Thursday, June 30, 2016

Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper by Michael Reisman

Digging through the archives...

Scientific superpowers, evil villains, and excellent pizza! When Simon Bloom and his friends find an old physics textbook, their lives change forever...Simon discovers he can control the laws of physics with the formulas in his book. At first, it's all defying gravity and playing with science but when two thugs show up Simon discovers there's a lot more going on than science.

The flow of the story was a little choppy at first, especially the off-site narrator thread, which never quite fit the story, but the basic plot was strong and it made me laugh. Therefore, it rateth high on my list. Plus, what graduate student hasn't felt like a sparrow? And who doesn't want to try flying? I actually read the scientific bits, which I usually skip in science fiction, but I was pulled into the story enough that I wanted to follow the science behind the science-bending powers. A fun, fast read.

Verdict: There's a distinct lack of good science fiction for elementary and middle grades. This story is an interesting combination of science fiction and fantasy, with an emphasis on science. Recommended for younger elementary students who can handle the length and for middle grade students whether or not they think they like science!

Revisited: This first title is only available in paperback. A sequel is out of print and the third book is only available in ebook format. This is a pity because, although these books rarely check out on their own, every time I recommend them kids love them. The author seems to be no longer writing (at least his website has no updated news since the ebook was released several years ago) which is too bad; although I don't think the writing is award-worthy, it's certainly a fun and popular read and the mix of science is a great addition.

ISBN: 978-0525479222; Published February 2008 by Dutton; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Clive by Jessica Spanyol

This series struck me as slightly too British for my audience, but I'll let you decide.

In Clive and his bags, Clive lists all his bags and the activities and attributes that go with them; a stethoscope from his nurse's bag, matching party bags with his friends, a special pocket in his art bag, and finally his very own sleeping bag. His clothing and behavior is gender-neutral and his friends are diverse.

Clive and his art explores a variety of simple artistic techniques. Clive uses glitter and stars to make a card for a friend, dons his yellow smock to do sponge painting, makes collages from paper and natural materials, and participates in art with friends.

Gender stereotypes are challenged in Clive and his hats as Clive cheerfully dons a hat for every occasion, from "buckaroo" hats with his friend Mina to matching woolly hats with his dolls. This one is probably the most British and small children may be confused by the unfamiliar language.

The final title in this set is Clive and his babies and celebrates playing with dolls. Clive bathes, walks, and plays with his dolls, alone and with friends. Sometimes the play is rough (as when he sends them down a slide) and other times is more quiet (dressing them with a friend).

The art in each book is simple but I felt it was a little too unformed. The hands and arms especially seem oddly shaped and out of perspective. Clive's scribbly hair looks weirdly like a wig as well.

The books are typical Child's Play format - 7x7 squares with slightly thinner cardboard than the average board book. I've found they hold up as well any other board book though.

As clearly stated on the back covers, these books are meant to challenge gender stereotypes and celebrate diversity. They certainly do both of these things; Clive's main two friends are Mina (Asian) and Asif (dark skin and glasses). Clive himself happily plays with a variety of toys including dress-up, dolls, bags, and different kinds of art. However, there was just too much text for me to fully get into the stories and see them as working well with toddlers.

Verdict: These are fine choices if you're working on diversifying your board book collection, but the longer text and art just didn't click with me and the British vocabulary will confuse most of my babies and toddlers. Basically, Child's Play has a lot of other diverse board books that I loved more.

Published 2016 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Clive and his babies
ISBN: 9781846438820

Clive and his hats
ISBN: 9781846438851

Clive and his art
ISBN: 9781846438837

Clive and his bags
ISBN: 9781846438844

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bloom by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by David Small

Once upon a time, in a fabulous glass kingdom, there lives a fairy. But she's not an ordinary fairy, she's got big boots and messy hands and is awfully noisy. So the king and all the people ask her to please go away. And she does. But without the fairy, the kingdom begins to fall into disrepair and the most powerful people in the land set out to find the magical being of their legends. One by one they fail, until they send perfectly ordinary Genevieve, cleaner of the queen's silver spoon. Can an ordinary girl succeed where all others have failed?

David Small's illustration style, all messy lines and splashes of color, is perfect for the messy, splashy world of the fairy Bloom where dirty is never bad and nothing is perfect.

I skimmed through this once and thought "too long, to didactic, meh" but then I read it again. And again. And the more I read it, the more I liked it.

Bloom celebrates the power of making, doing, and getting your hands dirty. In Bloom's world there is no such thing as an ordinary girl and hard work and willingness to try, fail, and try again is better than any magical power.

