Friday, July 31, 2015

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

I'm in two minds about this book. It's got quite a lot of enthusiastic praise, and I did enjoy reading it, but I'm not sure about the audience for it.

Dory is the baby of her family and everyone calls her Rascal. Her older siblings are so annoyed by her imagination, invisible friend, weird habits, and monsters that they make up a monster to try and scare her back. Unfortunately, the creation of Mrs. Gobble Gracker doesn't go quite like they expect and soon Dory is in a complete fantasmagory, blending her imagination and real life, pretending to be a dog, and trying to escape the wicked Mrs. Gobble Gracker.

The book is decorated throughout with pen sketches. They're a great complement to the story, showing the tousled, enthusiastic Dory and her exasperated older siblings as well as Dory's fantasy world.

This is completely realistic; I remember playing make believe games like this myself, listening to my younger siblings play them, and I occasionally see kids playing them at the library as well (not too often though - I don't know if it's the death of imagination or that I just don't see the kids that often). But I'm not sure who the audience for this would be. The younger elementary kids making up imaginative kids? I and my siblings were very imaginative, but I can't remember any of them actually wanting to read a book about imagination. Older siblings? But this has a very young feel and is narrated by Dory herself.

Verdict: I think the best audience for this is probably younger kids who are strong readers. It might make a fun read aloud as well, but it could be scary for an imaginative child who doesn't understand that Mrs. Gobble Gracker isn't real. Although I can't quite see an audience for this myself though, I trust those who have given it strong reviews so it's one I'd take a chance on.

ISBN: 9780803740884; Published 2014 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Small Readers: Welcome, Bao Bao by Gina Shaw

Pandas are one of those topics that seems to die out for a while and then revives as strongly as ever and I have hordes of small children, mostly girls for some reason, begging for ALL the panda books.

This nonfiction easy reader tells the story of two pandas in the Smithsonian's National Zoo and their cub, Bao Bao. The story begins by introducing the readers to the adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and their endangered status. There is a discussion of how the pandas are cared for and then the exciting birth of a new baby panda in 2013. The rest of the book talks about Bao Bao's birth, naming ceremony, and first year.

The book includes a beginning note to parents and educators on the reading level. Level 4 is for a fluent reader, basically a child ready for or already reading chapters. There are also activities and discussion questions. There is a one page glossary at the back.

The book is liberally sprinkled with photographs of pandas as well as a key to the pandas' exhibit, pictures of the naming ceremony, and more.

I removed all the level 4 easy readers from my easy reader section a few years ago. The bulk of my audience looking for easy readers want more beginning titles and I found it confused everyone to have a sprinkling of books that were equivalent to what they'd find in the chapter books or nonfiction section. Now I include level 4 books in the juvenile nonfiction. I've had one person ask for level 4 and it was easy to show them the nonfiction series that were equivalent to that reading level. So, this title won't actually be put into the easy readers (unless my cataloger makes a mistake) but it will make a nice addition to the juvenile nonfiction.

My only caveat with this title is that, while most of the text is laid out on a white or plain background, a few pages have the text pasted over a photograph, making it difficult to decipher.

Verdict: Elementary age panda fans will be thrilled with this title. It's not too challenging, but isn't really a picture book or easy reader and there are lots of fun panda pictures. The text flows smoothly and there's a good mixture of simple and advanced vocabulary. It's available in both paperback and hardcover.

ISBN: 9780448482255; Published 2015 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library for use as a prize; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Knit Together by Angela Dominguez

I liked Dominguez' other picture books, but none have really caught my eye and heart like this new title.

A little girl loves to draw, but even more than drawing she wishes she could knit, like Mom. She tries to learn, but without success. Then Mom has the perfect idea to combine both their artistic talents into one beautiful creation that they can both enjoy together.

Dominguez' art is colorful and heartfelt, with swirling colors and lines. I enjoy the way she captures the yarn and process of knitting with simple squiggles that nonetheless capture texture and color. The art speaks through the story, making only a few lines of text necessary on each page. The little girl, as narrator, is full of life and determination and when she can't achieve her goal, her mother gently finds a perfect solution.

Verdict: This would make a great storytime to prepare for Mother's Day (if you celebrate that in storytimes), as a gift for knitters, or to prepare kids for a collaborative art project. Even kids without experience in knitting will sympathize with struggling to learn a new skill and finding a to use the talents they have.

ISBN: 97803740990; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth by Steve Tomacek, illustrated by Fred Harper

The subtitle of this book is "All about rocks, minerals, fossils, earthquakes, volcanoes, & even dirt!" so you can tell right away there will be a lot of information packed into 128 pages.

After a quick introduction, the book plunges right into the information. The ten chapters each begin with a comic, featuring the Dirtmeister at a geology job, where he gets interrupted with a question about the earth from a kid. There are about five spreads per chapter, and each spread includes about one page of text, a handful of photographs and several other pieces of information ranging from experiments to "Dirtmeister Nuggets" which are factoids to short biographies of famous scientists and cartoons or maps.

