AM totally insane

  • Elementary School Visit
Random Commentary
  • I don't really like summer. Nothing to do with programs or being busy - that's cool. It's the weather I hate. Ugh. Hot, sticky, sunny. Just, ugh. Not my thing. Anyways, in between trying to coax the little bit of cool air in one end of my tiny apartment around the shelves, down the hallway, and into the bedroom, I worked like crazy to finish all the myriad things for summer reading, mostly programming but also supervising decorations, marketing, inventory, etc. It's awfully relaxing to have an associate and aides to do the decoration, something I majorly suck at (and don't have any time for anyways).
  • I also did one of my big school visits on Friday with my associate - I only needed to see Kindergarten through 4th grade, so about 400 kids. Summer spiel, booktalking, rinse, repeat, sore throat. My associate is confident that she can take over some of the spiel at our next visit and I'm excited! Half the talking, less sore throat!
  • On top of that, because I felt that summer really wasn't tough enough, the big project this week was moving the teen area! You enter our library downstairs by the information desk and circulation desk. There's a quiet magazine area, adult fiction, adult av, then at the back is the children's area. In between is a no man's land of very tall shelves (audiobooks and back issues of magazines) and computers. If you choose to go past the information desk the other way, you will come to the stairs. Upstairs there is a second computer lab, study rooms, the genealogy library (run by the genealogical society not us, thank god) a large room facing the computer lab that was originally reference but is now teen and to the left all the adult nonfiction and a sort of nook that overlooks the lobby which currently houses adult graphic novels, adult Spanish, local history, and the microfilm machine (i.e. everything we didn't know what to do with). There is a reference desk by the teen room and computer lab, but it's never staffed (we can barely staff the information desk, let alone the children's desk, never mind the upstairs desk).
  • The teens were originally moved out of the nook because they were in dire need of more supervision. The current teen room is large and reasonably attractive if somewhat old-fashioned (it's part of the original building, 114 years old). However, even with security cameras and staff in the offices next to the computer lab, there still isn't enough supervision. We are inundated every day with middle school and high school students. A small portion of them come to study, browse, and wait for a pickup. A much larger, and more problematic number, come to "hang out" often for hours (or until they get kicked out). Some of the things staff, patrons, and other teens themselves have complained about include bad language, rough-housing, making out, disrespect, general noise, theft, bullying and vandalism (including displays in the teen area. yes, even when they helped make them)
  • Basically it's not fair to ask the teens to be completely quiet and adult. It's also not fair to the teens who actually want to use the library that they have to put up with all the yahoos and we don't have the staff to supervise that many areas as closely as they need to be watched (incidentally, there is an after school center in town, but the problem teens won't go there - I've never gotten a good explanation why, but I suspect it's a combination of not wanting to be that closely supervised and having to walk farther). Also, the new adult services librarian would like to make a lot of changes in the adult areas upstairs and for the number of teens actually using that space, it's going to waste.
  • In a perfect world, someone would donate millions of dollars and we'd renovate the basement into a teen area and a middle school area and hire a librarian to staff it and....yeah, we don't live in that world.
  • So, the decision was made. The audiobooks will go upstairs, the shelves will be shifted into a kind of U shape, and the teens will come downstairs. This is the basic "get everything where it's supposed to go" move. We will eventually need to purchase new furniture, specifically for the computers. We're definitely going to get the opac computer out of there and wall-mounted (anybody know an inexpensive way to mount a catalog station on the wall?). Hopefully at some point we'll get rid of the shelf standing alone and replace it with a single-sided shelf, since browsing in a 3 foot walkway isn't very handy. We'll have room for more furniture when the computers are downsized from their current massive desks.
  • The end result - this area is smaller. The teens won't have as much freedom, since they're right next to the kids' area. It's unlikely that we'll ever have even a part-time teen librarian, since there's nowhere for a desk. There will be a lot less "hanging out" at the library. Am I a little sad? Yes. However, I confidently expect some good things too. Higher circulation, since they'll be in proximity to the YS desk and have someone to ask for recommendations. The misbehaving kids will be out in no time flat because there will be someone (me) in close supervision to keep the area friendly and welcoming to all. As we've seen in the past, when we get rid of the bad apples, the kids who actually want to use the library show up. I don't foresee any problems in getting them to use the new area since a lot of middle schoolers and teens already trek down to the children's area to say hi to me and chat. The rules will be a lot simpler - upstairs quiet, downstairs indoor voices. We'll still have Middle School Madness and Teens on Screen - we'll just be using the storyroom.
  • During the final parts of the move on Friday, the big group of problem kids came in, looked around, chatted a bit, and left almost immediately. I had 3+ reader's advisory questions for teen books. I'd call that a success already! There are still things to move and shift and signage etc. to do, but everything is more or less in the right place.
(I'll have more pictures later - someone else took these for me, as you can tell by the quality)
The old audiobook area, waiting for the shelves to be moved

YA books and the shelves
(had to be removed so the city guys could dismantle and move the big shelves)
The new organization. The back wall needs...something.
One of the big computer desks has been pushed against the wall to the left.
Some empty shelves - will probably shift the ya fiction around some
Nonfiction and audiobooks immediately behind the seating
Magazines in the corner. I need to adjust the shelves - you can't take them out right now
The magazines, I mean
The chairs face the manga and graphic novels.
I am planning to buy more superhero gns.
The back of this shelf is empty -
we plan to replace the entire unit with something one-sided.

And the bulk of the fiction is on the opposite side of the long shelves

Friday, May 30, 2014

Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills, illustrated by Rob Shepperson

Displaying ANNIKA RIZ cover (3).jpgI really liked the first Franklin School Friends book, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen, and I've been hopefully anticipating the next title in the series.

This features one of Kelsey's two friends, Annika Riz. As you can guess from the title, she just loves math. Her parents are both into math as well. Her friends...not so much. Kelsey, of course, would rather read while Izzy (her book is coming next) loves sports. Annika is frustrated that her friends think math is hard and boring but she just can't stop giving them answers in class. Then she finds out that the library is offering a city-wide sudoku competition. If she can win, maybe her friends will see just how cool math is. There's more drama in the form of the school carnival and the kids are wondering why Mrs. Molina, their math-loving and strict teacher, hasn't volunteered for the dunking booth.

Everything comes to a head at the carnival where Annika makes some realizations and decisions. She shows her friends that math is important, even if they don't like it, but also realizes that it's ok if your friends don't share your passion. As Mrs. Molina says, "Different people enjoy different things."

