Saturday, November 29, 2014

This week at the library; or, Guess whose turn it is to work Thanksgiving weekend?

Paws to Read, ready to go
What's going on: In my head and at the library
  • Not that I'm complaining - we all share the holiday weekends pretty equally. I'm just kind of tired right now. No programs this week - we had a staff meeting and then I had another meeting with Pattie and my director to finalize the schedule for next year. I spent most of the time I was here cleaning off my desk, working on neighborhoods, and working on the schedule.
  • We close at 5:30 on Wednesday (I came in late because I bought a freezer! but then Best Buy's weird insanities made it impossible to get it delivered, so one of the library staff really nicely came over to help me get it home. I left early because I was working Saturday) and are closed Thursday and Friday. Some libraries around here are open Friday, so we're lucky!
  • I did have reader's advisory questions, but I was too busy to remember what they were...

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale; Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

I was excited when I heard about Shannon Hale's new series, mostly because I mainly heard it described as a graphic novel. Dear people; please note that a book containing illustrations is not automatically a graphic novel.

However, even though it turned out to be an illustrated beginning chapter book, I fell in love with plump and energetic Princess Magnolia.

The story opens with what appears to be a typical princess setting; dressed in frilly pink, Princess Magnolia is having tea with the Duchess Wigtower. Everything is absolutely perfect. But wait! Princess Magnolia has a secret - when the monster alarm sounds she turns into...the Princess in Black and defends her country from monsters! Can she keep her secret from the nosy Duchess Wigtower and Duff the goat boy?

LeUyen Pham pictures a princess who is perfect - perfectly awesome that is! Whether dressed in her fancy princess gowns or sporting svelte black and a sparkly crown, Magnolia's exuberant personality, smarts, and self-confidence shine through every page. She looks like an adorable and very real little girl with chubby cheeks, and not a hyper-sexualized doll. Pham's bright colors and cute characters are a sweet match for this story; like the text, they just sparkle with personality.

Verdict: This is a delightful new beginning chapter series, from the perfect blend of sparkly princess and action heroine, the dark-skinned goat boy, a personality in his own right (coming soon - the Goat Avenger!) and the silly monsters. I can't recommend this enough; it's got something for everyone and I think it will find immediate fans in your library.

ISBN: 9780763665104; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by LT Early Reviewers; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: One Windy Day by Tammi Salzano, illustrated by Hannah Wood

This review was previously published. I rewrote and edited it.

A brief introductory sentence explains that Fox usually loves the wind but not today. The rest of the story is told through the pictures with the only text being opposites - "far, near", "left, right" etc. At the end, another sentence explains that Fox really does love windy days. The story told through the pictures shows Fox, a mail carrier, and all his letters being blown about by the wind, then collected with help from his friends.

This is a Tiger Tales book, so the art is very cute with lots of fuzzy animals. Some of the leaves are sparkly foil and slightly indented on the page. The cover is padded and the book is about 7x7 inches. The pictures are cute, as I said, but somehow out of focus and blurred, as though they were made with poor image resolution.

Verdict: Cute, but not enough that I feel we really need it. Plus, I always feel that padded board books are not the best choice for libraries - I don't think they're as sturdy. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781589258754; Published 2012 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Secrets of the Sky Caves by Sandra Athans

This book is a sort of Scientists in the Field for younger readers (and from a different publisher).

This book is about several archaeological expeditions to Mustang, in Nepal, and the investigations into the caves there. The book introduces historical and cultural information about Nepal and the history of the area under investigation, then details several expeditions that first photographed and then excavated the caves and what they found there.

Sidebars and sections detail historical information, legends, religious and cultural facts, and archaeological information. The book is filled with photographs of the mummies, cave paintings, and other artifacts discovered. Back matter includes a Who's Who of people involved in the expedition, a timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, and further information. There is also an index.

