Saturday, October 31, 2015

This week at the library; or, I am scary busy

The middle schoolers joined in and made monster boxes
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • As I'm planning next year, I think I need to really cut back on programs in October, even more than I did this year. It's just not realistic to run a lot of small programs when I'm doing all these extra school visits.
  • Monday: Meetings. Staff meeting. Mid-year evaluations. Program meeting. Meeting to plan outdoor gardens/learning space. Busy evening on the information desk.
  • Tuesday: I worked on planning stuff in-between floods of toddlers and other stuff. I also went out to Sophos for an hourish in the afternoon. There were more than 30 kids there, I checked out several books, took some for return, and also took a lot of supplies for them to decorate t-shirts the volunteers had provided. I ended up leaving the t-shirt supplies to pick up later b/c they were still doing stuff with them. They were sad that I took the Osmo back with me though!
  • Wednesday was outreach and meetings. 3 outreach storytimes in the morning, then back to work, then to a meeting with a reading teacher at school, then back to work for lunch, then back for one more afternoon outreach visit, then back to the school for a board meeting, then I left. No knitting for me tonight. Bed instead.
  • Thursday, DO ALL THE THINGS. Well, try anyways.
  • Friday, I had hoped to have all my staff but due to various things it was just me and some of them some of the time. Then we ended up having an extra training and....anyways, I felt like not much got done but maybe that was because the day was scattered. Some shifting and shelving and a lot of stuff for the fairy tale adventure did get finished. Then I went to Walmart for supplies.
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • Still working on weeding biographies, planning/scheduling next year and the fairy tale adventure
  • 2 staff meetings, evaluations, program meeting, meeting with reading teacher, charter school board.
  • Library work day (Friday)
Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • I didn't take notes this week and completely lost track. I was out at a lot of schools and crazy busy so I didn't do a lot of reader's advisory anyways.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse: A New Friend by Poppy Green, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

I originally resisted checking this out because it looked too "cute" but it turned out to be rather irresistible.

Sophie is a dreamer and loves to paint. She's excited about going back to school and seeing all her old friends. But when a new pupil shows up she gets a shock - it's a snake! Are they safe to be around? Can he play with them? The other kids think snakes are scary, is Sophie brave enough to ask him to play with them? After some wise advice from her parents and some fortunate meetings with new neighbors, Sophie finds the answer to all her questions and gets a new friend!

Bell's illustrations show an adorable cast of anthropomorphic small creatures with the tiny details that will definitely intrigue readers; little baskets, plentiful use of acorns, and large flowers.

There are lots of cute names, adorable food (nutmeg popovers) and a simple but sweet message about giving new/different kids a chance to be friends. The text would be great for a beginning chapter reader with the illustrations keeping it from being overwhelming and the slightly larger text is reader-friendly.

Verdict: If cute puts you off, you might still want to give this a chance. It's adorable but never quite twee and a solid addition to a beginning chapter series. Fans of Daisy Dawson, Critter Club, and some of the cuter Branches series will enjoy this cozy tale.

ISBN: 9781481428330; Published 2015 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Georgia the Guinea Pig Fairy by Daisy Meadows

The Rainbow Magic series is divided into sets of themed fairies - the weather fairies, the sports fairies, the jewel fairies, etc. This title is from the pet fairies series. Each follows a similar theme - the naughty ice goblins make trouble and a group of mortal girls get to help the fairies put things right.

In this case, the ice goblins have stolen the magical pets. The story in the third volume starts out with Kristy and Rachel visiting Strawberry Farm and thinking about the magical pets they've already helped rescue. When a guinea pig escapes from the Pet Corner, they are chasing him when he....flies? It's one of the magical pets! Georgia the guinea pig fairy appears and together the three of them try to get Sparky back. It's not so easy when the ice goblins appear though! Can they outwit the mean goblins?

As you can see from the cover, this series does include a wide variety of skin colors in the fairies. The interior art is simple black and white drawings, with no skin color for any of the characters so it's not possible to tell if the girls are diverse, although they have what appears to be blond and black hair, respectively. The art is very cute and has a distinct British feel, with its blend of cozy and sparkly.

Has any adult actually read these? Well, one has now. Rainbow Magic is one of those paperback series that are pumped out for beginning readers. Most people just assume they're trite and light reading, suitable for kids who need the continuity of a familiar series to improve their reading abilities. Well, they're pretty much...right on the nose for that one. That doesn't mean it's a bad book though - it does exactly what it sets out to do. I have both boys and girls who enjoy reading these; the simple plots, engaging characters (fairies! goblins! girls helping fairies!) and cute artwork make these an easy series to encourage kids to jump into reading.

Verdict: You must have at least a couple of these series in your library, if not all of them (I'm not sure anyone could keep up with all of them). I recommend the classic weather, jewel, and pet fairies to start with.

ISBN: 9780545133227; Published 2006 by Scholastic; From my personal collection; Owned by the library

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Small Readers: Out of this world: Jupiter, the biggest planet by Chaya Glaser

Bearport has been expanding into the easy reader market over the past few years. It's a natural fit, since they specialize in high-interest nonfiction with a range of reading levels. This title is part of a new series, "Out of this World" which covers the planets and also of the "Little Bits First Readers" imprint.

Each page features one to two simple sentences and some captions for the photographs. The reader will learn some basic facts about Jupiter, including size, composition, and recent discoveries.

The background of the pages is a starry sky. Various photographs of Jupiter and other plants float across it with text highlighted on bold red shapes or on the night sky background. The photographs are clearly labeled with arrows as needed pointing to specific aspects of the planet.