I love that Annika never gives in to the pressure of her friends to dislike math, even while she compromises a little to realize that not everyone will love it as much as she does. There's a lot of peer pressure in school for girls to "hate math" and Annika stands proud and makes herself count! It's got plenty of humor, in the cookie disasters and Annika's attempt to teach her beagle to count. As a librarian, I thought it was awesome that it showed an unsuccessful library program. I know, that sounds crazy, but seriously that's LIFE. As Annika learns, not everyone is going to like the same things and stuff goes wrong.

Verdict: This is another great entry in the Franklin School Friends series. It's not too didactic, although it carries a definite message. It's realistic and funny and a perfect length for beginning chapter readers. I'm waiting anxiously for the third book, which should feature their friend Izzy who is African-American. You might think you have enough realistic fiction with Judy Moody, Clementine, etc. but most of those series are too challenging for the just-graduated-from-Junie-B. age group and this series fits neatly into that in-between niche. Squeeze out some money from your budget - you won't be sorry.

ISBN: 9780374303358; Published May 2014 by Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux; ARC provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Woodward and McTwee by Jonathan Fenske

I discovered this author through Cybils and was delighted by the fresh color, clean lines, and simple but sweet story. I said at the time I'd buy any more easy readers he did...and he did and I did!

Woodward and McTwee is a more conventional easy reader pairing, featuring two stories about Woodward the hippo and McTwee the bird. The first story, "The Really Silly Hippo" has McTwee playing a trick on the slower Woodward...but he gets his comeuppance in the end. The second story, "Hide and Seek" has the friends trying to play a game, but naturally Woodward isn't very good at the hiding part. When McTwee tries to show off...he gets his comeuppance again. This isn't exactly the usual friendly give and take of the traditional easy reader odd couple. It's more Charise Mericle Harper than Mo Willems - McTwee is actually kind of mean to the slower-moving Woodward, but Woodward always has the last laugh.

The art and story is organized into panels, marked not by the usual borders but by the different background colors. The pages are divided into sections, each with an image of Woodward and McTwee and now and then a few props. They alternate with a white or yellow background, breaking up the story into sections. There are also two red panels, each showing the story twist when Woodward gets the upper hand. Woodward has the most expressive face, ranging from simple surprise and eagerness to long-suffering, patient resignation at McTwee's antics. McTwee's expressions come through his whole body as he bounces, twists, flutters, and laughs his way through the pages.

Verdict: This is a fun new addition to the early reader odd couple genre. Fans of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie and Cherise Mericle Harper's Beandog and Nugget will approve.

ISBN: 9780448479927; Published 2014 by Penguin Young Readers; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: Begin Smart: Lily's Potty, Pete's Potty

[This review was originally published in 2010. It has been revised and edited.]

Begin Smart: Eschew the potty books

These two potty books are for "smart toddlers from two to three years". Each book has the same text and illustration, with the appropriate changes for either Lily or Pete. A sample of the text: "Where is Pete's potty?/It's for poo and pee./Is it under the bed?/Let's look and see." Each spread has a full page lift-the-flap showing the child and sometimes an adult with a small dialogue balloon saying things like "No potty!" Finally, the child finds their potty in the bathroom and finishes up by washing their hands.

First of all, I have to admit that I've always thought potty books were kinda....stupid. I mean, a book about things you do everyday that includes going potty as a normal do-every-day kind of thing yeah, but have you seen those freaky ones where you're supposed to sing songs about going potty? Yeah, we own some at the library and I'm not casting aspersions on any parents' potty-training method, but I think people stress out about the whole thing waaaay too much. Anyways.

I showed these to Pattie, who does our baby and toddler storytimes and she said the only thing she liked was the flaps. For Miss Pattie, that's harsh. She showed some to parents and they apparently went into hysterics, when she asked if anybody would read them aloud, although some people liked the cheerful illustrations and would be ok with reading them to their child alone.

The main problem with the books is that....they're not really about going potty. You have all the fun lift-the-flap activities (why? has the child hidden their potty? are they hiding from their parents trying to make them go potty?) and then you have the child sitting on the potty and washing their hands afterwards. Good point, that. But why have separate girl and boy books? Other than Lily going to need a clean dress, because kiddo you forgot to hold up your ruffles, both kids do exactly the same thing right down to actual potty action. Mom's probably going to have to clean the rug up in front of Pete by the way. The way he's wiggling around and not, you know, aiming.

So, these have bright, attractive art, fun lift-the-flap action, but other than familiarizing your child with the words "poo," "pee," and "potty," it's not going to actually assist in potty-training. Even the publisher doesn't expect it to - the back says "This book encourages: Story progression, small motor skills, remembering, matching words and actions, parent-child interaction." No mention of potty-training. However, there's a note to parents at the beginning enouraging dialogic reading and telling them how they can use this book as part of their potty-training and it is pretty sensible and practical advice.

Verdict: While these aren't optimal potty-training books, I do think quite a few parents will take them; they're desperate enough to check out anything we have on potty-training and I know some people go on the theory of reading lots of books and showing lots of pictures of kids going potty to get their child used to the idea. I donated these to our parenting collection, where we keep all the "issue" books, including potty training. They ended up circulating quite well, although the flaps did have to be reinforced. One title was destroyed after about three years, the other is still going even if it's a bit tattered. If you're just trying to fill in with more potty books, ANY potty books, go ahead and add these.

Lily's Potty
ISBN: 978-1934618998; Published May 2010 by Begin Smart; Review copies provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Pete's Potty
ISBN: 978-1934618981; Published May 2010 by Begin Smart; Review copies provided by publisher through Raab Associates

Monday, May 26, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Science Experiments with Magnets by Alex Kuskowski

I haven't seen the series before this, Super Simple Science, but I am definitely on board with More Super Simple Science. I have one sample volume to share today, and I wish I'd seen this before I did my science program on magnets!

There is a brief note "to adult helpers" reminding them to review activities before the kids start and watch for sharp or hot things. There's an introduction to the Scientific Method and some general information about science and magnets, a pictorial guide to all the supplies, and then the experiments begin. There are 11 experiments including floating magnets, using a magnet to affect a compass, making things move with magnets, and finishing with creating your own magnet. This is followed by a brief glossary.

Each experiment is no more than 2-3 pages with clear photographs and simple, direct steps. Some of the experiments are messier than others, but almost all use only simple, household items. If you buy the entire set, the books come in at about $17 each.

Verdict: With the increasing interest in STEM in libraries, and especially in my own library with our program series of science programs for a wide variety of ages, more and more parents (and librarians) are looking for books that have simple science experiments for younger children. I really liked that this had a lot of simple things that kids could expand on as well as more traditional experiments, do this and then this happens. I've added this to my wishlist for when I have enough money and meanwhile I'll be borrowing the whole set from a neighboring library to give me ideas for our next Mad Scientists Club and We Explore Science.