Verdict: This feels like it should be very didactic, a book about the power within us all, etc. etc. and yet....Cronin and Small are such experienced creators that together they have made something wonderful and inspirational, a book that will encourage readers to get out and get dirty, try new things, and never let anyone tell them they're "just" anything. This is too long for a storytime, but it would make a great read-aloud for a class or one-on-one with a child.

ISBN: 9781442406209; Published 2016 by Atheneum; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Glow by W. H. Beck

This is a gorgeous book. I've been looking at several books about nocturnal and bioluminescent animals and this is exactly what I've been looking for.

The deep black pages are illuminated by glowing animals and bright, white text. After a few simple sentences of introduction, explaining bioluminescence, each page features a single sentence explaining why animals glow - to hide, to find food, to attract a mate. Smaller type identifies the animals and offers a fact about each one. Back matter explains the difficulty of photographing bioluminescent creatures, especially those deep in the ocean, and offers thumbnail sketches of each animal along with their common and scientific name, size, and habitat. There is also a brief bibliography.

I did feel that some of the larger sentences were pushing or repeating the different functions somewhat - there were multiple pictures featuring animals hunting with different words including hunt, trick, and invite although really they're all the same thing. However, this is a minor quibble - this is a great book to introduce kids of many ages to the fascinating world of bioluminescent animals and get them interested in learning more about these strange, wonderful creatures.

Verdict: Some of the pictures are a little creepy, so I would be careful about using this in storytime if you have sensitive toddlers or preschoolers (or parents!) but it's a perfect choice for an outreach storytime with preschool or kindergarten, especially if you can tie it in with some glow in the dark activities!

ISBN: 9780544416666; Published 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This week at the library; or, Week 2

What's going on, in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Read with Pearl
    • Autism Support Group
    • How did I ever manage without an assistant? We had a long staff meeting and she met with and trained my volunteer, put together the publicity for summer school, and covered the desk, among other things. I managed to write a lot of supervisor-ey emails, planned most of Friday's field trip, washed out the sponges I need to cut up for Wednesday's program, refilled the summer reading materials, wrote up the copious minutes of the staff meeting, cleaned a few stacks off my desk, and covered the desk in the evening. The copier did not cooperate with the rest of my to do list.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Storywagon: Chris Fascione
    • Busy. Lovely weather outside, lots of people inside.
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Messy Art Club: The Big Splat
    • I went to Walmart to pick up some things, then tried to get the burgeoning mess in my office and workspace under control. Between summer reading, a massive donation of Legos, and half-built furniture everywhere, it's going as well as can be expected. My teen aides had a ton of fun supervising splatter paint and we got a lot of gorgeous pics up on the windows. 
  • Friday
  • This week has been really overwhelming. Is the rest of summer going to be like this? I hope not! I am going to sleep for the next two days.
Happy Things; or, I haven't decided what to call this section
  • One of the families at my maker workshop last Friday told me that the kids had gotten super into sewing and have been making fun creatures all weekend! I brought them some of my mini buttons from home to make eyes.
  • Pudgy, bare little toddler feet
  • Colorful sidewalk from splatter paint.
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • Blood of Olympus - several requests
  • Picture books with math - neighborhoods to the rescue!
  • Fukufuku kitten
  • Lego Ninjago
  • Island by Korman - can't find Shipwreck
  • Mermaids - fantasy books. Dissuaded a 7 year old from checking out Fables and found her some better books!
  • Found Shipwreck! It was on my own display.
  • Scary tales and Dino-Mike from my school visits
  • I Survived

Friday, June 24, 2016

Small Readers: Ellis Island by Elizabeth Carney

I'm a bit of two minds about National Geographic's historical and biographical easy readers. On the one hand, some of them have been really excellent like Rosa Parks. On the other hand, I still find it difficult to find readers for these more complex nonfiction titles and am skeptical about many of them having an audience that will understand the context.

This is a level 3 National Geographic Kids easy reader, so it's fairly difficult. They recommend them for "fluent" readers. The book is 48 pages long and has chunky paragraphs of text on each page, as well as black and white photos. The author takes the reader through the reasons people came to America, how they were processed through Ellis Island, and what happened to many immigrants afterwards. It also talks about famous immigrants and how Ellis Island became a museum. There are many quick facts mixed into the book, a quiz at the back, picture glossary, and index.

I'm torn about this one and I'm not sure I should have bought it. I like having more diversity in subject and National Geographic does a good job with these, but I am really doubtful that it will find an audience.

Verdict: I'll have to see if it actually checks out.

ISBN: 9781426323423; Published 2016 by National Geographic Kids; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Brixton Brothers: The case of the case of mistaken identity by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

Digging through the archives...

I am in love and laughing hysterically.