Back matter includes a list of notes that relates the chapters to science curriculum, an index, and photo credits. I felt the cartoon illustrations were a bit over the top and tried too hard to be "kid-friendly" but they aren't so prolific that they take away from the information in the book and younger kids will probably enjoy them.

I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information on such a wide variety of subjects crammed into this small book. Everything from plate tectonics to fossils, from earthquakes to diamonds. The experiments looked interesting, but tended to be a lot more simple than what I expected from the build up in the introduction. I certainly wouldn't recommend reading it straight through and I'm not even sure I'd recommend it to a kid who's interested in, say, rocks, since it's so wide-ranging and kids who are "interested" in something tend to have a rather narrow focus. However, it makes a great resource for earth science curriculum and I can see kids who enjoy compendiums of facts dipping in and enjoying it.

Verdict: This isn't my top pick for National Geographic's earth science offerings - kids are more likely to pick up the Everything series - but if you can't afford that entire series, this gives a little on a variety of subjects and would be a great resource for school and for kids to browse.

ISBN: 9781426319037; Published 2015 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, July 25, 2015

This Week at the Library; or, Down the home stretch

I have a crock. My happiness is complete.
What's going on in my head and at the library
  • This is the point in summer where I'm like "yay reading have a sticker or two or three ha ha ha"
  • I had a sudden influx of boys Wednesday morning, so I put them to work moving shelves and taking down old posters (they sort of went with the "taking down" theme and now all the summer reading decorations are down, but...oh well). We have our literacy center now! Of course, then I had to shift all the easy readers....I need to keep a clean shirt at work!
  • I was still very stressed and so we moved more shelves. Well, my aides moved them but I derived therapeutic value....of course, now I have to update the Illustrated Shelving Guide. Oh well.
Programs
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
  • A personal victory - one of my most reluctant and struggling readers took TWO books - I survived and Bloodlines.
  • Bloodlines for another reluctant/struggling reader!
  • Wordless picture books - Shadows by Lee wasn't quite what was wanted, but Umbrella by Schubert and Tree House by Tolman were "perfect"
  • Another request for Descendants (Isle of the Lost) - I really need to get this in soon!
  • Very enthusiastic Pokemon fan, parent requested Dragonball Z for a change of pace
  • My favorite request of the week was a small child who informed me "I am addicted to Chi's Sweet home do you have that series?" of course. AND the anime, which was very exciting.
  • One word title and Newbery - Boom and Graveyard Book
  • Popular Clone
  • Paw Patrol. I should break down and buy more copies of the movies. Ugh.







Friday, July 24, 2015

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Sometimes a book has everything that you normally like, from an author you've enjoyed in the past to a fun plot and yet it just doesn't....click with you. That's what happened to me with this book.

Miss Drake is downcast about the death of her human pet, Amelia, even if she won't admit it to anyone. So she's not at all thrilled when Amelia's quirky great-niece (I think) Winnie shows up. Winnie gradually wins her way into Miss Drake's heart and both are able to not only become friends but handle some magical difficulties and grieve together for their respective losses.

Black and white illustrations spot the story, illuminating the magical creatures and feelings of the various characters. I am not a particular fan of Mary GrandPre, but many people enjoy her illustrations and they do fit well with this magical story.

So, why didn't I get into this? I can't really say. It's a short fantasy, which can be hard to find in this age of 400 page tomes. It's sweet without being saccharine, has lots of magical details and creatures, and Yep's world-building is impeccable. I was skeptical about how much time Winnie spends alone, without her mom knowing (or seeming to care) where she is. At one point, I was sure the story was going to twist and Winnie was going to turn out to be an orphan and Miss Drake would adopt her.

Verdict: I can't really say why I didn't get into this. It was just not what I was in the mood for reading I guess. Fans of Chris D'Lacey's dragon stories will absolutely love it though. If you have beginning chapter readers who like fantasy or families who like to read aloud together, this would be good for those as well.

ISBN: 9780385392280; Published 2015 by Crown Books/Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Small Readers: Dino School: Meet Teddy Rex! by Bonnie Williams, illustrated by John Gordon

This easy reader hits the mark on several points for me.

Dino School welcomes a new pupil: Teddy Rex! Everyone is friendly and Teddy is excited about his new school, but he has a little problem. When he gets excited, he just can't help but ROAR and accidents ensue. But with a little friendly help from the teacher and fellow students, Teddy learns when it's ok to roar and when he needs to use an inside voice.

The cartoon pictures have a colored-pencil/crayon scribble look that makes them fun and very school-like. Dinosaur fans will enjoy the colorful, perky dinosaurs that fill the pages, even if they're not factually accurate.

I especially appreciate that the font used is large and bold and stands out clearly from the colorful background and figures.

This has an accessible and familiar storyline that kids can relate to, lively and bright pictures, and text that is a good fit for beginning readers. The plot in general has a younger feel, so I'd recommend it to beginning readers in kindergarten.

Verdict: Not necessarily a stand-out title, but a good, solid filler for the easy reader section. I'm only sorry that there's only two books in the series, since I can see it being popular along the lines of Biscuit.