ISBN: 9781617838538; Published 2014 by Super SandCastle/ABDO; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Saturday, May 24, 2014

This week at the library; or, Pre-Summer Crazy

Random Commentary

The new birdwatching station!
Read below for details
  • I feel like I have so much time to plan and all magically vanishes. Poof!
  • Monday started at 10:30 with a city insurance meeting on FLSA and FMLA. I wouldn't mind doing this, except we do it in concert with other city employees and they have very different work schedules (on call etc.) so it goes on and on and I want to scream. Although I was supposed to go to the 8am one with the other supervisors, but that would have given me a 12 hour day and my director kindly made an exception. Anyways, I got a bunch of crochet done. Then the meeting went long and I got back to work barely in time to greet my new summer employees. We had a couple of hours for me to dump EVERYTHING on them at once and then my other aide and Pattie came in and we had a departmental meeting.
  • My first departmental meeting! EEEEEE!! Yes, I am ridiculously excited about this (-:) We spent forever going over the complicated summer schedule and then talked about our goals for the department this summer and customer service. We came up with some great ideas for displays and promotions, so I'm excited! Then I worked on the schedule (omg SO complicated!) and gave my new staff a chance to do some shelving and get to know the collection. Then I was on the information desk until closing. I sort of finished the calendar, which I've been doing on publisher and has grown to ledger size, but I have so much going on that it's getting out of control. I think I'm going to try something else - get an email just for the aides and use google calendar or something.
  • Tuesday - I dropped summer newsletters off at our biggest daycare/4K/after school care location. I'm hoping they'll participate in daycare summer reading this year. Then I took Emily (my summer associate! Woo!) to the elementary school for kindergarten visits so she could meet the kids and get a feel for the programs. In the afternoon I got my summer aide, Katrina, started on inventory (which we haven't done in years and we have a new and fancy mobile circ thingy...which hopefully works!) and I worked on the disaster area that is my desk, frantically cleaning the storyroom b/c I forgot a group was coming to use it, and getting ready for visits tomorrow. I also started transferring all my staff schedules to google calendar. We'll see how it goes.
  • Wednesday - nobody should have to get up this early. Ugh. I do it cuz I love you guys. I had a sixth grade class visit the library at 8am, so I had to be there at about 7:30 to get ready. About 30-45 minutes of summer reading program promotion and booktalks and then time to browse. Then again at 10am. About 10 kids from each class had brought their library cards to check out books and several others put books on holds. Then at 1:30 I took Emily and we went out to my 4K site. I had about an hour to finally finish the new staff calendar and then I left early for an appointment (and because I had worked an insane amount of time this week!)
  • Thursday - I realized on my way home last night that I forgot important things. Argh. So I had to go to work around 8:45 to pick up stuff for my visit and finish other stuff (and the staff were all "who's supposed to be on the desk and open? and I'm like I dunno, but it's not me!) and then I met Emily at the 4K site for the other two visits, then back to the library. I covered the information desk for an hour so my director could take a break and Emily set up the 6th grade visit, then my director went back and covered my time so I could do my third and last sixth grade visit, then I finished my information desk time - and finished downloading all my publicity pictures from Picasa to folders on our shared drive. That afternoon was my first summer promotion thingy for the homeschoolers. I wasn't sure how it would work out, so I did a really simple thing. I had tons of books (extra copies of what I'm taking to the schools) and some simple collage materials - magazines, scissors, glue, sparkles, and recycled card stock. Only two families came, but a few other people wandered in to check out books and it's not like I spent a lot of time on it. I think the morning would probably work better. Then Stuff Happened and I didn't leave until nearly six. Oh, and moving the teen area is DEFINITELY happening and inventory is, as always, screwed up. Suddenly realized that, duh, we have a new mobile circ system and I don't have to do it all at once!
  • Friday - A staff member had a shepherd's hook, so I spent my couple hours putting together the bird-watching station! I printed coloring pages from this site and you can see all the handouts and forms here. I got this idea from reading Look up! Bird-watching in your own backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate and Citizen Science by Loree Griffin Burns. I desperately need some new bird guides, but I'll get those in June. Then I worked on the insanity that is my desk.
  • Saturday - In between the usual Saturday craziness I continued to clean off my desk and tackle my to-do list.
  • Phew! Have some more pictures of our birdwatching station and the volcanoes my summer aide, Katrina, has made for us!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by the Brothers Grimm, translated and illustrated by Wanda Gag

The first section I did for my Neighborhoods project was fairy tales and folklore. This wasn't because it's just a hugely popular section, just that I thought it would be the easiest to separate. As part of this project, each section I do gets a thorough weeding and replacements and additional books. I was surprised to realize how few versions of some popular fairy tales we had and went looking for more. When I was looking for Snow White, I found this new edition of Wanda Gag's classic version of the Grimm fairy tale and I knew we had to have it.

Fairy tales are a hard sell today. They're much longer than contemporary picture books, which seem to be primarily written for 3 and under or as a step before easy readers. Most parents will look at them and put them back "too long" "not enough pictures" for their younger kids. But when it comes to older kids, they still look like picture books and the big push is for kids to read chapter books earlier and earlier.

That makes this version an even harder sell, but it's so delightful I still had to have it. Gag's version (which was at least partly written in reaction to Disney's sentimentalized cartoon) includes all the classic elements of the original story - the birth of Snow White, the jealousy of the witch and her magic mirror, Snow White's flight and her rescue by the Dwarves, the three visits by the witch ending with a bite of a poisoned apple and a death-like sleep. Eventually she's rescued by a prince (although there's no kissing involved - a servant is hauling the coffin off for the prince and drops it, which dislodges the bite of apple) and there's a happy ending for all, except the wicked queen who has to dance in red hot shoes.

However, Gag's edition also softens some of the creepier parts of the original fairy tale without losing any of the flavor of the tale. When Snow White traipses off with her prince, the illustration shows the dwarves reading a letter inviting them to the wedding. The queen is given red hot shoes to "dance out her wicked life" instead of dancing until she falls down dead. Snow White is a little girl for most of the story, but many years pass while she's in the casket so you don't get the whole "skeevy prince falls in love with a dead child" vibe. Apart from the minor changes in the story, Wanda Gag's translation is sprightly and has that classic fairy tale feel with the repeated motifs, odd little details, and bits of magic and romance that make a fairy tale memorable.

Her retelling fits perfectly with her adorable prints. Everything is curvy and incredibly detailed, showing the cheery little girl, the dwarves, and wicked queen, and more. This is more of a beginning chapter book than a picture book - although there are illustrations on every page, they are outweighed by the large chunks of text and complement, rather than tell the story themselves. The book is smaller than a normal picture book and 43 pages long.