Some authors switch to new genres or reading levels and you wonder why. Why didn't they stick to what they knew best? But some authors are amazing Renaissance people of writing and can do everything. Authors like Mac Barnett, who has proven total mastery of the picture book in Billy Twitters and Guess Again! and now has taken hold of the middle grade mystery, kicked it across the room, grabbed it in a stranglehold, and forced it to release its secrets.

Steve Brixton idolizes his favorite mystery heroes, the Brixton Brothers. He hopes someday to be a detective just like them. But when a school assignment goes horribly wrong, Steve discovers that maybe being a detective isn't as easy as it looks. The entire book is a fascinating and hilarious spoof of the Hardy Boys, of course, but it also incorporates jokes on ALA READ posters, how-to books, and more!

Action, adventure, and constant hilarity along with Mac Barnett's trademark insane humor are perfectly matched to Adam Rex's slyly wicked illustrations. I nearly laughed myself sick when I saw the endpapers.

I am off to laugh some more and complete my New Year's Eve ritual of re-reading all the original Hardy Boys (and maybe parachute into Argentina, because I am a librarian and you know us - tougher than the FBI and far more impressive than the CIA)

I can't wait to get this book back to my library (it's another one I sneaked off the new shelf) and wave it in the faces of jaded reluctant readers.

Verdict: Recommended. So very recommended.

Revisited: While these did not take off as vigorously as I could have hoped, they are a strong staple of the mystery genre and an easy recommend to kids looking for a fun and mysterious read. Regularly read and recommended and still in print.

ISBN: 9781416978152; Published October 2009 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Animal Babies by Julia Groves

Each of these books is a collection of colorful prints, featuring pairs of animals. Animal babies in the meadow! includes a hare and leverets, butterfly and caterpillars, horse and foal, sheep and lambs, spider and spiderlings, goose and goslings.

Animal babies on the mountain! includes alpaca and cria, lynx and kittens, eagle and eaglets, panda and cub, goat and kids, wolf and cubs. Animal babies in the forest! pairs deer and fawn, raccoon and kits, woodpecker and chicks, orangutan and infant, snake and neonates, owl and owlets. The last title in this quartet, Animal babies in the river! includes swan and cygnets, crocodile and hatchlings, otter and pups, frog and tadpoles, salmon and fry, duck and ducklings.

Each spread contrasts an adult animal on the left with its baby on the right. The text is limited to one word titles for each illustration. Most of the baby names are very specific and accurate - leveret, cria, kit, etc. However, a few are very odd choices. While a baby snake can be called a neonate, it's not a word I've ever heard commonly used. The text is the same font as on the covers, a looping modified cursive. Each illustration is a stamped print on a bold colored background. Detail varies greatly in the stamped print; Some of my favorites were the duck, frog, salmon, and raccoon kits. The goat kids had some excellent detail as well. However, some of the parent animals, especially the deer, horse, and swan, felt smeared and did not have enough detail for easy identification.

Verdict: Although this didn't strike me as a must-have, mainstream board book series, the pictures are overall attractive and some parents and kids will enjoy the extra vocabulary words. A fun additional purchase.

Published 2016 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Animal babies in the meadow
ISBN: 9781846438790

Animal babies on the mountain
ISBN: 9781846438813

Animal babies in the forest
ISBN: 9781846438783

Animal babies in the river
ISBN: 9781846438806

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis

I am really getting into Jarvis' books, as are my colleagues! This one everyone is waiting for their turn to read it to their kids...

Alan, a handsome blue and green alligator, is proudly carrying on his family legacy of being scary. And, of course, the scariest thing about him is his teeth - large, white, and razor-sharp.

Also *ahem* false. WHAT? Yep. Nobody knows Alan's secret, that every night he puts away his teeth, whispering "Thweet dweams, my thcary thnappers." But one day, Barry the beaver makes an interesting discovery...and suddenly Alan isn't so scary anymore. Alan is devastated until he and all the small animals come to a compromise - and Alan learns that there's a time to be scary and a time to be useful!

The pictures are delightfully creepy and silly, with crazy colors, swathes of vibrant paint, and, of course, Alan's brilliant teeth. Jarvis' art has a simple, scribbly quality that nevertheless conveys plenty of broad humor and emotions. Kids will giggle their way through this story and then possibly try their hand at their own silly animal art, from alligator to hat-wearing blue beavers.

Verdict: If you must have a lesson with your picture books, this is a great one for being considerate of others and learning about being appropriate. Otherwise, you can just laugh yourself silly through the book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680203; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Atlas by James Buckley Jr., maps by Aaron Meshon

I'm generally wary of oversize books but this is a really delightful and unique look at biomes that kids will pore over for a long time.

From the beginning, it is explained that this is not your average atlas. Instead of dividing the continents into countries, they are separated into biomes. The introduction also explains the different types of biomes, the travel guides (animals from each continent) and the special information sections - "Surprisingly human" which talks about how animal behavior and "Roar" which addresses ecological concerns.