ISBN: 9781442449961; Published 2012 by Simon Spotlight; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman

I love Deborah Freedman's art but I have to admit I was skeptical when I started this story. I was sure it was going to turn into one of those "introvert realizes extrovert really cares and they'll be happier if they break out of their routine and be like their friend."

But it isn't at all! I should have trusted Freedman to have a twist up her paintbrush.

Mouse starts out writing and drawing her story but is interrupted by the irrepressible Frog, who adds kings and ice cream and craziness indiscriminately until the story is a huge mess. And Mouse is upset that Frog is not listening to her. After a quiet talk, Frog apologizes and cleans up the mess and lets Mouse tell her story - and Mouse lets Frog help out.

Both Mouse and Frog learn to compromise - Mouse lets Frog help, instead of doing it all by herself, and Frog learns not to take over without listening to her friend. Deborah Freedman's illustrations are, as always, amazing. They're delightfully meta, showing Mouse drawing the story with her pencil, then Frog's crazy antics in a wash of scribbles and colors, then the messy process of erasing. I also love that this captures the "writing" of a story through pictures, gently encouraging the idea of different kinds of storytelling.

Verdict: This is a fun, sweet story that also gently imparts a message about compromise and different personalities working together. It will work equally well in a storytime about friendship and as a springboard for a create-your-own-story project. A definite must for any picture book collection.

ISBN: 97806707849055; Published 2015 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey

I've determined to finally tackle the biography section of my juvenile fiction next year, which means, of course, that I've been thinking about it on and off all this year. Biographies are hard. There are so many picture book biographies being released and yet they very rarely circulate. Middle grade readers do ask for biographies, but it's so difficult to strike a line between the same old dead white males who have been done a million times and names so obscure no one will ever look at them.

So I was quite pleased when I saw that National Geographic was releasing a new biography of Jane Goodall. Goodall is well-known, but not so much so that another biography is superfluous. She's a woman in the sciences, with a powerful legacy that adds diversity to the field.

The biography itself is well-written in a way that will attract the reader's attention without sensationalizing or sentimentalizing the subject. The book begins with her childhood, the all-important research in Gombe that changed her life and the way chimpanzees were researched, and her transition into a public figure and fight for conservation. The final chapter talks about the way Goodall's research and continued advocacy has changed not only the way animals are researched and studied, but also treatment of animals in labs. It discusses modern methods and technology, several of the groups she started or sponsored, and some of the people she has influenced, both young and old.

Extensive back matter includes information about chimpanzees, photographs and specifics about some of the chimps of Gombe, a time line of Jane Goodall's life, maps, organized resources to read more about Jane and her work, detailed notes and index, and an author's note. The book is laid out in a large chapter book format with plenty of photographs, quotations, and additional facts and interesting highlights of Jane Goodall's life and contemporaries. National Geographic is really good about putting their nonfiction into attractive formats and this is no exception.

From an adult perspective, it was interesting to read this after having read Primates, which gives a more nuanced view of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas. This biography focused more on inspiring and informing the reader than discussing the more controversial aspects of Goodall's life and while I'm usually a little leary about biographies that gloss over issues, I thought this handled her life very well in a way that's accessible and appropriate for middle grade readers.

Verdict: Even if you're not currently updating your biography collection, this is a must-have for any juvenile biography section. Thoughtful, informative, and will interest a wide range of children as well as teens and adults. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781426315183; Published 2015 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library; Purchased for the library

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I feel chatty and in need of organization

and part of my to do list at home
My current library to-do list for August
  • Finish 500 Books Before Middle School (including arranging printing, stuffing envelopes, and marketing)
  • Update the outreach brochure for all first school visits in September and arrange printing in bulk for the next few years.
  • Print and laminate the Babies Need Books posters from ALSC. Update bathroom posters which are looking icky.
  • Sign for August activity table and make more booklets
  • Contact 3 elementary schools, 3 preschools, and homeschool group about field trips and programs in the fall. I am nothing if not optimistic. Start the conversation rolling on two potential author visits in spring and add in key school people to garden planning.
  • Write report for Friends on monies spent on programs so far and why we need a sink (other than it would be a dream fulfilled for me and my colleagues)
  • Summer report and monthly reports for Board, lay out year end report which I neglected to do last year and regretted, do first six months before I forget what happened
  • Train new aide and supervise transition from summer to school year (scheduling, projects, etc.)
  • Inventory (including processing missing lists and replacement orders)
  • Paint train table (hopefully my aide, who assures me he knows exactly what to do) will take care of this.
  • Grants - something I hate doing and wish we had someone else who could do it. I have at least two I'm looking at.
  • Go over all the marketing with my associate - she's going to do as much as possible before she goes on leave.
  • Draft winter/spring 2016 and prep programs as far as possible
Program Preparation
  • get ipad with osmo loaded and prepped for circulation and use in Tap to Play, work with Pattie to plan TTP
  • Bookaneers and Rock 'n' Read book club
  • Star Wars party
  • Fairy tale party
  • Winter Wigglers
  • We Explore Favorite artists
  • Update outreach programs as needed
  • Arrange performers
  • Update santa's kitchen and Paws to Read
  • Plan sewing workshop
  • Plan after school clubs (actually use list of ideas)
Other - I may or may not get to any of these things
  • DIY chalkboard blocks. There's a lumberyard in town that I could probably get the wood from, but it will need sanding and painting. Oy.
  • Song cube (to use in Winter Wigglers)
  • Flannelboards of Fernandes' Kitten series
  • Add series/character stickers to juvenile fiction (like those I put on the series shelves)
  • Update YA GN series spreadsheet and YA MANGA series spreadsheet
  • 800 Lexile list
  • Create library signs to hang at laundromat