Verdict: While it might be a little harder to get parents to check out this longer fairy tale to read aloud or to convince kids reading alone to give it a try, I think it will be worth it. Wanda Gag's text and illustrations are as fresh and flow as smoothly as they did when she originally wrote this story back in 1938. A true classic.

ISBN: 9780816644209; This edition published 2004 by the University of Minnesota Press; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Can you unlock the secrets of the manor: Beth's Story, 1914 by Adele Whitby

I read this book immediately after reading an orgy of old-fashioned British girls' school stories and having some long discussions about diversity with a number of colleagues. This is germane to the issue, as you will see when reading my review.

It's 1914 and Lady Beth is about to celebrate her birthday. It's a very special time, since she will be receiving the heirloom Elizabeth necklace. She's even more thrilled when her maid abruptly resigns, allowing her to choose Shannon, a housemaid she's been friendly with, as her lady's maid. But her happiness is quickly dashed when her relatives arrive and her cousin isn't at all the kindly older girl she remembers. Now she's spoilt, patronizing, greedy and cruel. To make matters worse, the necklace is stolen and Shannon is accused of being the thief. Beth is determined to solve the mystery not only of the stolen necklace but also of the family secrets behind it and to keep Shannon as her maid and friend. The story ends with a promise of future adventures with Beth as she travels to America to find the secret of the necklace once and for all.

This is a perfectly good story for the younger middle grade crowd. It's a nice length, 150 pages, and has an interesting story and a nice little mystery. The language is a little overly flowery and dramatic, and the historical context dumped on top of the story, but it's difficult to create a really good historical context without fact dumps in a book this short.

However, frankly, I find this book completely superfluous. Do we really need another series about wealthy and privileged white girls in historical fiction? Personally, I don't think so. I also think Shannon's story would have been much more interesting but we see her life only through Beth's eyes. Beth is thrilled that Shannon will be her maid and absolutely sure that she will be just as thrilled, not only to be her maid but to be her friend. She's simply shocked when she finds out how the other servants have been bullying Shannon and when Shannon is being sent away under suspicion of theft she promises to help and is touched that Shannon is desperately worried...that Beth doesn't spoil her party. Really? I mean REALLY?? The whole story just kept annoying me. Every time a little note pops up that intimates to Beth that maybe not everyone lives an equally privileged life, or perhaps doesn't enjoy waiting on her, it's quickly forgotten in the next segment of the mystery or her own personal drama.

I'm not saying that it's unrealistic - I'm sure Beth was quite typical, even possibly more socially aware, of the girls of her time and in her class. I'm sure a lot of kids will enjoy reading it - it's dramatic and mysterious and lots of kids like to imagine themselves into a life of wealth and privilege. I don't think kids at this age need a really brutally honest picture of life for the lower classes in 1914 - but I don't think they need a sanitized and unrealistic fairy tale either. Finally, I question whether or not this story really needed to be written. I feel like the little moments where Beth realizes that life isn't equally wonderful for everyone were put in to salve modern consciences and not to give a really honest picture of life at that time. If the series is really trying to give a glimpse into life in 1914, why not write the story of the masses, not the privileged few?

I don't want to diss the author - this is her debut book and it's really quite well written. She probably has lots of great stories waiting to be written. But falling back on the tried and true cliches of historical fiction isn't good enough anymore. Change a few names, add in some more accessories, and this could easily be an American Girl doll book. I expect more and I think Adele Whitby could write a really awesome series that is just what I'm looking for.

Verdict: Future books have Beth meeting her (equally wealthy and privileged) cousin Kate in America, and going back to the original twins in the 1848. There's mention of Seneca Falls and the Irish Potato Famine, but again it's all seen through the eyes of these wealthy girls. Judging by American Girl books and all the princess culture titles this would probably circulate quite well, but I can't bring myself to purchase such a skewed version of history. Write me a series that shows the points of view of everyone without letting the privileged and wealthy few speak for all and that will be bought and on the shelf faster than you can say "we need diversity".

ISBN: 9781481406345; Published June 2014 by Simon Spotlight/Simon & Schuster; ARC provided by publisher

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Daddy, look what I can do by Mack

This review was previously published. It has been edited and rewritten.

This is an odd board book, as I think you can tell from the cover. The page on the left shows a photograph of a real animal, while the page on the right shows the same animal but drawn in a crude cartoon. Each cartoon has the text "Daddy [animal] look what I can do!" There is a flap at the bottom of the page and you lift it to see the animal doing something. The bear is standing on one leg, the ostriches are dancing "beautifully", the giraffe is eating leaves at the top of the tree, the elephant is squirting water in the air, the gorilla is lifting a log into the air, the polar bear is climbing an iceberg, and the lion is roaring "really loud".

Some of the activities correspond slightly to the photographed animal, like the elephant squirting water with his trunk, but as you can see some are things that the animals don't naturally do, while most of the photographed animals are simply standing there.

The pictures are cute, in a scribbly way, but I don't think a board book audience would be able to connect the cartoon with the real animal. The disconnect between the cartoon baby animal's activities and the real animal's behavior in the photographs (or in real life) bothers me also. Clavis' key to the audience says it's for 18 months and up and is about "the world" but I'm not really agreeing with that.

Verdict: Kids will enjoy looking at the animals and lifting the flaps, but there are lots of better board books out there with photographs of animals and lift the flaps that are better organized and laid out. Unless you have a big budget and are just adding more titles, I wouldn't recommend this board book. It is, in my opinion, one of those novelty books that aren't really appropriate for a board book audience.

ISBN: 9781605371702; Published 2013 by Clavis; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Discovering Dinosaurs: Triceratops and Apatosaurus by Aaron Carr

I'm looking at two titles from a new series on dinosaurs today. Given my druthers, I'd avoid series nonfiction like the plague - overpriced, unnecessary library bindings, rapidly outdated, repetitive, etc. However, as I continue to increase our easy nonfiction sections, they are often the only selections available, especially if you need a large number of titles on a particular subject. Like dinosaurs.

Each book starts out with a physical description of the dinosaur, covering several pages. It describes its diet and habitat. It finishes with a picture of its skeleton and a list of the facts on each page, expanded into more details. There's also a list of sight words used in the text.

One of the reasons I'm always a little doubtful about series nonfiction is I'm never sure exactly how accurate the information is. This seems fairly up to date though - no obvious mistakes that I could see. The text is minimal at best and with the list of sight words in the back seems to be aimed at beginning readers, although the books are formatted like picture books.

The digital images show dinosaurs from many different angles with mottled skin and details on their mouths, movement, etc. The backgrounds are mostly digitally manipulated landscapes, but the first picture has a colorful pattern.