Back matter has a simple chart comparing Jupiter to the earth, four words in the glossary, a simple index, two recommended books, and a link to Bearport's online content and a brief bio of the author. Like most of Bearport's nonfiction easy readers, it's a square shape, about 8x8.

Verdict: While my obsessive side would like all easy readers to look alike forever and ever no exceptions amen, I can see that this larger format is a nice layout for the nonfiction content, especially when it's big round planets. The font is large and readable, the information simple but interesting, and this would be a good addition to your easy nonfiction as kids enjoy learning about space at this stage. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781627245654; Published 2015 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Read Scary: The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

Kazuno Kohara does the most adorable, simple picture books - but with substance! They're not just fluff.

Last year I added this book to my 1st Grade Library Visit program and it was a huge hit with the kids. Appropriately, my 1st grade visits are always the end of October.

The story begins with a special library that opens only at night. The little librarian and her assistant owls are having a peaceful, if busy, evening when the rush begins - squirrels looking for somewhere to practice their band concert, a wolf crying because her story is unhappy, and finally a turtle who doesn't want to leave until he finishes his story. Finally, the animals are gone and it only remains for the librarian to pick out a special bedtime book for the owls.

Kohara's distinctive illustrations are two-color creations with thick, black lines. They're almost like woodcuts, but for younger kids. This book is told in yellow and blue, which is perfect for that just slightly shivery feeling of scary for the really little kids without being really frightening. Cute animals, towering bookshelves, and trees give the library a welcoming, exuberant feeling.

One of the things I love most about this book, and what makes it perfect for my library visit tours, is what an excellent job Kohara does of capturing a modern library with space for everyone. First, there's the fact that it's open at night to accommodate the animals who can't come during the day. When the squirrels are noisy they aren't asked to leave - they're shown to an activity room where they can practice. The little librarian always has a helpful response to whatever questions are thrown at her and she stays cheerful and friendly throughout her busy night.

Verdict: This is a perfect book for a toddler Halloween storytime or to welcome new friends to the library, assuring them there is room for everyone! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781596439856; Published 2014 by Roaring Brook Press; Purchased for the library

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Robot World: Robots in the Factory by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

This title is from the new imprint, Pogo, from fairly new publisher Jump! My preference is for their younger imprint, Bullfrog. I have a lot of very enthusiastic fans of those titles. The Pogo titles are ok, but they don't really stand out from the crowd of series nonfiction in my opinion.

Honestly, this is the title I liked the least and some of that is from an adult perspective. Are there topics that don't work well for young children? I think there are and they should either be tackled with more nuances or left until the kids are older.

Robots in the factory is one of a four title series, "Robot World". The book starts with several statements about how robots are better than people, never make mistakes, and do work that people can't or don't want to do. The book explains how robots are programmed to do different jobs, that programming is a set of instructions which are so detailed "there is no room for error." Different aspects and tools of a robot like wheels, sensors and "arms" are then described. In the final chapter we "meet the robots" and see the different types used in a car factory.

The attached activity is to make a robot by "programming" a friend. There is a glossary, index, and link to the publisher's website.

My main caveat with this book is that there is enough text and complexity, in my opinion, to introduce critical thinking skills. I don't know much of anything about robotics but even I can reason from point A to point B and if a human is programming the robot there certainly is "room for error". I don't like the "robots are perfect and wonderful!" without even a page mentioning the possible disadvantages. If the book had simple been explaining how robots work, I wouldn't have expected more a more even-handed approach, but when there were so many statements made about the benefits of robots aside from the simple "how they work and how they're used" facts, I expect more pros and cons.

Verdict: I'd pass on this one. Even young kids need to learn some critical thinking skills and while robots are popular, I want kids to think about what they're reading and not just swallow statements whole.

ISBN: 9781620312186; Published 2015 by Pogo/Jump!; Review copy provided by the publisher

Nonfiction Monday: Disaster Zone: Hurricanes by Cari Meister

This is another new series from Jump's Pogo imprint, nonfiction titles that are leveled for early readers.

It was kind of a weird reading experience for me because I had just read Don Brown's Drowned City and so it was surreal reading this rather bland discussion of hurricanes after the powerful emotional punch of Brown's work for a much older audience.

This book briefly reviews what a hurricane is, explains how it forms, and then talks about some of the devastation they cause and some famous hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina.

Back matter includes a section on being prepared for hurricanes and the reassurance that hurricanes are rarely a surprise and if you are prepared you'll be fine. There is a science activity creating a hurricane in a bottle, an index, glossary, and link to the publisher's website for more resources. Other titles in the series include Blizzards, Droughts, Earthquakes, Landslides, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes.

Verdict: This is a serviceable, if not particularly memorable, addition to disaster series for younger readers. There are plenty of disaster series out there, even for younger readers, and if you're updating your collection this would be a choice to look at it but it's not a must-have for a public library. School libraries may be more interested due to the leveled text.

ISBN: 978162012216; Published July 2015 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Nonfiction Monday: Way to grow! Gardening: Composting and Planting by Rebecca Pettiford

 These two titles are from a new imprint, Pogo, produced by Jump! It's for an older audience than their Bullfrog imprint, and contains leveled text for beginning readers.

Composting explains how compost works, how gardens need organic matter in their soil, and how to make your own compost. There are helpful facts in "Did you know?" sections and clear directions for creating your compost pile from what to put in it to how to layer it. There is a science experiment to compare soil at the end and see if compost really makes a difference. There is also an index, glossary, and link to the publisher's website to learn more.

The book has a nice, clean layout and is illustrated with photographs that show a fairly diverse group of kids (two black, two white, one photograph of hands that all appear to be white)

Planting is also in this series and starts out with some general tips on planting. Find a sunny spot, sow seeds depending on where you live. It talks a little about germination, then caring for plants with watering, mulching, and fertilizing. The activity is comparing soil. There is a glossary, index, and link to the publisher's website.