Saturday, July 18, 2015

This week at the library; The Highs and the Lows

This is my favorite nasturtium flower. It's a peach melba
and started out a pale cream and now is darkening to have
peach tinges. Lovely.
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • My mom has been visiting me for the past couple weeks. I sent her back home to Texas on Monday, just as the heat wave rolled in, we had a massive storm, and all the electricity went out. Sigh. I feel like I should still be on vacation...
  • New furniture and stuff for the circulation workroom arrived, which meant more hauling of things to other places and there is a ton of cardboard dumped behind my desk for the building challenge next week. It's exciting but exhausting.
  • It's data day! Preliminary report data came out and my department did extremely well, as far as numbers go, last year.
  • The slug war continues. I took out TEN gloves full of slugs one night. TEN. That's at least 50 slugs!
  • My first successful author visit! Ruth McNally Barshaw was amazing and the kids absolutely loved her. I'm now scheming to get her back for a "real" author visit (i.e. not just making her teach adoring fans how to draw cartoons for two hours straight) in conjunction with the schools...
  • I'm exhausted and there is paint on my pants.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • Planning fall 2015 through spring 2016, met with various staff, still waiting for final planning permissions.
  • Completed The Illustrated Shelving Guide and Other Directives From the Overlord
  • Still scheduling and evaluating staff
  • Working on 500 Books Before Middle School
  • Misc. small tasks and cleaning off my desk
  • Put together all the pieces for my "mystery nonfiction pics" display in August
Programs
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
  • A Harry Potter read-alike that features a girl. We couldn't figure this stumper out! I suggested Circle of Magic and Theodosia, but neither was the right book. The patron has promised to tell me what it was when her friend gets back to her! (turned out to be Shannon Messenger)
  • 39 Clues
  • Isle of the Lost - I totally missed this and ALL the kids want to read it (well, 5 at least have placed holds). I have ordered it.
  • Paper towns, Scorch trials
  • Masterminds
  • Lexiles. We hates them my precioussss, we hates them.
  • Something like Harry Potter with magic and adventure....but I like fairies....Violet Wings and Faeries of Dreamdark
  • Scary stories - Preller and Poblocki
  • Libby of High Hopes - could not find it anywhere! I swear I saw it just a few days ago...
  • Power Rangers
  • Lego books
  • Many requests for "good books"

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dragon Masters: Rise of the Earth Dragon; Saving the Sun Dragon by Tracey West, illustrated by Graham Howells

 I was so annoyed with the last beginning chapter series I tried (Kingdom of Wrenly) that I didn't feel like ever reading another beginning chapter fantasy again. However, several people suggested this Branches series, "Dragon Masters" and I got back up onto the horse (or dragon, as it may be) and gave it a go.

I really liked it. It's not perfect, it's not exactly what I'm looking for, but it avoids a lot of the flaws I've seen in other beginning chapter fantasies and I think it will be popular.

In the first book, Rise of the Earth Dragon, Drake gets taken from his family's onion farm up to the castle to become a dragon master. He's assigned to an earth dragon, whom he names Worm, and meets the other dragon masters and their dragons. Drake is excited and scared to be a dragon master, especially when the other kids aren't friendly and it becomes apparent that there many secrets; what does King Roland want with the dragons? Why are they a secret?

The second book, Saving the Sun Dragon, continues the story. After the children's adventure in the tunnels, when they are saved by Worm, some of the dark magic they encounter has affected Ana's dragon, Kepri. The children and the wizard who mentors them try to heal her, especially when King Roland threatens to take away Wizard Griffiths, but they are unsuccessful. Only when Drake discovers another secret power of his dragon Worm are they able to heal Kepri - and go on an exciting adventure.

Each of the four children are loosely associated with the nationality of the mythology their dragon is drawn from. Worm and Drake, and the general setting of the story, are Welsh, Rori and her dragon Vulcan are Irish/British, Bo and his dragon Shu are Asian, Ana and her dragon Kepri are Persian maybe? The stories still stick to the European boy as underdog hero, but at least a variety of nationalities and genders are included. I also liked that the stories don't glorify feudalism (or, at least they haven't yet). King Roland isn't the good and wise king of Disneyfied fairy tales and the children and dragons miss their homes and families.

Verdict: There are not a lot of beginning chapter fantasies available and I don't get asked for them often, but I wonder if that's cause and effect; if there were more available (and I promoted them more) would kids ask for them more? Regardless, I think this is the best that I've looked at so far. Tracey West has an engaging writing style and knows what kids will enjoy reading. If you're looking for beginning chapter fantasies, these are a good choice.