Verdict: It goes against the grain to expend so much money on a series with so little information, but this is the age group that gets really into dinosaurs and as we're building neighborhoods I know I'm going to need a lot more information in popular areas like dinosaurs if I want the easy nonfiction circulation to increase. So, it will be on my order list, whenever I get enough money to get it.

ISBN: 9781621272380

ISBN: 9781621272410

Published 2014 by AV2/Weigl; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Saturday, May 17, 2014

This Week at the Library; or, Let the outreach begin

  • 5th grade outreach (2 performances)
  • 6th grade outreach (visit to middle school)
Random Commentary

We say goodbye to the poultry (note - ducks are very cute but they smell pretty strong)

  • Be glad I pared this down. I have hamster brain and wrote out EVERYTHING I was thinking which came out to about six pages.
  • I will say, in short, that I am feeling disorganized - I wanted to do my school visits differently this year and I'm not entirely happy with how it's working out and I spent a ridiculous amount of time fiddling with lists and Pinterest boards. I ended up with a current school visit slideshow on the library Pinterest board and keeping a personal Pinterest of booktalking, as I'm thinking of repeating and not having all new books and booktalks every year.
  • The fifth grade outreach this year was a program. I had the Great Scott (local magician) come for two performances, 1.5 schools at each. Despite some worry about the weather (who am I kidding, I didn't sleep for three days stressing about it and other things) everyone was able to come and had a great time. I had new books on display in the lobby. It remains to be seen if summer reading participation changes in any way due to this.
  • Our sixth grade is divided into two groups - I went to see the purple team at school and did a lot of booktalking and summer reading promotion. They've had about 100 kids in the past and as they file in, I'm thinking "that seems like more..." 150! The schools here are growing! Two classes took turns after my 30 minute presentation to come back for more time with the books. Visiting the schools is as much about the teachers as the kids - I had good conversations with two teachers planning to bring their kids (not middle school age) to the library this summer.
  • I spent a lot of time fiddling with outreach this week, cleaning off my desk, working on miscellaneous stuff, dealing with the chickens and ducks (long story), laying out possible shifts for moving the teen area downstairs, getting ready for new (summer) staff next week, and staff meetings - we're trying to cut down on printing for marketing etc. among many other things. Also cleaning out the storyroom. This is as far as I've gotten.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Big Book of Slumber by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, translated by Antony Shugaar

I originally borrowed this from another library, gave it a quick skim, was not particularly impressed and meant to return it quickly. When I got a review copy from the publisher, I took another look and as I read it more thoroughly I gradually came to like it a lot more. In fact, I even love parts of it now. The moral being, if you want me to like your picture book, send me a review copy so I feel obligated to spend longer looking at it (-:)

The "story" is a series of rhymed couplets that show animals sleeping in silly or fantastical ways. A series of four couplets will start with "hushaby lullaby" or something similar, and each page has four couplets. For example,

"Hushaby, lullaby, pillows and sheets.
Cozy young fox is all warm, but her feet.

Doves in the branches and bug on the bark --
only old owl guards them all in the dark.

(next spread)

Crocodile slumbers while counting up sheep.
From frog, toad, and teddy -- nary a peep.

Dormouse and badger in beds side by side.
'I like your pajamas,' friend badger confides."

The pictures have a definite European feel with slightly odd perspectives and a cheerful variety of colors and patterns. The various sleeping animals seem like they're sprinkled about the background, with seals sleeping in trees and flowered dolphins placed against the water. There isn't a definite plot or theme to the book, which I think was what threw me off when I first skimmed through, but as I read it again, and read it aloud, I can see the dreamy pictures and gently lilting poetry lulling a child into sleep.

Verdict: This might have a few fans who will enjoy looking at the animals and the pictures, but this is mainly going to be popular as a bedtime story, a soothing read to enjoy together between a parent and child.

ISBN: 9780802854391; Published April 2014 by Eerdmans Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

I personally didn't like Trouble With Chickens, the J. J. Tully series, but that was just personal bias against the genre of faux noir. The kids check the books out quite a bit and really like the blend of humor and mystery. So I was quite willing to be open-minded about this companion series (even though I personally think that two books doth not a series make and can't help wondering why the J. J. Tully series was dropped so soon).

Anyways, this is more truly a beginning chapter title at just a little under 100 pages, lots of black and white art, and bold, large text.

It introduces the four crazy chicks as the primary characters. They each have a different personality and a different role in their "detective agency." The twist is, of course, that the chicks are utter goofballs. Their first "case" involves a hysterical squirrel and an alien craft! Luckily, J. J. is still around to keep an eye on them.

Doreen Cronin is spot-on with her understanding of the audience for beginning chapter books. They love to be in on the joke and the simple mystery with its humorous aspects will allow them to follow the plot even while they're still honing their reading and comprehension skills. Cornell's black and white illustrations are a fun complement and break up the text so it doesn't feel too daunting to new chapter book readers.

Verdict: Whether or not you personally like this type of slapstick humor, it's going to be a big hit with the majority of beginning chapter book readers and the clever but not too subtle jokes and simple writing style are perfect for this reading level. Highly recommend.

ISBN: 9781481405720; Published April 2014 by Simon and Schuster; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney

This review was previously published. It has been rewritten and edited.

I didn't care for this in picture book format, when I looked at it earlier, but I actually really liked it as a board book.

Small Bunny takes Blue Blanket everywhere. In fact, they have so many adventures together that they both need a bath. At least, Mommy thinks so, even if Small Bunny doesn't agree. And when Blue Blanket finally comes out of the wash, it's not Blue Blanket at all anymore. But after lots more playing, he's as good as before.

The art is very simple. Small Bunny is a simple pen outline, with a scribbled tail. Blue Blanket is a swatch of blue color. There are a few lightly sketched pieces of furniture but the only other character is Small Bunny's mother. One subtle detail - the blanket wraps around to the back of the cover which is completely covered in blue. The board book is a small square, about 5 by 5 inches.

Verdict: The abstract illustrations work much better in the smaller format and the simple story is better-suited for the younger board book audience than in a picture book. Recommended if you're purchasing additional titles for your board book collection.

ISBN: 9780385753630; Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House: Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: No Shelter Here: Making the world a kinder place for dogs by Rob Laidlaw

I've reviewed some of Laidlaw's titles (On Parade)before and while I always find them interesting, there are certain aspects that make me reluctant to purchase them for the library. Oh, and I can't explain the cover - it looks nothing like the cover of the actual book I read, but I can't find that cover picture anywhere (I think I read an earlier edition?)

So, the book intersperses factual information about dogs, what they need for a happy healthy life, with facts and anecdotes about ill-treatment and spotlights on "Dog Champions" mostly kids who are helping dogs in various ways. There are sections on puppy mills, inhuman practices that have been banned in some states like unnecessary devocalization surgery or chaining dogs for long periods of time. There is a glossary and list of websites but no other resources.