I just couldn't get into it. I finally forced myself to read it because it had to be returned to the library, but I just couldn't get interested. Part of the reason was I felt...uncomfortable with the whole expedition. Only on the third expedition is anyone even remotely local involved in the actual investigation. There are only brief mentions of interactions with the local people and all the experts are from overseas, except one archaeologist in the third expedition. One of the things I like about the Scientists in the Field series is that they give almost equal face time to local interactions, even if the local people aren't "experts" in the field, they talk about their knowledge and how they contribute to the investigation. I didn't see that here. Another reason I had trouble getting into this was it felt like a lot of information crammed into a small space. I think it would have been more interesting if it had focused on just one expedition instead of trying to pack the entire history of Nepal and an series of investigations spanning two decades into a 60 page book.

Verdict: I just couldn't get into this and I have a hard time thinking of any kids who will appreciate it. For a bigger collection, or if you have archeology fans or a Nepalese population, it would probably be useful.

ISBN: 9781467700160; Published 2014 by Milbrook/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, November 22, 2014

This week at the library; or, My extra week!

I hate taking my picture, but I
needed it for the Paws to Read
staff picks display
What's Happening: In my head and at the library
  • Somehow I thought this week was Thanksgiving. It was nice to discover there was an extra week in here, because I had a ton of work to do!
What the kids are reading:
  • Beginning chapters for a Captain Awesome fan - I gave them Hooey Higgins, Jo Schmo, and Down Girl and Sit.
  • The dreaded 1000 lexiles strike again - and half of what I looked at was checked out. They went with Blizzard of Glass (which the mom said sounded like an I Survived book and I was like Yes!) and Catherine Called Birdy.
  • And again - went with Savvy and Phantom Tollbooth this time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Little Rabbit; The Little Lamb; The Little Duck by Phoebe and Judy Dunn

 There are the classics that you know why they're classics, be it clever marketing, perfect grasp of the audience, sheer literary and artistic merit, etc. Then there are the books you remember from your childhood; they may be utterly weird and completely outdated, but they are a part of you. Then there are the books that fall somewhere in between. The ones that you loved as a child, that have some outdated aspects to them, but somehow hang on, year after year after year.

Phoebe and Judy Dunn's photographed stories of farm animals fall into this last category. When I first realized they were still in print, I was thrilled and decided to treat myself (and my library) to a collection. To my delighted surprise, it became one of our most popular titles.

My personal copies from my childhood have long disappeared, but I found the originals were easy to replace and just as lovable as ever. In The Little Rabbit, Sarah finds a white baby bunny in her Easter basket. Sarah is an adorable girl with freckles and a gap-toothed grin, just as sweet as her fluffy new pet, Buttercup. The simple story talks about Buttercup growing up and their little adventures, including information on pet care in a natural and interesting way. Buttercup meets Sarah's friends, gets lost, and goes on picnics. Eventually, she gets big enough to have babies of her own (no male bunny is pictured or mentioned though) and she has seven babies who get into lots of trouble! Finally, it's just Sarah and Buttercup again, the way they like it.

The Little Lamb features Emmy, a pig-tailed little girl in sturdy jeans and sweater, who adopts an orphaned lamb, Timothy. He grows fast as she cares for him and introduces him to other animals and places on the farm. But eventually Timothy gets too big - and causes too much trouble - and goes back to the farm, where he happily joins in with the other half-grown lambs.

The Little Duck, Henry, is found by an unnamed boy as an egg by the pond. This book follows most closely the duck's life cycle from hatching to changing from a fluffy chick to a beautiful white duck. Eventually, he wants more than his little blue pool and finds his way back to the pond and a beautiful girl duck.

Verdict: There are plenty of farm animal books out there, but these photographs just seem to really strike a chord with parents and children alike. I recommend taking a look to see what's currently in print and trying out a few, be they paperback, prebound, or board books.

These are reprinted so constantly that I'm not going to list a specific ISBN. Most of them are still in print, either in paperback or prebound, or are soon to be republished as board books. They're the books that just keep going! Just search for Judy and Phoebe Dunn. The copies pictured are the latest paperback versions in print, but I personally own older paperbacks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup

[This review has been edited and republished]

This is a board book version of the original, oversized picture book. I really liked some of the other things Britta Teckentrup has done, but this one was disappointing.