Rise of the earth dragon
ISBN: 9780545646239

Saving the sun dragon
ISBN: 9780545646253

Published 2014 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Small Readers: Brave Fire Truck by Melinda Melton Crow, illustrated by Chad Thompson

I haven't looked at Stone Arch readers before. Their beginning chapter books, including the Jake Maddox sports books and DC superhero books, have been really popular, although the paperbacks are often flimsy and the only alternative is expensive library bound editions.

I liked the opening note to parents and caregivers, which suggested ways to read together and said "reading with your child should be fun, not forced."

This is part of a series, each one featuring a different vehicle. The book shows each vehicle in their garage; School Bus in a school room, Tractor in a barn, etc. But, "Where is Fire Truck?" He's at work, putting out a fire. He returns home to the acclaim of his friends.

The digital art is bold and colorful. The text is brief and simple; there are 89 words (noted in the back), and the font is larger than a normal chapter book, but smaller than I would expect for a very beginning easy reader. It can be hard to pick out with the colorful pages, which don't include any white space.

Verdict: The simple, bold cartoons and text would make this a good choice for the very youngest of beginning readers. However, I found the font too small for the age group. While this might make a good additional purchase, the limited choice - paperback or expensive library binding (and I found the binding to cut too far into the spreads) moves this off my order list.

ISBN: 9781434230294; Published 2011 by Stone Arch/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Caterina and the best beach day by Erin Eitter Kono

I really liked the first two Caterina books, Caterina and the Perfect Party and Caterina and the Lemonade Stand, but although the illustrations for this third title were as sweet as ever, the book fell short of my expectations for the series.

Caterina and Leo are on their way to the beach. They have lots of plans, including, hopefully, seeing a whale. But Caterina gets so caught up in plans and preparations, she forgets to have fun or look for whales. Will the day be ruined, or will Leo remind her what's important?

In the previous two books, Caterina was definitely a planner, but she was much more flexible and adaptable. Both of them dealt with practical things too - planning a party, earning money. This one just felt like it didn't fit. The story line pushes Caterina way over into the "obsessive, anal organizer who doesn't know how to have fun" stereotype and there's also more fantasy elements. That sounds kind of vague, but all I can say is it just didn't fit in with the previous two titles.

The art was still as bright and full of interesting details as the previous titles. The collage style brings in lots of interesting items, textures and patterns. I especially loved the seascapes with swashes of color and designs.

Verdict: This just didn't grab me as much as the previous two books. The overall plot felt weak and didn't fit in with the series so far. If Caterina has a strong following or you need more fun beach stories, you'll want to add this title to the series, otherwise the first two are the best so far in my opinion.

ISBN: 9780803740317; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to library

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Best Friends Forever! and more true stories of animal friendships by Amy Shields

I read this for my Bookaneers book club last spring. I have a whole bunch of these nonfiction chapters, but they don't check out as often as I think they should - I think the kids don't see them back in the nonfiction or are daunted that they'll be too long when they do find them. Personally, I'm not a fan of sentimental "animal friends" stories, but parents and kids (when they find them) looooove them.

This collects the stories of four animal pairs. Roscoe and Suryia, pictured on the cover, are an orangutan and stray dog. They live on an animal sanctuary and enjoy many activities together, including swimming, something orangutans don't normally do in the wild. Koko is the famous gorilla who loved kittens and this is a bittersweet story as his first kitten was killed in a car accident. Jasmine was a rescued greyhound who became the unofficial "mother" of an animal rescue in England and bonded specially with a fawn, Bramble. Owen and Mzee is a well-known story of a baby hippo who adopted a tortoise as his mother until he was able to be reintroduced to a hippo family. I appreciated that the final chapter pointed out that, although people were upset that Owen and Mzee didn't stay together, he was better off with his natural family and Mzee was facing potential injury by staying with the hippos.

A section at the end previews another National Geographic Kids Chapters book and an index and resources for more information are also included. Each chapter is bordered with a different color and pattern, making it easy to find your place. The chapters include sidebars and pages of information about the animals in the wild and "did you know?" factoids. There are photographs every couple of pages and the text is written in a simple, easy to read format. Pronunciation guides for more vocabulary likely to be unfamiliar are included directly in the text.

This turned out to be a popular choice for book club and the kids were eager to read more of the stories. The two kids who got the books were able to read them even though one of them was not a highly accomplished reader, and at the end of the semester I gave some paperbacks away for their free book to take home and the kids were very excited.

Verdict: I recommend having at least some of this series in your library. I think I haven't done a really good job of promoting them and they'll have more circulation when kids realize that they're accessible and interesting. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781426309540; Published 2013 by National Geographic; Purchased for the library

Sunday, July 12, 2015

RA RA READ: Beginning Chapters for Animal Lovers

When I weeded Animal Ark, as circulation was dropping, the books we still had were in awful condition, and the whole series was out of print, I knew we needed to have alternatives at hand. Beginning chapters about animals are always popular, but there are a gazillion series out there so there's no need to stick with the old ones!