My two main reservations about this book are first, the lack of sources and how unclear it is when the author is simply citing his own experience and opinions and when he's making a factual statement. Sometimes he uses a personal pronoun, but sometimes he just makes pronouncements. For example, in the section on how bad it is for dogs to be chained for long periods of time, he quotes a vet and dog expert, but also gives his own opinion. In one of the sidebars later on, in the chapter on homeless/shelter dogs, he talks about how "Being confined in a crate is boring, frustrating, and lonely, and in many ways it's worse than being chained outside. If someone thinks a dog has to be crated a lot, they need to become better dog guardians or find their dog a new home." There's no sources quoted for this statement or even how much is "a lot".

My second reservation is in the stories of some of the dog champions, specifically the international ones. His own story, of going to an area devastated by an earthquake and offering  free veterinary care is inspiring. Some of the others are more troubling. Almost all of them are people, usually teens or young adults, that visited another country and were upset by how dogs were treated. They set up international groups to help dogs. Some of them mention educational efforts for the locals, but not all. That just...rubs me wrong. It's like, you've got these wealthy kids and their families (and if you can afford to travel internationally, that's a certain level of wealth) coming in to countries with no knowledge of their culture or economic issues and then they're all "omg, how can you treat animals like this!" Of course, there could be a lot more background information than is given here as this is just a brief overview, but I would have preferred to have seen only local activists featured, or those working in their own countries.

Verdict: There's a lot of good information here and kids would probably really enjoy it and maybe even get involved in their own communities, but I also think the majority of kids aren't going to be able to read this critically and think about all the aspects of the different situations and which pronouncements are the author's personal opinions and which are backed up by some kind of sources. An interesting read, but it's not a good fit for my collection development right now.

ISBN: 9780986949555; Published 2012 by Pajama Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This week at the library; or, Last week of programs! Also, thinking about the FUTURE

Random Commentary
  • I was inspired by Charlotte's Library to label all my review posts that could possibly fit into diversity. I came out with 125 Reading Diversity posts which could be better - but it could be worse!
  • This week I was finishing my programs as well as frantically trying to get ready for my super-early school visit next Tuesday! I did find time to finally listen to a webinar from UW-Madison that I've been trying to listen to since the beginning of April - Get Up and Move! Why movement is part of early literacy skills development with Dr. Allison Kaplan which was pretty good.
  • I'm really glad spring is over. It's been a very stressful year both personally and at work and while I still have a huge and daunting pile of work ahead, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully it's not an approaching semitruck. I'm still feeling all at sixes and sevens (apparently I am the only person that uses this expression - too many British children's books I suppose) and I'm worn out mentally and physically, but onward! I really think I'm getting to a better point soon - we're not changing summer reading, I have an associate, and I'm working on plans to simplify next year.
  • However, one of the things I'm really thinking a lot about is where I'm taking the department (I'm having my first departmental meeting in a few weeks! I will have an actual department!). Sometimes I look at what other libraries are doing and feel, not exactly daunted, but like I'm not doing enough. I especially felt that way when I went to our youth services meeting recently and looked at all the things other people are doing - special science programs practically every week, heck, one library offers after school programs every day. Tons of tie-ins to the summer reading theme, book parties, special initiatives, stealth programs, it goes on and on. I start to feel defensive about the model I've built - the same basic programs year-round, minimal preparation and staff needed to run them, emphasis on process not product art, and we rarely decorate anything! Then I remind myself that I had the highest program attendance in 2012 in our consortium, including our one city of 80,000 (my town is 10,000 with a service pop. of 23,000). Of course, it's not all about numbers - in our We Explore programs for example Pattie pulls in up to 100 for We Explore Science, while I average about 25 for We Explore Art and Stories - but those are the numbers those programs are designed for. One is a more structured storytime/art experience, the other is a casual, come experience science and stuff program.
  • So, I'm really thinking about where I want the department to go, especially as I finally start getting some more staff. Despite the pressure I sometimes feel to do more "special" programs, I really don't want to go that way. I want to stick with the model I've built, which I think is successful in our community and our library, and which leaves me time to focus on collection development and reader's advisory, which in turn helps us also turn in high circulation numbers.
  • Where do I see us in the future? I'm working on setting goals right now and for the first time ever, I will not be adding any new programs next year! Instead, I will be consolidating what we have, increasing visibility and participation, adding some additional stealth programs, and working on collection projects like the Neighborhoods. I'm also doing a major overhaul of our outreach programs, which I started last year with mixed success. Right now, teachers randomly call me and I scramble to fit all the classes in and then try to convince them to check out books and do something other than the standard tour. I tried last year to do different offerings, but a lot of teachers don't want to check out books at the beginning of the year and while it did help in some ways, it certainly wasn't perfect. I'm planning to get away from the "call and we'll fit you in" model and instead make a handout that says "these are the outreach programs we offer. these are the times we do outreach." Then, when I get more staff, I can expand the available times and dates. 
  • Basically, I want to get away from recreating the wheel constantly. I want to have a basic set of marketing tools - newsletter, flyers, etc. so for every semester I just plug in the dates and specific programs and there you go, instead of making new flyers every couple of months. I want to get away from changing the summer reading theme every year - I'm waiting for a theme I can live with to come up through the Illinois Library Association and then that will be what we use for a long time to come. People like traditions and our programs with the heaviest attendance are almost always the ones we repeat every year. It doesn't mean we can never do anything new and exciting - I'm doing lots of new science programs this summer, but under the umbrella of Mad Scientists Club and We Explore Science.
  • This is how I see the department in the future. Some of this might happen soon! Some of it is misty and far away....
  • Staff
    • Pattie will continue to offer the bulk of our early childhood programs. A full-time associate will allow me to keep the children's desk staffed consistently during the day and we will share outreach and other programming responsibilities (taking turns doing after school clubs etc.). I will increase the hours of my aides so I have two 12-hour a week aides. We'll keep our third aide in the summer. Unless we are able to get our hands on a MASSIVE chunk of money and renovate the basement, we won't have a teen librarian. Teen programming will continue to be shared out among the staff (now that we're moving the teen area there is no longer a place for a teen librarian to work the desk anyways, which is something we'd thought about). At some point, Pattie is going to retire and I would be surprised if they replaced her with someone able and willing to do what she does. When that happens, we'll probably need to hire a part-time early literacy person. I know quite a few libraries with this position and while I don't see Pattie leaving any time soon (please, please don't leave us!) I'm keeping this in the back of my mind because I will need to make some really vigorous arguments against just dumping everything on current staff.
    • Programming - I don't foresee a lot of change in what we offer now. Early childhood programs in the morning and a few in the evenings, outreach during the day, and after school clubs. Eventually, I'd like to add a second weekly after school club on Tuesdays and extend at least one to 5:30 or 6 for families wanting to come after work. This is what I see the schedule looking like:
      • Mondays - Pattie offers playgroup or special interest groups in the morning and we offer Tiny Tots or Preschool Interactive in the evening. No outreach - this is our planning and preparation day!
      • Tuesdays - Pattie offers Toddlers'n' Books, I do outreach and an after school club. In the summer we have performers and large programs on Tuesday afternoons.
      • Wednesdays - There is going to come a time when we no longer have regular preschool storytimes. This morning will become outreach, specifically for visiting groups of preschoolers. I'll figure out a way to let individual families know what's scheduled and they can join in.
      • Thursdays - I do outreach in the morning, Pattie does Books 'n' Babies, and then after school club in the afternoon and Pattie offers family game night in the evening.
      • Fridays - We Explore interspersed with large program events for school groups in the morning, special events in the afternoon (Dr. Seuss Celebration, Sewing Workshops, etc.) Ideally, I would have the staff so we could intersperse our offerings and nobody is doing back to back programs. Until that happens, only one thing on Friday at a time!
      • Saturdays - open craft time in the Storyroom (I'm still working on convincing staff that doing this while I'm not there to watch every participant will not result in opening a doorway to hell and destroying all life as we know it)
    • This sounds like a lot, but remember that outreach times are just open times - there won't be an outreach group every day of every week! Some things, like family game night and We Explore aren't offered weekly as well. This doesn't include teen programming - I'd like to set up times at least weekly when the middle schoolers can use the storyroom to play games and have one or two teen programs a month. We also have special programs like Santa's Kitchen, Dr. Seuss Celebration, etc. that are scheduled either on Friday afternoons (which means no program in the morning) or on Saturdays at the beginning and end of a program semester.
So, these are some things I'm thinking about....