I was disappointed by this title. The information seemed very random. It talked about specific fertilizer (mineral fertilizers) but not about weeding or garden pests. I didn't like the assumptions that everyone would have a yard or access to a community garden - it would have been nice if it had suggested container gardens that almost everyone can make. The comparing soil activity was very similar to the activity in Composting. The photographs show three white kids, a grandparent and child who appear to be Asian, a dark-skinned girl, and a girl with darker skin and a bindi? although it looked oddly fake, as though it was applied to the photograph afterwards.

I think this too broad a topic for the length of the book and the leveled text. There are a lot of better nonfiction planting books out there.

Verdict: If you are buying individual titles, I recommend Composting as it's a decent overview and there aren't a lot of books on this subject. If you're looking for whole series on growing, I'd pass on this one as all the titles don't seem to be of the same quality.

Published July 2015 by Jump; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

ISBN: 9781620312292

ISBN: 9781620312285

Nonfiction Monday: Amazing Structures: Skyscrapers and Dams by Rebecca Pettiford

 These two titles are part of Pogo, new imprint from Jump! They're intended for beginning readers and cover many different subjects. These two titles are from the Amazing Structures series.

Skyscrapers starts with a relatable example - skyscrapers are like really, really tall towers of blocks. It briefly explains the history of skyscrapers, the inventions that made the first skyscrapers possible, and how they are built. Cool skyscrapers are profiled throughout the book and it ends with an inspirational suggestion about building skyscrapers in the future.

Activities give instructions for building a skyscraper out of cardboard blocks, a glossary, index, and directions to the publisher's website.

The book also includes plentiful pictures of the different workers needed to make a skyscraper and there is a good diversity displayed, including people of color and women, in the different jobs.

Dams begins with a basic definition of dams and explains why there are important. It talks about how different dams are made and what they are used for. There is a simple explanation of hydroelectricity and the use of locks and spillways. The book also mentions civil engineers, who build dams, picturing a woman in the photograph. There is an activity to build a dam, glossary, index, and link to the publisher's website.

These are both serviceable titles and appear to be accurate and researched. I especially liked the diversity of workers pictured. If you have kids interested in how structures work (and I really wish I'd had these when that four year old wanted them) they will make a good addition to your collection.

Verdict: This isn't a must-have series, but if you are looking to update this subject, it's a good choice.

Published July 2015 by Pogo/Jump!; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

ISBN: 9781620312100

ISBN: 9781620312131

Nonfiction Monday: The World's Biggest Mammals by Mari Schuh

Jump's Bullfrog imprint has been hugely popular at my library; only a few weeks ago a mom stopped by my desk to mention how much her son loved "all the little white books" and ask if there were any more (I assured her I'd be adding more next year!). I was interested to see a number of samples from different series from their new Pogo imprint. Unlike Bullfrog, it is aimed at older readers and offers more information and leveled text for kids starting to read. To be honest, most of the series didn't impress me much; it felt very similar to a lot of other nonfiction series out there with generic text on generic topics.

However, this series is the closest to the Bullfrog titles and one that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be buying the rest of for my patrons to enjoy.

The World's Biggest series includes amphibians, birds, fish, insects and reptiles and I was given a sample of Mammals. Each chapter is only a few pages long, but nicely packs a succinct explanation of the topic into a few pages. It explains what a mammal is, describes the largest land mammal (elephants) in detail from their habitat to habits with several comparative facts showing just how large they are. Blue whales, the largest mammal that ever lived have a few pages of description of their habitats and size. The last spread describes the distribution of elephants and blue whales and offers a neat summing up of the topic. There is a final comparison of weight of these two massive animals, an activity (weighing things), a glossary, and an index.

Although the end of the book is a little jumbled, the information is for the most part presented well and in a layout with plenty of interest for readers. The book focuses not just on a familiar animal but on a specific aspect (their size) that keeps the range of information brief enough to cover in detail in this short book. The photographs are interesting and matched well to the text.

Verdict: Animal series are always popular and this one stands out enough from the usual fare to make it definitely worth adding to your collection.

ISBN: 9781520312049; Published July 2015 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Read Scary

Welcome to my private meme, collecting all the scary books I review in October. Join me! Just post your scary book review in the comments and I'll collect them here. You can add "Read Scary" to your title and labels as well. Check out the comments for more suggestions and other blogs running similar memes.

Petrifying Picture Books

Eerie Easy Readers
Waiting for something scary!

Baleful Beginning Chapters
Waiting for something scary!

Monstrous Middle Grade
Eerie Oddities

Saturday, October 24, 2015

This week at the library; or, Can things calm down now please? Please??

Yes, this is a cover (and catalog record) for a biography
of Carlos Montezuma and the interior and cip is a biography
of Geronimo. Yes, it has checked out. Either some kid
wrote a really bad report or....nobody ever actually read it?
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • Thankfully, things went back to normal this week. Or as normal as they ever are. Friday was crazy. I stayed longer at the meeting than I meant to, we have donors coming through over the weekend so I had crazy cleaning, etc.
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • Working on biography weeding project
  • Working on planning for fairy tale adventure
  • Working on scheduling and planning for next year
  • Youth Services meeting
Stealth Programs and Displays

What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • A very quiet request for Matilda
  • 6th grader who loves paranormal and fantasy but has restrictions on what she can read - gave her Durst's Into the Wild and Wrede's dragon quartet.
  • More tractor movies.
  • Hot Wheels books. Well, I have race cars....?
  • Farm books
  • Superheroes
  • Puppy place
  • Sisters Grimm
  • Easier books for bedtime reading for a toddler
  • Hamsters, big cats
  • being grateful

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Pet Human by Yasmine Surovec

This was adorable without being saccharine and I declare Surovec the new illustrator of cute cats for kids.