Our favorite beginning chapter animal series right now are:
Some newer series that are growing in popularity:
More beginning chapter animal series:
  • Magic Pony/Puppy/Kitty/Bunny by Sue Bentley
    • This is like a cross between Rainbow Magic and Animal Ark
  • Buddy Files by Dori Butler
    • Buddy is a dog who investigates mysteries, but he's a very realistic dog as well.
  • Lulu by Hilary McKay
  • Down Girl and Sit by Lucy Nolan
    • This is a super funny series told from the viewpoint of the dogs.
  • Daisy Dawson by Steve Voake
    • Daisy Dawson loves animals and when she finds out she can talk to them, they have many adventures.
  • Dog Diaries by Kate Klimo
    • Each book features a different historical dog or breed.
  • Animal Stories by Holly Webb (Jess the Lonely Puppy, Max the Missing Puppy, etc.) 
  • National Geographic Kids Chapters
    • Each book has 3-4 true stories about animals grouped around a theme - animals who help people, animals who do funny trucks, etc.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

This week at the library; or, Back to work!

This is a sad shelf
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • We're back to the full push of summer this week! The local summer camp/school visited twice. On their official visit on Wednesday I gave them cutouts to make superheroes. We had a smaller group at Lego Club - people enjoying the fine weather and pool while they can probably.
  • Friday was rather exhausting. I worked in the children's gardens and we have reached 943 in summer reading sign-ups.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • Working on the series spreadsheet and collection development
  • Updated 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and finished the first draft of 500 Books Before Middle School
  • This is a happy shelf!
    Yes, I am hilarious
    and my staff loves me
  • Working on updating training materials, evaluating and scheduling staff for August.
Programs
  • Playgroup with Pattie
  • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
  • Storywagon: Comedy Magic with Lou Lepore
  • Books 'n' Babies
  • Lego Club
  • Go Go Garden
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Rise of the earth dragon - sequels
  • Rick Riordan, Tunnels, Hypnotist
  • "good book" - recommended Paul Dowswell, Skulduggery Pleasant, and Churchill Club
  • Travel books for London and Paris
  • Doctor Ted - we don't own it, so I recommended Here comes doctor hippo and here comes doctor firefighter instead
  • Teen beach movie 2 (no, I'm not buying it)
  • Vampire Kisses manga - no more, so I showed some of the other things we had.
  • Choose your own adventure type books - I showed them Twisted Journeys, original choose your own adventure, and Can you survive but they were all a little too scary. Then I remembered we had some Club Penguin Pick Your Path and those were perfect.
  • "the dog book" after staring blankly into space I suddenly remembered it was a Disney Palace Pets book she was asking for. Yay me! I may not remember my own name, but I remember a book I saw for 30 seconds last week...
  • Specific request for Can You Survive? I need more of these
  • School visit - Harry Potter, American Girl, Mermaid Tales, Princess in Black, Nascar, Baby animals, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, Star Wars, Choose your own adventure, Twisted Journeys, books with local interest, Critter Club and more.
  • Jurassic park books for preschoolers. Um....dinosaur books?
  • Reluctant reader who likes to sew - Jeanology and Generation T
  • Lots of interest in Extreme Adventures now that I have the new covers.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I've seen several books promoted as read-alikes for Raina Telgemeier's Smile and sequels, but I've never found one that I would recommend as a read-alike - until now. Don't get me wrong, plenty of those other recommendations are great reads on their own, and fans of Telgemeier might be induced to try them. But I need something that desperate fans will grab in 30 seconds or less, as that's about how much time I have in the summer, with hordes of children demanding books now!

It all starts in 5th grade when Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend Nicole on a surprise visit to see...roller derby! Astrid is in love and immediately starts dreaming of being a roller derby star, just like her new hero Rainbow Bite. Of course, Nicole will come along too....but it turns out Nicole has other plans and roller derby isn't exactly how Astrid imagined it would be. Astrid's dreams start falling apart - and so does her friendship with Nicole. After some growing pains, there's a satisfying, if realistic, ending.

The artwork is colorful and realistic, with lots of expressive faces and a contemporary, digital feel. It will quickly remind fans of Telgemeier's distinctive work, but it stands well on its own. Jamieson's art has a finer line than Telgemeier's more blocky style and there's more distance in the panels, showing more of the setting and interaction between the characters. There are also sequences explaining roller derby that look hand-drawn and add a cute, friendly feel to the story.

Aside from the obvious interest if you have Telgemeier fans, this stands well on its own. It's a familiar story about grade school friends who are growing into different people and have new interests and ideas, but the roller derby adds a unique twist to the story. It seamlessly blends advice about sticking to something you love, even when the going is tough, along with growing and changing friendships.

Verdict: This will fly off the shelf with the cover alone, but combine that with "it's like Drama but with roller derby!" will make it a hot item (even if the kids aren't sure what roller derby is). I'm probably going to wish I'd bought more than one copy. Everyone else should buy copies too! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780803740167; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: You're Getting a Baby Sister by Sheila Sweeny Higginson, illustrated by Sam Williams

This is what I think of as a novelty book. It's a rhyming celebration of getting a baby sister, along with a very didactic list of warnings about the things babies do and how you have to be patient until they grow up.