It's an annoying cliche that I detest - grumpy adult cat, appears to want to be alone but is really lonely alone, meets a friendly kitten who shows him how to be friends.

Because nobody could possibly ever want to be alone and if you're not smiling all the time there's something wrong with you.

Not that I'm biased. At all.

Teckentrup's illustrations are still fun, with broad, bold strokes of color and shapes and delightfully fuzzy details. However, the story has not been cut down much and especially for this small board book (7x5 inches) there is way too much text. Also, the storyline itself is not developmentally appropriate for a toddler.

Verdict: Teckentrup has done some really good board books for the toddler crowd, like My Book of Opposites, and I strongly recommend those. If you absolutely must have this book, purchase it as a picture book. Also, we are no longer friends, you anti-introvert person!

ISBN: 9781907967481; Published 2013 by Boxer Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Nicola Davies is one of my absolute favorite authors of nonfiction for young children (the others are basically all Peachtree authors, in case you're wondering). She doesn't disappoint in this new book tackling a unique subject: microbes!

The book starts out by giving some scales of the size and number of microbes, then talks about how they are everywhere. There are comparative images of large and small microbes, and then my favorite spread which shows lots of different kinds of microbes so you can see all the unique shapes and patterns.

The book then explains how microbes can eat anything and that they transform things into something else, like milk into yoghurt! Davies attempts to explain how rapidly they split and increase with a stunning visual across two pages.

The story finishes with talking about how "the wrong kind of microbes" can make you sick and some simple precautions (like washing your hands) but reassures readers that there are very few microbes that will make you sick. The book ends with two gorgeous spreads showing the amazing BIG things that tiny microbes can do. "They are the invisible transformers of our world."

Sutton's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Davies' simple but beautiful text. She draws both cozy, cheerful pictures relating the abstract idea of something so tiny you can't see to the things you can see, and also stunning, delicate illustrations of microbes themselves.

Verdict: This will work in a storytime with an older audience; probably four and up. It will also be a great book for teachers and families to enjoy in smaller groups to pique children's curiosity about the world around them. Highly recommend.

ISBN: 9780763673154; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Sunday, November 16, 2014

RA RA READ: Teens Who Need a Laugh

Humor is really subjective and seems to get more so the older you get. These are books I found hilarious, bearing in mind I rarely read teen books and have, according to my friends, the sense of humor of an eleven year old.
  • Into the wild nerd yonder by Julie Halpern
    • Jessie is ready to join a new group of friends. The band geeks? The nerds? The punks? THE NERDS? I reviewed this one a long time ago.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant (series) by Derek Landy
    • He's a living, breathing, fire-throwing skeleton...and he's got a sense of humor, even if the world IS coming to an end. (After the first couple books the series gets more intense and not as funny)
  • Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
    • A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland. 
  • A bad day for Voodoo and I have a bad feeling about this by Jeff Strand
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
    • Bored with traditional palace life, a princess goes off to live with a group of dragons and soon becomes involved with fighting against some disreputable wizards who want to steal away the dragons' kingdom. 
These are what reviewers and teens have told me are funny.
  • Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Squashed by Joan Bauer
  • All-American Girl (series) by Meg Cabot
  • Oh. My. Gods (series) by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Happyface by Stephen Emond
  • Two parties, one tux, and a very short film about the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman
  • Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
  • My most excellent year by Steve Kluger
  • Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler 
  • Dairy Queen (trilogy) by Catherine Murdock
  • How to get suspended and influence people by Adam Selzer
  • Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Spud (series) by John Van de Ruit

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This week at the library; or, So much for all my planning time