A nameless cat is perfectly happy with his life. He has friends, he has places he can get food, he has his independence. He doesn't need humans. After all, he could only put up with a very special human and he's sure such a human doesn't exist. But then someone moves into the new house....and she has TUNA. The cat simply must have some. He's just staying for the tuna. And the boxes. And the back rubs. And....maybe he doesn't need to leave just yet?

The book is heavily illustrated with black and white pictures and they are all simply perfect. The cat is a deliciously round and cozy cat and the animals and people have definite personalities, even with the simple lines of the art. The layout is a mix of illustrations, speech bubbles, and small chunks of text, perfect for beginning chapter readers and fans of graphic novels.

The humor in this book is much more subtle than, say, Bad Kitty, but it has a charm all its own. It's funny, kooky, and sweet and has a hopeful theme about finding family and friendship in unexpected places. I also appreciated the depiction of a single family home and the different but happy families of the cat's various animal friends.

Verdict: Although it stands on its own, you will also want to recommend this one to fans of Chi's Sweet Home, Bad Kitty, and Miss Annie. Beginning chapter readers will embrace it and cat fans will adore it. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781626720732; Published 2015 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

This is the fourth Stink book, but the first I've actually read. I had this in a collection of books about guinea pigs that I weeded out of my personal library in 2014.

Stink and his friend Sophie are helping their friend Webster build the Great Wall of China out of cereal boxes when they discover...guinea pigs! When they take the guinea pigs to Mrs. Birdwhistle at the pet shop, they discover that she has 101 guinea pigs - rescued from a lab. Now she has to find homes for them, and Stink and his friends are ready to help. They fix up a bus and take the guinea pigs on the road, looking for homes. But Stink has a hard time letting go of one special guinea pig - will he get to keep Astro?

The story is interspersed not only with black and white drawings but also with simple one-page comics, "Stink's Furry Facts" that add information about guinea pigs.

Although I hadn't read a Stink book before (or Judy Moody) it was easy to pick up the thread of the narrative. It's a light, fun story and at a little over 100 pages a perfectly serviceable beginning chapter book with humor, animals, a readable font, and attractive art. I did feel that the ending was a bit pat, with Stink getting Astro after all (would he really have survived the trip?) and I was skeptical that after being used as lab animals all the guinea pigs would have been immediately adoptable - none are shown with health problems or in poor condition. As it specifically states that they were ill-treated and used to test shampoo and perfume that's really, really unbelievable. There's some mild diversity in Stink's town - Mrs. Birdwhistle and the people in the crowd scenes and a brief note at the back has a caution about researching before adopting a pet.

Verdict: This is a solid and accessible series. A little bit of wish-fulfillment never hurt anyone and it's funny and interesting. A classic beginning chapter series that every library should own.

ISBN: 9780763628352; Published 2008 by Candlewick; From my personal collection (library owns a copy)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Little Owl's Colors and Little Owl's 1 2 3 by Divya Srinivasan

My personal favorite of Srinivasan's work is her book Octopus Alone but patrons are much more into the Little Owl series so I'm quite happy to see they've been made into simple concept board books.

Little Owl's Colors features both day and night spreads, each one focuses on the different colors. For example, the blue/green spread has a blue pond and dragonflies on the left and a green frog on green grass on the right. The color words (green, blue, etc.) are colored to match and the color is printed in a larger font at the top of the page.

Little Owl's 1 2 3 is all night backgrounds. Unlike the previous title, it doesn't count everything in each spread, only one set of creatures. For example, on the four page, it lists the four possums but doesn't count the four snails. Most pages only have one set of creatures to count though anyways. The numbers are boldly printed at the top of the page and then written out in the sentence.

The illustrations are Srinivasan's trademark bold, digital shapes and colors. The covers here don't do justice to the actual vibrant shades by the way. There's no doubt about picking out colors or counting creatures and she does an excellent job of simple backgrounds and uncluttered spreads, perfect for developing eyes.

The books are a slightly smaller, 6x6 size, with thin but sturdy pages and glossy finish.

Verdict: These are great adaptations of picture books and also stand well on their own. They're developmentally appropriate, of interest to babies and toddlers, and would make great selections for one on one book play or a baby storytime. They'd be good inspirations for a flannel board as well. Highly recommended.

Published 2015 by Viking/Penguin; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Little Owl's Colors
ISBN: 9780451474568

Little Owl's 1 2 3
ISBN: 9780451474544

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Imelda and the Goblin King by Briony May Smith

Just so you know, I am in love with this book. I had to buy another copy for the library because I refused to give up my review copy. Hopefully I will not be turned into a worm for my greediness.

Also, this is not the best cover picture, it's just what I could find. There's actually a cool binding of gold leaves on the edge and the art is much more brilliant.

Imelda lives next to an enchanted wood and happily plays with the fairy folk there. Until one day, a mean bullying goblin arrives. The fairy queen tries inviting him to a wonderful feast; maybe he won't be so scary if someone is kind to him? Nope, still nasty. In fact, he's not just nasty but greedy and selfish as well! When the fairy queen remonstrates, he steals her so he won't have to share anything - not the feast, not the woods, and certainly not the throne. But Imelda has a plan...and lots of special berries...and the goblin king gets his comeuppance, once and for all.

Innumerable little creatures cavort across the pages in bright colors and silly attitudes. Anyone who enjoys poring over small details will love finding all the different fairies and fantastical creatures that fill the pages in hues from brown and red to green and yellow. Imelda is a perfect heroine, ordinary in her plain brown hair and dress, but determined and resourceful. I absolutely loved the ending - some characters just are mean and being nice to them doesn't help! Kids know this and will delight in the brisk justice of the conclusion.