"You might look for a hug
when you're not feeling great.
But when mom's feeding the baby,
You'll just have to wait."

There's nothing particularly new or unique about the text and if the child is not yet worried about having a new sibling they will be after they read this. The art is cute but not particularly memorable either.

I don't really see the point of marketing this as a board book. The age of child that is going to be able to understand the concept of being patient with the baby is going to be much older than a board book audience. The book also includes an spread at the back to personalize - space to write in the name of your new sibling, space for a picture, etc. There's also a baby brother version. I did appreciate that there is some diversity in the children pictured.

Verdict: I can see giving this as a gift at a baby shower or something similar, but I don't think it's particularly useful for a general library collection. There are a lot of new sibling/baby books out there that are better.

ISBN: 9781442420502; Published 2012 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

I loved Emily Hughes' art in Wild but I felt that the writing didn't live up to the art. This seems to be a little bit of a problem for Flying Eye Books, which certainly has amazing art but sometimes the text falls short. However, when I got a galley of The Little Gardener I was delighted to find that Ms. Hughes seems to have blossomed as a writer, as well as an illustrator.

The story begins with a rather sad garden. "This was the garden. It didn't look like much." However, the tiny gardener who lives there loves it and does all he possibly can to tend to its needs. Despite his best efforts, only one thing really grows in the garden; a beautiful flower. Eventually, even the inspiration of the flower fails to keep up the spirits and energy of the little gardener and he goes to sleep, exhausted. As he sleeps through the seasons, some strangers are inspired by the beautiful flower and a wonderful thing happens...

The text is simple and this makes it a good fit for the uplifting, hopeful story. It doesn't detract from the real focus, the artwork, but it adds an extra dimension to the story and provokes discussion about the story and pictures.

The art is lovely. The endpapers are a cheery yellow with a dancing line of plants and flowers. The use of perspective, showing the tiny gardener against the wasteland of his garden, gives the reader a perfect feeling of what a daunting task he has taken on. Everything in the garden droops and curves in muddy hues of green and brown, until you see the one perfect flower, a glowing, multi-petaled creation with a crown of golden stamens. As the mysterious someone's dark brown hands begin to tend the garden, the background lightens and more flowers pop up until the last spreads show a lively landscape of color and light.

Verdict: This simple but heartfelt story with its gorgeous illustrations would be the perfect addition to a storytime about gardening, helping others, or resiliency. I can't wait to include it in my own gardening storytimes and it should definitely be on the shelves of every public library, whether urban or rural.

ISBN: 9781909263437; Published August 2015 by Flying Eye Books; Galley provided by publisher for review; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Tricky Vic by Greg Pizzoli

It's taken me a long time to write this, as I feel somewhat...conflicted about the book.

It's the true story of a con man named Robert Miller born in the Czech Republic in 1890. He began his career as a gambler and philanderer and eventually made Europe too dangerous for himself, especially with World War I on the horizon. Traveling to the United States, according to legend he managed to connect with Al Capone and set out to con new territories. Eventually, however, the police caught on to his scams and he traveled back to Europe. There he pulled off his biggest, most famous con: selling the Eiffel Tower. However, his fortunes went downhill after this and when he was caught counterfeiting money he was captured. After a dramatic escape, he was recaptured and died after twelve years in Alcatraz.

Back matter includes a glossary, sources (books, newspaper articles, and websites and an author's note about the inspiration and background of the story. The art is a mixture of modernistic shapes, which fit in well with the historical time period, and photo collages, many of them from Paris itself.

The book is the size of a smaller picture book and each page is heavily illustrated. However, the subject matter is much more complex than the average picture book audience can handle. Which is basically why I feel conflicted. It's an interesting story, and I can see kids interested in history and in magic tricks (which many of the cons resemble) being interested in the subject matter, but I'm a bit at a loss as to what audience to promote it to. It feels as though it should be a lot more interesting than it is. I kept re-reading it, hoping it would grab me more on a second reading but it didn't.

Verdict: If you have a strong, older audience for picture book biographies or kids willing to read interesting/unique graphic nonfiction this would be perfect. Otherwise, I'm a little doubtful about adding it to the average public library collection.

ISBN: 9780670016525; Published 2015 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Read 'n' Play

There were toys at my library when I came, seven years ago (I am getting ooooold). However, there were rather...dingy. I've built up the collection over the years to more than 60 toys, almost all narrative/imaginative play. Puppets and books, costumes, etc. I've been wanting to take this collection in a slightly more focused direction and when I saw on ALSC the idea for Early Literacy Boxes, I decided that was a good starting point.

I received $200 from our local VIP Aktion Club, which generally gives us a small grant every year. I try to spend this on tangible items for the children's area, so they can see their donations at work! The money went towards purchasing toys and board books for 12 sets. I purchased the toys from Ikea and a local store, Learning Shop. The library supplied bags, processing, and I put together early literacy tip sheets for each bag, which I laminated.