What's happening: In my head and at the library
  • I turned my goals and program planning in to my director; now I just have to wait for her feedback, put them into the actual calendar, give it to my school colleague, and then meet to discuss and finalize next year. And, of course, actually plan the programs...
  • Still working on NEIGHBORHOODS, piles of stuff on my desk, Cybils, planning the last bits of programs for this year.
  • The homeschool thing went well - I basically just pulled together bits of all my regular school tours and then had some crafts. The kids really loved the scavenger hunts. There were about 25 people - some of them were just random people with toddlers and preschoolers who happened to be there and tagged along.
  • 74 people came to Lego Club. Then the next morning I had to take down all the tables and run back to back tours with my director for 70 four year olds. THIS is why I never have planning time!
  • I am trying desperately to keep my mind off next summer. You are planning WINTER and SPRING mind, not summer! Not yet! But I do have to at least briefly think about it because, if I'm going to step away from the CSLP theme which I definitely plan to do, I have to convince my director now because of the crazy ordering schedule of CSLP promotional material.
  • And then I realized I'd had an error in my formula in my budget spreadsheet and every time our cataloger had ordered teen fiction it had flipped over and back into the budget so I overspent my budget by $600. This was a rather fraught week.
  • Moms with multiples
  • Tiny Tots
  • Toddlers 'n' Books
  • Homeschool tour/library visit/scavenger hunts
  • November Outreach: Tales and Tails (1 visit)
  • Middle School Madness
  • Books 'n' Babies
  • Lego Club
  • Family Game Night
  • Kohls Wild Theater (including tour)
What the kids are reading
  • I spy/Look inside
  • Books about sentence structure/writing (tutor)
  • Alexander and the no good etc. (was in the back)
  • historical fiction at least 120 pages (school assignment)
  • ocean animals (this turned out to be dolphins and whales of course)
  • 800 lexile books - she wanted Jigsaw Jones, but it wasn't the right lexile. We went through the list and she ended up taking Allie Finkle and an Andrew Clements book.
  • Lego books
  • Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan

Friday, November 14, 2014

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

I grew up loving Tony Johnston's Amber on the Mountain and of course I love LaMarche's gorgeous, colorful, emotional paintings. Who doesn't? However, I was doubtful about liking this because it seemed too...poetic. Books of poetry don't do well in my library.

I am so glad I gave it a chance. This is a stunning, beautiful book. The story begins with the endpapers; upon opening the book you see clean notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, and binoculars. Moving into the story, a girl carries all these supplies to her observation post in the tree. The first page reads

"It is a cold September day. Fall is still here but ice is in the air. I feel it. Winter is coming."

From there, simple, poetic language accompanies the girl's observation of the wildlife and forest as winter approaches ever nearer. She sees a fox, bears, chipmunks, deer, a lynx. All of them searching for food and preparing for winter. Some of them will not survive, but that is the natural cycle of nature. Finally,

"Today no animals come.
Not one.
The clearing the trees are filled with
And wildness.
And cold.
They are waiting for something.
Winter is coming."

And then, in a few more brief pages, winter is here. In the final wordless spread the girl walks through the snow back to her warm house and the last set of endpapers show the sketches and notes she's made of the animals she's seen.

LaMarche's paintings always seem to have an inner glow but these are, I think, the best he has ever done. Each spread captures a different hue of autumn, from rich gold to softly fading brown. Each page is a different part of autumn, a different animal preparing. You can feel the silence and chill of the fading season.

Verdict: If you only buy one "literary" picture book for the year, make it this one. I've added it to my personal wishlist, which I don't often do. Highly recommended. A beautiful, beautiful book.

ISBN: 9781442472518; Published 2014 by Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Small Readers: Shampoodle by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tim Bowers

[This review has been previously published. It has not been edited.]

First of all, just look at that cover. Doesn't it make you want to giggle? I've been chuckling every time I glanced at it, and now that I've read the book my chuckles were not ill-founded.

It's time for a bath and a motley collection of dogs are going to the groomers. Baths, haircuts, and fancy touches are in store! But, uh-oh, something's gone wrong!

This is a level 2 Step Into Reading, which in their system means "reading with help". There are enough familiar simple words that a child can feel confident on their own but plenty of new fun words to sound out with a little help. Even with the limitations of language in an easy reader, Joan Holub has created a fun rhyming story that kids will enjoy working their way through and parents and teachers won't mind listening to for the fiftieth time!