Verdict: A fairy tale in the best sense of the word with villains and heroines, magic and fairies, and a satisfying ending. This will not only be a fun story for a magic storytime, but will definitely be a favorite for kids for years to come. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781909263659; Published October 20 by Flying Eye; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, October 19, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne

This is one of a series of books about Australian wildlife that's recently been published in the US and I am thrilled to welcome them to our shores because they are truly gorgeous.

As evening falls, the kangaroos wake up. Big Red Kangaroo is the dominant male of his "mob" and he leads them out to graze in the cool night, escape a dust storm, and steer clear of dingos. He warns off other males and has a fight with one. Finally, the night is over and the kangaroos settle down for the day.

The charcoal and digital illustrations are breathtaking. Rich oranges, browns, and reds flow through the broad sketches. The kangaroos stand out from the landscape in shades of gray, brown and red, their bodies stretching and leaping across the pages.

There is a page of additional information about kangaroos at the back, an index, and a note reminding readers to check both the narrative text and the secondary informational text in italics. It's a format that works very well for different ages; you can read the basic text aloud to a younger group while older readers will appreciate the additional information fleshing out the story of the kangaroos night.

Verdict: Accessible text that will appeal to a variety of ages and gorgeous illustrations - what's not to love? Definitely add this and Saxby's other titles to fill out your animal sections. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763670757; Published 2013; US edition published 2015 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Saturday, October 17, 2015

This week at the library; or, I am doing my civic duty

What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • I have no objection to doing my civic duty, but did I have to be called for jury duty THIS week?? I've never been called before and it was an unpleasant surprise to find out I had to be there at EIGHT AM on a MONDAY. That is not a real time. I got selected for a week-long trial and had to scramble to arrange replacements for the gazillion programs and school visits this week. So that's what happened this week.
  • I did get some long recesses and fortunately the courthouse is only about five minutes from the library, so I ran over and was able to do about half of book club and then came in and did misc. work during lunch and after 5. Still, it was an exhausting, frustrating week and by Wednesday night I mostly just wanted to cry. Thankfully it was over Thursday afternoon and my helpers took most of the work of Mad Scientists Club on themselves as I was not really in a condition to do anything!
  • How much work could I pack into Friday? Quite a bit.
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • Justice!
Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Other than the potential juror who was reading Kiki Strike which I'd recommended to her daughter previously....

Friday, October 16, 2015

Read Scary: Through the woods by Emily Carroll

These five, lushly illustrated stories, are super, super creepy. You have been warned.

The stories are framed by a child reading in bed, in the dark, imagining that there is something....something there that will pull them down into the dark....

"Our Neighbor's House" is set in what looks like the late 1800s, maybe a rural/pioneer time. Three girls are left alone and each night a stranger visits...and one girl vanishes. The last girl finally sets out on a journey to their neighbor's house...but what will she find when she arrives?

"A Lady's Hands Are Cold" looks like a rich, Georgian time period in London. A young woman in an arranged marriage travels a lonely road to her new house and begins to see and hear strange things...when she finally discovers the horrible truth of her husband's dark secret, will she manage to flee in time or will she become the next victim?

"His Face All Red" is a mystery and a ghost story. A brother is watching his brother make merry at the pub, in what looks like 18th century England, but he knows that it's not really his brother, hero of the village, killer of the wolf...when his terrible secret becomes too much for him, he flees back to the scene of his terrible crime and makes a terrifying discovery...

"My Friend Janna" features two young girls in the Spiritualist movement. What happens when the spirits become real but it's the girl who can't see ghosts who sees what's hanging about her friend...

"The Nesting Place" is pretty much Cthulhu horror. A sullen teenager travels to live with her brother and his new wife after her parents' death. But there's something wrong about his wife, that dates back to her disappearance into the woods...

The stories conclude with a young girl traveling through the woods in a red cloak, back to her safe house and bed where she reads stories....but is she really ever safe?

Carroll's art is stunning. Blazing with bloody reds and oranges against stark black and white detailed landscapes. The art swirls around the text, conjuring up dark woods, shadowed halls, and a cast of terrifying characters who are never quite what you expect. The stories are interwoven with fairy tale themes, especially the journey and motifs of Little Red Riding Hood.

Verdict: Super creepy. Hand this to teens who want a good, chilling read and will enjoy the literary quality and gorgeous art. Not for the faint of heart or those whose idea of horror is a straight-up gorefest. I have a lot of teens who like creepy, gothic graphic novels and this will be perfect for them.

ISBN: 9781442465954; Published 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Small Readers: Slither, Snake!, Hoot, Owl! and Sleep, Bear! by Shelby Alinsky

 I love National Geographic nonfiction easy readers. They're the reason I made a nonfiction easy reader section, since so many people were skimming through the easy readers looking for the yellow spines! I wanted to review three of their new pre-readers today.

Each book starts with a "vocabulary tree" containing the words that will be used in the book. The book runs through different aspects of the animals' lives and then ends with an activity. I like that the activities show drawings that could actually have been done by a child as their examples.

Slither, Snake! has the absolute most gorgeous snake on the cover. Yes, it's a highly venomous boomslang, but still gorgeous. Ahem. Ok. So, the vocabulary tree goes animals, snakes, and then lists body parts - tail, tongue, hood, head, fangs, scales. This book a number of different snakes like so "A king snake slithers. Slither, snake!" as well as adding a few spreads of simple information about the snake. There is a map at the back showing where the snake lives and then a project to draw a snake and label its parts.