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Hundred Horses by Sarah Lean

Nell goes to stay with relatives on their farm for the school holidays and there she discovers a herd of horses, a mysterious girl named Angel, and learns about herself, her family, and growing up.

That's a really blah summary but, boiled down to essentials, this is a book that has been written many, many times before. Overscheduled girl who doesn't feel like her mom notices/loves her? Check. Conflicts with dead/divorced parent? Check. Goes to stay with slightly crazy relatives in the country? Check. Meets eccentric neighbor girl who veers from wild to magical? Check.

Ultimately though, there's nothing wrong with that. Middle grade thrives on repetition as much as the "read it again!" picture book crowd or the Magic Treehouse addicts. The unique, the unusual, the completely new (assuming anything really is that unique) is more than likely just going to sit on your shelf.

Does the author capture the feelings and thoughts of an eleven year old girl? Yes. Is her writing magical and her story both heartwarming and true? Yes. Does it have elements that the average reader of this genre will enjoy (horses, friendship, family difficulties...)? Yes.

That makes it a good book, even if it's nothing ground-breaking or unusual.

Verdict: If you've got a really tight budget, this isn't the first title I'd recommend, but if you have space for some additional purchases, definitely add this story. It's a great example of its genre and is sure to gather enthusiastic readers.

ISBN: 9780062122292; Published 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's wishlist

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando

Julia is looking forward to a long, lazy summer with her best friend Taylor. She doesn't expect anything more memorable than the emergence of the dormant cicadas. But then Alyssa moves in. Alyssa is new, sophisticated, exciting....mean. She seems to hate Julia from the beginning for no reason and worst of all, she steals Taylor away. She also brings a new game, Russia, and Julia finds herself challenging Alyssa. If she wins the battle of Russia will she win back Taylor and make everything go back to the way it was?

This isn't a screed against bullying or mean girls or about Growing Up, although all those things are included. The hot, lazy summer is perfectly capture, the prose is lovely in its simplicity, and the characters are drawn so realistically you can hand this to any number of girls and know they will find themselves somewhere in its pages. It's about realizing that friendships are complicated - and growing up to the point of realizing that people are complicated.

I liked that there wasn't a cut and dried ending to the book, or an epiphany where Julia realizes Who Her True Friends Are. In fact, you could almost call the ending jarring; reading it as an adult, it's easy to get so deeply into Julia's character you find yourself thinking and feeling along with her and expecting that perfect ending. It's a reminder that, as you grow up, you'll realize more and more that life is messy and people are messy. Some people are cruel. Some people are kind. Most people, like Julia, are somewhere in the middle.

I'm in love with the length of the book - just 200 pages - which will make this super easy to sell to my reluctant girl readers who often love realistic fiction, but don't want to dig into the lengthier volumes they usually come in. It would make a great summer read. I am not, to be totally honest, in love with the cover. I like it as an adult, but it's going to be difficult to sell to the readers I have in mind who would most appreciate this book - it looks too young. I know photograph covers are a bit cliched, but they're what really sell books to this age group because they look more grown-up.

Verdict: There is so much in this slim little book. It never falls into stereotypes, presents nuanced characters, and perfectly captures the minds and hearts of its protagonists - and I think it will capture readers as well. I've cut my order lists to the absolute bone because of my big Neighborhoods project, but this title is going to be on my next order list no matter what!

ISBN: 9780762449484; Published May 2014 by Running Press; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: The crayon box that talked by Shane DeRolf, illustrated by Michael Letzig

This review was previously published. I have rewritten and edited it.

This is a new board book version of a picture book originally published in the late 90s. I don't know if the board book was changed from the original picture book, but I wasn't impressed.

The "story" is a thinly disguised message about tolerance and appreciated others' differences, but either the plot was cut to fit the board book or there was never much to start with. The crayons don't like each other "but no one knows just why." After they're purchased and used (although they never grow any smaller - magic crayons!) they realize that all together they can make a better picture. The text rhymes, but it's clunky and flat:
"They watched me as a colored,
With red and blue and green,
and black and white and orange,
and every color in between."

 The art had a slick, flat look and was too busy for the smaller format of a board book. The smaller details of the crayons' expressions will be lost on most children and some of the pictures are skewed oddly. I don't know if they were cut to fit the board book framework, or if that's how the art looked originally. The book itself is small, about about 7 inches high and 4 inches wide.

Verdict: The blurb on the back says "Children are never too young to learn about celebrating our differences and cooperating" but I beg to differ. The book is too cluttered, wordy, and abstract for a board book audience in my opinion. Just my opinion though - it's won lots of awards and been used in many campaigns etc. so take my grumpy attitude with a grain of salt.