Tim Bowers' illustrations are the perfect touch of hilarity, especially when he matches the dogs' crazy 'dos to their groomers' own haircuts. The pictures enhance the text without offering too many clues to readers.

Verdict: Hand this one to fans of Capucilli's Biscuit series and kids who like funny stories and stories about dogs. It's also going to be a good starter for kids reluctant to try stories on their own, as the fun pictures entice them in to try the chewy words for themselves! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0375855764; Published October 2009 by Random House; Review copy provided by author; Added to the library's wishlist

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Hippos can't swim and other fun facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald

This is part of a new series called "Did you know?" Just as the title says, it's a collection of fun facts. They're loosely linked together and hilariously illustrated with colorful cartoons.

There are no sources or bibliography; the only backmatter is a page of additional facts.

I had to read the book more than once to really get used to the sometimes flimsy segues. It starts with some facts about hippos, including that they can't swim...but sea turtles can swim and go faster than you think, much faster than jellyfish...speaking of jellyfish, here are some facts including that some species have fireflies! who can be different colors...unlike zebras who aren't lots of colors but have interesting patterns and are attracted to black and white things...not like racoons who like shiny things and can be found in garbage cans....on the other hand, chipmunks are more likely to be found in the woods, filling their mouth pouches with food for hibernation...kangaroos have a different use for their pouches, here are some interesting facts about their jumping abilities...another animal that jumps is a rabbit, did you know rabbits live underground? Bats, on the other hand, may live above ground or in caves and sleep all day...not like ants, who live underground but are awake a lot and live in herons who are really tall....but hummingbirds are whales are bigger than everything "And unlike whales sure can SWIM!"

So, that's a LOT of facts packed into this little book. The illustrations are cheerful and definitely attractive with bold colors and lines, pop-eyed cartoon animals, and funny details like speedy sea turtles in sweatbands and chipmunks with food pouches distended bigger than their entire bodies.

Verdict: This wouldn't work well for a school report or an older kid wanting to learn about a specific animal and it's too long for storytime or reading as a story to a little one, but it's just right for that in between age of 1st - 3rd grade when kids really crave collections of facts and will enjoy the cartoon animals. You can buy this whole series in paperback, but I would expend the extra money to get them in hardcover as they will see a lot of use.

ISBN: 9781442493520; Published 2014 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Planning next year at the library: Goals and program layout

Since I'm trying to plan many new things, I thought "hey, why not crowd-source?" So, this is my new mission statement, goals, and objectives for the youth services department (not final!) and my layout of programs for January - May. All suggestions, thoughts, criticisms, gratefully received...I'm especially always worried that I'm not underplanning or overplanning - it's hard to know what's a balance of programs, you know?

Mission Statement
The mission of the Youth Services Department of the Matheson Memorial Library is to provide informational, educational, and recreational services, in a friendly and supportive setting, to all families, children, and caregivers of the Elkhorn community. These services are available through quality materials and programs offered by a friendly and knowledgeable staff in a comfortable and welcoming environment. The Youth Services Department serves as a family gathering place focused on educating, enriching, and entertaining the families, children, teens, and caregivers of the public.

Department Goals
  • Serve all age groups with a variety of programs.
  • Serve all families and caregivers with a broad programming schedule
  • Make the Youth Services Department a destination by offering a welcoming, fun, and enriching environment

2014/2015 Objectives
  • Offer programs for each time slot (morning, afternoon, early evening, late evening)
  • Offer a wider variety of programs for early childhood; active/movement programs and programs directed at smaller groups.
  • Offer a wider variety of school-age programs, specifically for smaller groups, which will enable us to build relationships and encourage use of the collection
  • Revive middle school and teen programs, creating simple, sustainable programs that build on school-age program participants
  • Expand outreach to four year olds to build an audience for the preschool programming schedule.
How Will We Get There? Meeting Objectives
  • Alternate programs in time slots so we can offer more variety (monthly/bi-monthly instead of weekly)
  • Alternate programs - storytime/dance program/art program etc. instead of the same program every week
  • Stagger programs - don’t start everything all at once, put in gaps when I know there will be heavy calls for outreach (end of October, end of April)
  • Start with one middle school program (reviving middle school madness) and creating a teen volunteer program