Sleep, Bear! is probably my favorite because I love bears. Well, I love snakes too, but bears! Furry! This vocabulary tree goes from animals to bears to brown bears and then branches out to what they do and what they eat. There are also the four seasons included. The book follows a bear through the four seasons from waking up in the spring, hunting for food in the summer, finding a den in the fall, and back to sleep in the winter. The language is simple and clear "The bear eats. And eats. It eats all spring." The activity suggests acting out a bear's seasonal behavior.

The last title, Hoot, Owl! is specifically about snowy owls. The vocabulary tree has two lists, one of words about where they live and one of words about what they do. This is probably the simplest of the three titles with many pages having only a single word, "Food! Snatch!". The first half of the book uses the vocabulary to describe where the owl lives and the second has action words.The activity suggests acting out a snowy owl's behavior and then drawing it.

Each book has gorgeous photographs that fill almost the full page but there is still plenty of room for strips of solid color as background to the bold, large typeface. Captions within the pictures add more information and challenging vocabulary for young readers.

The problem with most nonfiction easy readers is that the challenging vocabulary is too much for beginning readers. National Geographic has done an excellent job of presenting facts with manageable text and of course they're photography is always wonderful. I have a constant need for more pre-readers and these are stellar.

Verdict: If you haven't purchased nonfiction easy readers, I recommend starting with these. Show parents just how easy they are and how much the kids love the photographs and facts and they'll be hooked! Highly recommended.

Published 2015 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library

Hoot, Owl!
ISBN: 9781426321269

Sleep, Bear!
ISBN: 9781426319600

Slither, Snake!
ISBN: 9781426319563

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finders Keepers by Keiko Kasza

For some reason I always default to thinking authors I loved as a child are dead, even though I'm not really that old. For some reason I had relegated Keiko Kasza to this category and when I realized she was still making books (and I'd missed a bunch) I was surprised and delighted. My Lucky Day remains my favorite, but her later works are fun too.

A squirrel with a snazzy red hat leaves his hat behind to cover the hole with his precious acorn. But while the squirrel is gone, the hat blows away and the adventures begin. First a bird uses it as a nest, then it becomes a boat, a clown nose and finally lands back in the spot it began. Just when you think the story is over and the squirrel trots off having eaten his acorn and retrieved his hat, someone finds something else he's left behind. "Finders, keepers!" he happily declares.

Kasza's colorful cartoons are still as funny and sweet as in her first books. Across a green and blue background of sky, grass and water, bright spots of color stand out. A flower, an exotic bird, plump red ladybugs on orange poppies and of course the bright red hat itself.

The smooth circular plot makes an excellent read-aloud, keeping the audience guessing what will happen next. It's a story that lends itself to extension activities, especially storytelling, as well as interactive reading since kids will be eager to look for the details in the artwork.

Verdict: This is what I think of as a good, solid storytime selection. It doesn't have the inspired humor of My Lucky Day and there's nothing in the artwork or story that really jumps out at you, but it's a well-written and illustrated selection that will appeal to children and parents and can be used in several different ways in storytimes. These are the type of books I think of as the filling of the collection, the bulk that fills in between the classics and outstanding titles that form the foundation and the flashy and bestselling titles that are the frosting on the cake.

ISBN: 9780399168987; Published 2015 by G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Tommy: The gun that changed America by Karen Blumenthal

I picked this up for a book club (we were reading books about pivotal Americans or American events) but I found it so interesting I decided to feature it on my blog and add it to my list of teen nonfiction I've been making to bolster this small section.

The book opens with a vivid picture of a violent robbery, using a Thompson submachine gun, or Tommy Gun. Then it plunges into the history of the famous weapon, starting with the Gatling gun during the Civil War and progressing into the development of the Tommy gun. Once the gun was finally perfected, the wars it was made for were over and the company was left with a superfluity of powerful machine guns. They marketed them to individuals and police departments, but it was the gangsters and criminals of the 1920s who made the "Tommy Gun" a famous weapon. Blumenthal weaves the beginnings of the NRA and the first attempts at legislative gun control, the development of police departments and the effects of Prohibition with grim stories of the role the Tommy gun played in criminal and racial killings. The concluding chapter explains how the Tommy gun fell out of favor and the ongoing effects of its development on gun control and culture.

This is written in a way that will be accessible to teen readers. More serious discussions of legislation and how the gun fits into history are interwoven with the stories of criminals and "G-Men" that caught people's fascination in the 1920s. Blumenthal presents the history neutrally, letting readers draw their own conclusions about how history has affected current controversies like gun control or the development of the FBI.

Verdict: It's not easy to get teens to read "serious" history books, but exciting stories and detailed descriptions of weaponry are sure to grab both eager and reluctant readers. As far as age-appropriate, there are gory stories but the violence is neither sensationalized nor skipped over and Blumenthal, while not emphasizing the graphic details, gives an honest portrayal of the crimes and tragedies.

ISBN: 9781626720848: Published 2015 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Suggested Cybils Nominations

These are books I've read, reviewed, or purchased over the past year that I think are strong contenders for Cybils in their various categories. It can be hard to remember what you read 12 months ago, so I hope this jogs some memories! I cannot guarantee eligibility or appropriate category - this is just a rough list of suggestions. You only have through October 15th to nominate here!