ISBN: 9780385373036; Published 2013 (board book edition); Review copy provided by Random House; Donated to prize box

Monday, May 5, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: The Secret Pool by Kimberly Ridley, illustrated by Rebekah Raye

I had high expectations of this title - I use Rebekah Raye's The Very Best Bed frequently in storytime and this title got excellent reviews, but, once again, I am a lone voice of dissent. It really, really didn't work for me.

The book introduces readers to a vernal pool; a small woodland pool that forms from rain or melted snow and then often shrinks to a mud puddle or dries up completely.

So, my first objection is that the narrator of the story of a vernal pool is...the pool. This really threw me out of the story. I have a hard time seeing kids understanding that the pool is telling the "story". The text does have that dual simple sentences paired with longer chunks of information that I like for nonfiction read-alouds, but the text is very difficult to read. Look at the cover of the book - can you read the author and illustrator easily? No? Well, that's how the text is laid out throughout the book. Some of the text, especially the longer sidebars, are against a lighter background, but most of the text is woven into the illustrations.

Which brings me to another complaint. While I'm not a complete fan of Raye's illustrations, they work very well in Best Bed. The animals are all easy to distinguish and identifiable. In this book they aren't, at least not to my eyes. The proportions seem off or distorted and the illustrations are generally crowded and cluttered.

Verdict: This got starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, and was included in CCBC's Choices, so I'm probably the only person who didn't like it. So...yeah, just one person's opinion here. I just don't see it working well in storytime, which is my primary purpose for books like this.

ISBN: 9780884483397; Published September 2013 by Tilbury House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 3, 2014

This Week at the Library; or, Fog and Books

Random Commentary
  • Tragedy struck on Monday night, when the incubator was overturned. Many eggs were lost, and I have my doubts as to whether those remaining will survive.
  • Our big event this week wasn't a program per say; every year we host the district Battle of the Books. The top six teams from each of our three elementary schools spend all morning at the library, competing in five rounds. Then they have lunch and an awards ceremony. This is nice because we offer a big space, only one school has to bus their kids, and the school librarians do all the work! I just do a little help with set-up, arrive early to let in volunteers, and try to keep the noise in the children's area to a minimum during the battles and bask in the applause of all the kids and parents for lending the library (-:)
  • We had our first staff meeting with our new adult services librarian - we are having a lot of problems scheduling staff meetings around vacation/programs/etc. I think the full insanity of our wacky computers is becoming clear to her...hopefully she doesn't run for the hills!
  • Wednesday Pattie and I joined some other youth services staff from the area for lunch and a sort of general exchange of ideas, summer info session at a nearby library. I just stole one of that library's staff members for my summer associate, but they were nice to me anyways.
  • Lego Club on Thursday - I had not really planned to do two Lego Clubs in a row, but this is what happens when you look at one month at a time, and don't check carefully back and forth. I'm pretty tired and stressed out though, so I am fine with it. I am starting my school visits early - the first is May 13th - so I need some leeway anyways. It was a smallish group - about 30.
  • Never mind about leeway! Have just planned to massive projects, on top of school visits, summer prep, etc. - inventory and moving the teen area! More to come later.
  • Friday we were closed for our staff development day. We had an all staff meeting (except for my aides who generously offered to skip school, but I told them I would not require that sacrifice), a speaker to talk about success/stress, our consortium administrator and systems administrator came to talk about changes and new technology - we now have the ability to take credit cards, do mobile circ and inventory, patron-initiated ILL, and a bunch of other stuff. After lunch we took ourselves on a walking tour around town. This was handy not so much for the historical buildings, but to see which businesses had changed etc. especially since quite a few staff don't live in town. We finished up with a quick round the table of everyone's reading habits and favorite genres. 
  • I only have one more week of programs and then I plunge, without a break, into school visits, training new staff, a couple major projects, planning for summer, etc. Every time I come up on a break I have this beautiful vision of all this time to get everything done and it NEVER WORKS OUT THAT WAY. You'd think I'd have realized this by now. Anyways, it has been a long, stressful, difficult winter for our library as a whole and I think we are all grateful to see summer coming, even if it will be busy.
Also, and finally, I am thinking of changing up my monthly reports. Does anybody have a sample they'd be willing to send to me? This is roughly what I have now (I have no problem with posting an actual report, but I don't have one at home. these are approximations of my numbers this past month) I'm thinking of reorganizing it to de-emphasize numbers and emphasize other things...maybe organize programming in some other way?

  • programs: 40
  • attendance: 1200
  • circulation: 9,992
  • preschool interactive: 4/95
  • messy art club: 2/101
  • lego club: 2/80
  • mad scientists club: 45
  • we explore art and stories: 25
  • circus party: 300
programs with pattie (my colleague from the school district)
  • toddlers 'n' books 10am: 5/113
  • toddlers 'n' books 11am: 5/87
  • books 'n' babies: 5/110
  • coffee kids 'n' conversation: 21
  • Tiny Tots: 2/40
  • family game night: 2/30
teen programs
  • middle school madness: 18
  • teens on screen: 12
School visits and outreach
  • TLC: 3/45
  • Tibbets: 3/60
  • parochial school visit: 15
  • preschool visits: 2/35
Stealth programs
  • 200 people participated in Culver's coloring contest
  • 5 new families signed up for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and all participants read a total of 1,300 books
Children's Area
  • I completed the Things That Go neighborhood. We are currently working on the next neighborhood. These have been very popular blah blah blah
Professional Development
  • webinars and meetings and things
  • there's usually not space left on my one page by this point

SO, what do you think? Ideas?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spike the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I missed this book when it originally came out. I thought "oh, it's just another misunderstood monster" book and didn't take a closer look. This was definitely a mistake, because it's a delightful book with so much more than just a "misunderstood monster" story!

I discovered it when I was reading through Melissa Sweet's works for We Explore Art and Stories. Although this title arrived too late for the program, I will definitely be including it next time!

Spike is pretty sure he's a monster. He's got spikes! a slithery tail! Teeth! Unfortunately, he's a teeny-tiny monster and nobody is afraid of him. But when a real monster wanders by, will Spike run away or will he show his monster grin?

This showcases Sweet's trademark brilliant colors and watercolor/collage art. All the animals, while clearly identifiable, have a magical, fantasy look with the bright colors, cheery grins, and the odd foliage that surrounds them.

What adds to this story and makes it more than just another monster book, is that all the animals are real! Spike is an axolotl, the real monster is a Gila monster, even the duck and the small rodent are specific species. Additional information at the back explains simple facts about each animal. There's also a quick glossary of the Spanish words included in the text.

Verdict: This is a really unique "misunderstood monster" book and one that I wish I'd added back when it was released. If, like me, you missed out, it's happily still in print and it's not too late remedy the error!

ISBN: 9781442406018; Published 2012 by Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's wishlist