  • Implement a planning schedule to streamline marketing, budgeting and create better long-term evaluation of programming and build word-of-mouth interest in programs
    • November (Thanksgiving) finalize plans for January - May
    • April (after big party) finalize plans for June - August
    • August finalize plans for September - December

Library programsStaffAudienceDayTimeFrequencyAvg. Att.
Pattie's C.A.F.E.Pattie0 to 5M10 to 12Monthly, 1st Monday20
Moms with MultiplesPattie0 to 5M10 to 12Monthly, 2nd Monday15
Playgroup with PattiePattie0 to 5M10 to 12Monthly, 4th Monday20
Tiny TotsPattie, Associate0 to 5M6:30 to 7:30Weekly15
BookaneersJennifer6 to 8M6:30 to 7Monthly, 4th Monday5
Toddlers 'n' BooksPattie0 to 5Tues10 to 122 sessions weekly25
Preschool InteractiveJennifer3 to 5W1:30 to 3Twice monthly20
Winter WigglersJennifer0 to 5W10 to 12Monthly20
We Explore NatureJennifer3 to 5W10 to 12Monthly (no 4K)20
Middle School MadnessAssociate11 to 13W3 to 5Weekly10
Books 'n' BabiesPattie0 to 2Thur10 to 12Weekly20
Lego ClubJenniferAllThur3:30 to 5:30Twice monthly35
Messy Art ClubJenniferAllThur3:30 to 5:30Monthly40
Mad Scientists ClubJenniferAllThur3:30 to 5:30Monthly35
Family game nightPattie0 to 5Thur6:30 to 7:30Monthly10
We Explore SciencePattie0 to 5F10 to 12Monthly40
We Explore Favorite ArtistsJennifer3 to 5F10 to 12Twice monthly20
Special Programs
Saturday kick-offPattie, JenniferSat10:30 to 11:30January
Angry BirdsJenniferAllF4 to 5January25
Paws to Read partyJenniferAllF4 to 5February25
Dr. Seuss partyJenniferAllF4 to 5February35
Annual Spring Break T-Shirt PartyJenniferAllF4 to 5March40
Under the SeaPattie, Jennifer3 to 5W10 to 12April200
Fancy partyJenniferAllF4 to 5May35
Muffins with MomJenniferAllSat10:30 to 11:30May25
TLCJennifer3 to 5W1:30/9:30-114 classes monthly45
Step AheadJennifer3 to 5field trip to library in April
Lakelands Little LearnersJennifer3 to 5W/F4-6 monthly visits
TibbetsJennifer5 to 6Tues3 classes monthly
Jackson/West SideJennifer5 to 6F10 to 116-8 kindergarten classes200
Jackson/West Side/TibbetsJennifer8 to 12Tues8 to 12approx. 10 teams100
Jackson/West Side/TibbetsJennifer9 to 12 fifth grade classes250
Jackson/West Side/Tibbets/EAMS sixth gradeJennifer
Stealth Programming
Paws to Read (winter)
1,000 books before kindergarten
Take home bags
Activity table
Culver's coloring contest
Birdwatching station

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Week at the library; or, Settling down to work