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
Fiction Picture Books
  • Little Baby Buttercup by Linda Ashman
  • Mr. Squirrel and the moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser
  • Beautiful birds by Jean Roussen
  • Squid Kid the Magnificent by Lynne Berry
  • Lulu's Party by Kit Chase
  • Smick by Doreen Cronin
  • Welcome home bear by Il Sung Na
  • That's (not) mine by Anna Kang
  • Mina's White Canvas by Hyeon-Ju Lee
  • Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols
Easy Readers/Early Chapters
Graphic Novels
  • Hans Christian Andersen's Red Shoes and other tales by Metaphrog
  • Courtney Crumrin Tales of a Warlock 9781620100196 
  • Batgirl of Burnside 9781401253325 
  • Tokyo Ghoul 1 9781421580364 
Young Adult Nonfiction
  • Battle of the Bulge by Rick Atkinson 9781627791137
  • Three more words by Ashley Rhode-Courter 9781481415576 
  • Just add water by Clay Marzo 9780544256217 
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
  • Mark of the thief by Jennifer Nielsen 9780545561549 
  • Battlesaurus rampage at waterloo 9780374300753

Saturday, October 10, 2015

This Week at the Library; or, Back to work!

Just be glad you can't see my sink
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • Back to work after a week off. My to-do list is crazy and my associate is going to be off-ish for a few more weeks. However, never let it be said that I don't like to tackle a healthy to-do list!
  • One of the schools on Tuesday decided to check out. It was hectic but we got a lot of circulation! I promised staff I'd plan ahead better for this next time. I found a new friend but staff wouldn't let me keep it. Bookaneers didn't start off too well - only three kids and one of those came by accident (she meant to go to the older club next week) and another was only 4. But it's a start! Once sports end more kids will be back I'm sure. I hope. On the bright side I was working on stats and reports and circulation was up in September.
  • Busy. Busy busy busy. I joined in virtually for a panel at Kidlitcon on Friday morning and then to work to get ready for the big Star Wars Celebration. It's been three years since I tried this and I found out yesterday that a few patrons still remember the last one *wince* hopefully this one will go better.
  • It did. I am tired.
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • Monthly report and budgeting
  • Catching up on program prep for this week and next week
  • Small grant
  • Starting weeding biographies
Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • How to eat fried worms
  • school group - wimpy kid, minecraft, hunting books, origami, dork diaries, I survived, Bone, famous soccer players (female), Hunger Games (I told them to take Gregor instead) and nonfiction easy readers.
  • Godzilla
  • books on deserts
  • rainbow magic
  • Heroes of Olympus

Friday, October 9, 2015

Read Scary: Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes and Other Tales by Metaphrog

These are technically Christmas stories, but the fashion for sad/creepy holiday stories is mostly gone, so I'm considering these for the month of Halloween.

This is a collection of three stories, two traditional tales from Hans Christian Andersen and one original tale.

"The Red Shoes" is one of Andersen's most religious and dark tales. In the original, an orphan girl named Karen becomes obsessed with a pair of red shoes. She wears them to church and neglects the kindly lady as she is dying to dance. Then her shoes force her to dance until she finally begs an executioner to cut off her feet. Even then she is still prideful and thus refused entrance to church. Finally, as she lets go of her pride she is rewarded when the church comes to her, her heart breaks from joy, and she dies.

In Metaphrog's retelling, Karen is an innocent orphan who loves to dance and is tricked into wearing the shoes. Once they are on, the demonic seller activates their power and she is immediately possessed. Her aunt saves her and removes the shoes, but Karen can't stop thinking about them. Finally, when her aunt is ill, she puts them on - but once again they take control of her. She dances into church and sees her aunt's funeral, then begs the executioner to cut off her feet. She never dances again, but the shoes, with her feet inside them, dance on.

The second story is a short original, "The Glass Case." A boy becomes fascinated by a doll in a museum, even though the other kids taunt him. When he returns to visit Molly, he's not surprised when she talks to him. He gradually wishes he could escape his abusive father and live forever with Molly....and gets his wish.

The final story is the familiar tale of "The Little Match Girl." It stays close to the original story line, just simplifying the the story to fit into the graphic retelling.

"The Red Shoes" is the creepiest of the three tales; they are more melancholy than scary, having a dark undertone to each story that keeps and extends the black humor of Andersen's tales. There's just enough creepy to put make a little chill go down your spine and enough sad to give you the sniffles.

According to the publicity release, Metaphrog is two artists, Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers. They're apparently quite well-known, although I haven't encountered them before (not surprising, since it appears they don't usually do children's books). Their art has a delicate line that reminds me of Charles Vess, but their faces are unique, almost doll-like, adding to the creepy feel of the stories. "The Red Shoes" is illustrated in hues of green and blue, which darken almost to black as the shoes triumph and Karen neglects her dying aunt. Karen's red hair and the red shoes are given a subdued reddish hue, that is very creepy. "The Glass Case" is in sepia tones, which give it a feel of an old story or urban legend, but brights to yellows and light greens, which emphasize the child-like, creepy doll aspect. It seems like it should make it light and cheerful...but it doesn't. Dum dum DUM. "The Little Match Girl" is in sepia as well, but has a grayer tinge, emphasizing the older historical period and the gray winter days.

Verdict: These aren't super creepy and I think most middle grade kids could handle them, but my middle grade audience generally prefers graphic novels that feature more of the adventure/fantasy and not so much the short stories. This would probably click with teens who are fans of Neil Gaiman, Ted Naifeh, or Holly Black though. I'm not sure exactly where I'd put it in my library, but I think it would have an audience.

ISBN: 9781629912837; Published October 2015 by Papercutz; Galley provided by publisher

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Read Scary: Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Seven Orange Pumpkins by Stephen Savage

I realized after I looked at this that I had never read the original picture book. I usually try to get the original book to compare how it works as a picture book and as a board book, but Stephen Savage's illustration style seems so clearly suited to a board book setting that I didn't bother this time around.