You can see my Read 'n' Play sheets here. Email me if you would like the publisher file! I debuted the bags at our baby storytime and they've been available for about two weeks. 10 of the 12 are checked out and half of them have circulated twice!

We also put the sheets into a notebook, so people can look through and see what toys we have. Next, I'm planing to tackle the main toy collection, replace as needed since some things have gotten very worn, and add imaginative play suggestion sheets.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

This week at the library; or, We catch our breaths

Lining up for the toddler drive-in
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • We take a little break this week; no regular programs and things calm down a bit. Theoretically. In previous years, this is the week off between the two summer school sessions, but that was changed this year. We're closed on Friday and Saturday, which makes for a long weekend as well and people always pack in to prepare for a long weekend without the library. Wednesday was pretty quiet and I came in on Friday with some volunteers to take pictures for the Stuffed Animal Sleepover.
Some Projects Completed/In Progress This Week
  • Finished updating the juvenile series part of the spreadsheet
  • Working on updating 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and creating 500 Books Before Middle School
  • Monthly report
Programs
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • Wrestling books
  • 1st Warriors book
  • I've forgotten the others...

Friday, July 3, 2015

Rutabaga the adventure chef by Eric Colossal

Ok, first in the interests of absolute honesty, I have to admit that the first thing that came to mind when I read this is a book called Wonton Soup by James Stokoe, which is absolutely NOT appropriate for children.

*pause while you all go google it*

So, moving on! The story opens with a mysterious, round-headed fellow searching the deepest, darkest jungle for a legendary sword...on which grow Legendary Bell Topped Mushrooms! Delectable! He's Rutabaga, the Adventure Chef, and after a little explanation to the adventurers searching for the sword (really, he just wants the cool mushrooms) joins forces with them. They're trying to save their town from a marauding monster, he's just looking for new tastes and exquisite dishes. What can a chef with nothing but a magical pot do to help?

This is a fun, silly, story with equal amounts of recipes and monster-slaying. The ARC was in black and white, but the final book will be in color and, judging from the cover, Rutabaga at least has darker skin (although honestly he looks rather more like his namesake than a person anyways...). The art is busy with lots of thick lines and vigorous activity. It grabs the eye and moves the reader on to the next chapter of the story immediately, although struggling readers may find it more difficult to follow the action.

Verdict: Fans of adventure/fantasy with a touch of comedy will enjoy this quirky graphic novel. It's hard to think of a really good read-alike to compare it to, since it's fairly unique in my experience, but it should be a hit with older middle grade kids who want something fun to relax with over the summer.

ISBN: 9781419713804; Published March 2015 by Amulet/Abrams; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Small Readers: Justin and the Bully by Tony and Lauren Dungy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

There are not a lot of easy readers featuring actual kids, rather than anthropomorphic animals, non-white kids are even rarer, and sports are practically non-existent.

All of that being said, I still did not like this book, specifically its heavily didactic plot.

Justin loves soccer, so he's thrilled when he sees a sign-up for a soccer team in the park and his mom says he can play. His older brother and sister and father all agree that it's good he has signed up because he's good at kicking, he's fast, and he'll be a great teammate. But on the day of the first practice, he meets Taylor. She calls him "Shorty" and tells him he's too little to play and should go home. Justin doesn't feel so good about soccer anymore. When he finally tells his parents what happened, they convince him to try once more and talk to the coach. The coach talks to the team about bullying and being a team player, but Taylor doesn't join in the discussion. Justin feels a lot better about playing soccer. When they have their first game, Taylor calls Justin "Shorty" again and tells the other kids not to pass to him, but they stand up to him and Justin scores. Taylor gives Justin a high-five and "Now we are a team!" she and Justin shout.

Ok, I was going along fine there - yes, it's rather didactic in the "how you deal with a bully" way, but easy readers aren't generally a good place for sublety. The kids are spending most of their mental effort on decoding the actual words, comprehension is secondary. But when I got to the end, just....no. So, nobody specifically calls Taylor out - just a generic speech on bullying. Which....doesn't work. She doesn't participate in the discussion and is still calling him names in the middle of the game. It's pure luck one of the other kids heard her and was able to multi-task enough to play soccer and display moral courage at the same time. And, of course, the old tired stereotype of the underdog who wins the game and then everyone likes him. There's no apology from Taylor - she accepts him on the team because he scored a goal and what happens next time he misses?

Verdict: Not surprisingly, the authors of this book work for a variety of athletic/religious/kids organizations and have written a lot of inspirational/motivational books for adults. This appears to be one of a series of easy readers which are all more or less motivational/didactic and apparently feature the Dungy's kids in various sports. I would have gotten the book if they'd managed to change the unrealistic and stereotypical ending; as I said at the beginning, it's hard to find easy readers featuring real kids, diverse kids, and sports. But I don't want to hand kids a book that reinforces the implication that if they just make the goal (lose weight, not be so good at math, make themselves more popular, ignore the bully, make other friends etc.) the bullying will stop and they'll all be friends.

ISBN: 9781442457195; Published 2012 by Simon Spotlight; Borrowed from another library in my consortium