This is a lame display. It was supposed to be a tree with
apples and pumpkins along the ground. It was supposed to be
up in September. At least the stuff is laminated. Next year...
What's going on: In my head and at the library
  • This week's projects were planning programs for November/December, updating the last bits of publicity, continuing to work on neighborhoods, and starting to put together a departmental mission, goals, and objects as well as a tentative calendar for next year. I was also training a new aide and beginning a serious battle against the Decay of Order in my department. Spirit Animals after Superheroes?? What were you thinking??
  • And, of course, end of the month reports! They seem to take more and more I turning into....Management? Augh!
What the kids are reading
  • Wanted a Magic Tree House book, but both copies were checked out. Wanted a book they saw at the book fair, but all they had was " had a boy...and stuff" we finally settled on Down Girl and Sit and Scary Tales.
  • Wanted "a book on what to take if you travel to Japan" but settled for books about Japan.
  • Neighborhoods are definitely showing me what's needed - I had a run on tractor books on Tuesday and was completely cleaned out.
  • Amulet (2 requests)
  • Bone (2 requests)
  • Minecraft - I think they wanted the graphic novels, but they're going to have to be satisfied with the many, many handbooks I purchased. I am highly suspicious of those bindings.
  • Stupid lexiles. 11 yr old girl looking for 1000 level lexiles. Lexiles suggests My Most Excellent Year, lots of nonfiction, thick classics, etc. We finally settled on Robinson's The Best School Year Ever.
  • Who was Ferdinand Magellan - I have absolutely nothing on him. I need to fill in this series.
  • Ready Freddy - firehouse fun, I'm missing this one
  • Mickey Mouse books - I'll look for some next time I buy tub books
  • MORE people want tractor books!
  • Talking to the teens about starting an anime collection next year and adding more manga - requests for Black Butler

Friday, November 7, 2014

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece Bell tells of her childhood experiences with school, friendship woes, and everyday family life with the added complication of her deafness.

When she was four, she had Meningitis and it left her severely deaf. She spends kindergarten at a school for the deaf, learning to lip-read and adjust to her hearing aid, but then her family moves and she has to go to a regular school. She also gets a "Phonic Ear" a bulky, heavy hearing aid that connects to a microphone worn by the teacher. It's great that she can hear so clearly, but the Phonic Ear makes her feel self-conscious and isolated. She struggles with friendships, first with a girl who doesn't make a big deal out of her deafness, but is pushy and possessive, then with a girl who is fun to be with but makes a big deal out of her deafness. Finally, she discovers a younger girl in her neighborhood who is her perfect friend, but disaster strikes and their friendship is broken.

Throughout her trials and tribulations, she has her fantasies to sustain her, especially once she realizes she can hear her teacher anywhere in the school - even the bathroom! The story ends with her reconciling with her friend, possibly connecting with her crush, and becoming El Deafo, the superhero, not just to herself but to her widening circle of friends.

Bell's art has the strong lines and colorful palette that kids picking up this type of graphic novel look for, but she skilfully shows her isolation and confusion with the blank expressions on people's faces and the spurt of nonsense syllables filling the backgrounds as she tries to adjust to her different hearing aids.

A lot of people, librarians included, are comparing this to Raina Telgemeier and touting it as a read-alike. Telgemeier herself blurbed the book as well. I disagree with this for several reasons:

  • El Deafo covers preschool through fifth grade - Smile goes from fifth grade to middle school
  • Younger kids won't think anything of the choice to portray all the characters as rabbits, but the majority of older elementary and middle school readers won't pick up a book with anthropomorphic animals, because it looks "babyish"
  • Telgemeier's art, like Bell's, is very clean-cut and easy to follow, lots of clear lines, expressive faces, etc. However, Bell's rabbit faces have much more limited expressiveness than human faces and she has a much more subdued palette, with lots of earth tones and lighter colors.
While I'm game to recommend anything that will get kids reading, and I'll certainly have a shot at suggesting this to younger fans of Telgemeier, they're apt to be disappointed. This is more likely to resonate with younger readers navigating elementary school, than those who are looking towards middle school.

Verdict: While I don't think this is a good fit for the way it's being publicized, I do think it's a really good portrayal not only of how one person dealt with being deaf but also with the everyday joys and despairs of elementary school. Recommend this to kids not quite ready to tackle Telgemeier or Myracle and to those who want stories about "real kids". If you can get them to look past the rabbits, they'll really enjoy it! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781419710209; Published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library