The story begins with seven pumpkins on a spooky night. One by one they disappear, turning into various Halloween icons or being carried off. An owl swoops off with a large black outline clutched in his claws, pirate skeletons carry off their pumpkin loot in a bag, a witch tosses one into a pot. The last gets turned into a glowing jack-o-lantern to wish readers a happy Halloween.

Savage's clear, modern design makes this a fun I spy exercise as readers look for the glowing eyes and large black shape of the pumpkins camouflaged amongst the silhouettes. Bright bursts of color, purple, orange, green, fill the backgrounds making the bold black illustrations stand out. The book is a sturdy, 7x7 square.

But is it too scary? Scary is....awfully subjective. In the space of less than an hour I had a parent ask for scary stories for their five year old, who had watched Poltergeist, and another parent reject the exact same stories for their nine year old as "too scary." Which one was right? Well, both. Every kid has a different threshold for scary and the caregiver is generally the best person to know what's right for their child. So, if your toddler will be scared by some classic Halloween iconography, or Halloween isn't a big deal for your family, this isn't the book for you. If you go all out for Halloween and your toddler loves dancing skeletons, swooping owls, and a glowing jack-o-lantern popping out at the end, this is perfect for you.

Verdict: A great addition to your Halloween collection, but I'd break my rule for once and not put this in with the general board books as parents will want to know they're getting a very definite Halloween counting book.

ISBN: 9780803741386; Board book edition published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bike on, Bear! by Cynthea Liu, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Bear is talented at everything - except riding a bike. No matter how hard he tries, he just can't get the knack. His family and friends try to help him, but nothing works and worst of all, a brand-new park opens only for bike riding! This is serious but his mom has the perfect advice; visit the library! With a set of definitive instructions, plenty of determination, and support from his friends, will he finally reach his goal or will it take an emergency for all his practice to come together?

Litten's art is friendly and comforting, if not particularly unique. The spreads range from small spot art on white backgrounds to full page illustrations with textured and colorful backgrounds. The main thing that kept me from really enjoying the art was that I felt Bear was too small in relation to the pictures and while it did give a good feeling of how frustrated he felt by being unable to ride like his friends, being left out etc. it made the story feel disconnected and unfocused since the eye isn't naturally drawn to Bear, you have to look for him.

Despite my reservations, which are mostly just my personal reactions to an art style that isn't my favorite (it's very reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers whom I don't much care for) this is a light and cozy story that most parents and kids will enjoy. It's not an ideal storytime choice, because of the length of text and the smaller pictures, but it's a perfectly acceptable addition to a library collection.

Verdict: Kids struggling with skills like tying shoes, skipping, or even riding a bike will take some comfort from this story and parents will also appreciate Bear's supportive friends and patient determination. There aren't a lot of picture books about biking that younger kids will enjoy and this fills that niche nicely.

ISBN: 9781481405065; Published June 2015 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Sand Swimmers: The secret life of Australia's Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver

When I started reading this book, I was confused, skeptical, unsure. But it dragged me in and by the time I reached the end, I had to go back and read it again. It's a unique blend of nonfiction and artistic style that I've never seen before.

The art, informational text, excerpts from historical documents, and inset small panels flow across the page, taking readers down into the seemingly arid desert that is secretly full of life. The book contrasts the life of the desert and the animals and Aboriginal people who lived there for thousands of years with the view of the European settlers who found it a deadly and dead wasteland. Some pictures are like a puzzle, looking for the camouflaged animals a game. Others show the plants and animals in different groupings or habitats. Many illustrations and examples take a quote from European explorers such as Charles Sturt, talking about how lifeless the desert was, and then show the many different plants and animals they missed.

The art varies from sketches to stylized woodcuts, to full paintings. There's a fascinating variety in the styles used that move the reader easily between different perspectives and time periods.

Verdict: While Australian desert wildlife isn't something rural Wisconsin kids have probably ever thought much about, besides kangaroos, this is an amazing way to present not only the wildlife but the history of an area. It would be really interesting to go through it with elementary-aged kids and then work on creating similar projects for other areas they're interested in, or local areas. It's different but really cool. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763667610; Published 1999 in Australia; Published 2015 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This week at the library; or, I'm not at the library!

I took a vacation. So far as I know, the library has not collapsed into ruin without me. Ms. Pattie ran storytimes, my aide and an associate borrowed from the adult department ran Lego Club, and the staff were warned that there was no school on Friday.

I blogged my week off over at my personal blog, if you want to really see exactly how obsessive I am.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

Before all the fractured fairy tale movies and other retellings, there was The Ordinary Princess. This is from the 1980s and has been reprinted several times, with progressively worse covers, but I am lucky enough to have the original cover.

This is an original fairytale in the style of Eleanor Farjeon and Milne, who wrote what are usually called "fairy stories" that might or might not have contained actual fairies. Princess Amethyst Alexandra Aurelia Anne was the seventh daughter of a fairy tale king and queen but received an unusual gift at her christening; "You shall be ordinary!" says the Fairy Crustacea. And ordinary Amy is. She has a snub nose, cries, and is no more a golden-haired, romantic princess than the maids of the castle. So it's easy for her to switch places with one Clorinda and retreat to the forest where she enjoys a happy life. But one day she meets a boy named Perry...

I think, if reprinted with the original or a good cover, this fairy tale would find an audience. It has just a little romance, a lot of humor, and pokes gentle fun at fairy tale tropes without being crude or raucous. It's still a fairy story with magical creatures, floating dresses, and royalty. It's also a sweet fantasy with animals, a truly delicious and unique fairy godmother, and an ordinary heroine who is anything but ordinary.

Verdict: I can't recommend you purchase this now, the only in print cover is awful, however, it's worth looking for a used copy to enjoy for yourself.

ISBN: 0153046120; Published 1984 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; From my personal library