Asia includes the most variety; rainforest, alpine, desert, grasslands, temperate forest, taiga, and tundra. Each oversized spread talks about unique elements of the biome and features a selection of animals from the area. The continent's chapter ends with a full spread profiling a well-known animal that symbolizes the entire continent, a Sumatran tiger for Asia. Familiar and strange animals are included; African biomes cover dung beetles, lizards, gorillas, and features the Nile crocodile. Europe acknowledges that many people don't think of it as an area for wildlife, but shows that there are still areas with a lot of wildlife, as well as those that have adapted to living with people. Its featured animal is an Old World swallowtail. North America has the most familiar animals, but depending on where readers live they will find something new; especially in the tropical rainforest of Central America. North America's featured animal is a bald eagle. South America is fascinating; it's easy to forget this area is more than rainforest and the book covers the desert, alpine, and grasslands as well and features an anaconda. Of course Australia is always interesting, and, not surprisingly, features a kangaroo. Antarctica has a short section, leaving space for one last biome - marine - which covers both major oceans.

There is a glossary, index, and photo credits included. Meshon's fun cartoons add interest to the photographs and information included and may inspire readers to create their own biome maps. The over-sized book is 16x14 inches but only 96 pages so while it's large, it's not massive.

Verdict: A great addition to your animal section, whether kids gather round it in the library or haul it home. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781618931658; Published May 2016 by Animal Planet; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, June 18, 2016

This week at the library; or, Summer officially begins

this is my neurotic clematis
What's going on, at the library and in my head
  • Monday
    • Open Garden (Jess)
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • We were all a bit discombobulated today. I don't know. It was just that kind of day. It was, in my opinion, miserably hot inside and outside.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Nature's Niche
    • Huge, excited group for Nature's Niche but with a better organization it wasn't as chaotic. I scheduled both my aides to help supervise (although we still somehow, um, lost a hissing cockroach but I expect it will show up....)
  • Wednesday
    • We Explore Favorite Artist Eric Carle
    • Very nice, enthusiastic group for storytime. Unfortunately discovered the basement has leaked/flooded. Not, like, inches deep but definite puddles.... good thing I put most of our stuff up or in plastic! Someone donated three HUGE tubs of Legos!
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Lego Club
    • Our local daycare for school-age kids brought a couple groups - they were nice but exhausting. The day kind of went down from there. We were all exhausted and frustrated. I personally think everyone's tempers would be improved if it was less humid and cooler; well, I know MY temper would be improved!
  • Friday
    • Maker Workshop: Sewing
    • Very nice turn-out and enthusiasm from the kids - I hope they all keep sewing as they took their projects home with them! I am feeling a little daunted by the amount of work I have that needs to be done next week, ideally on Monday....
Overheard in the Children's Department
  • "I'll call you back, I'm with my baby" (all the feels for this parent!)
  • "Do I have to wear pants?"
  • "I wanna see the monster!" older sibling says "that's a hamster"
What the kids are reading; A selection
  • Yo-Kai Watch - actually wanted dvds (which don't exist) but I've been meaning to get books
  • Recommended Jeff Strand to a teen
  • Recommended Rick Riordan to an adult reader
  • Squish, Babymouse, Nathan Hale
  • Fangbone - need to find some read-alikes
  • ABC books for summer school
  • Rumpelstiltskin - they're putting on a play?
  • Red Queen
  • superheroes
  • bilingual books
  • "real" stories (nonfiction for a little one)
  • camping (all checked out)
  • sewing
  • drawing
  • finally! WWE fans! I bought a whole set last year b/c so many kids asked for them and then....silence.
  • "rescue dog" after some investigation turned out to be Messner's Ranger in Time
  • minecraft
  • "books about Nazis" wanted WWII history

Friday, June 17, 2016

Stella and the night sprites: Knit-Knotters by Sam Hay, illustrated by Turine Tran

This new Branches series shows that even something that looks "fluffy" can be both fun and well-written.

Stella is a little worried about getting new glasses - especially when her mom says she has to get a haircut too! Will anyone recognize her if she looks so different? When she stops to help a sweet but strange lady, something happens to her glasses and she starts seeing....odd things. Fairies! Soon Stella discovers where those knots in her hair are coming from and that her glasses aren't just ordinary anymore!

Simple black and white illustrations convey a feeling of sparkle and fun throughout the story, as well as illustrating Stella's moods. The fairies are dainty and sparkly, but have personalities. Stella's everyday worries, combined with the addition of a little fairy magic, make a delightful story that fairy fans will enjoy.

Verdict: This story is simple but the writing flows smoothly, the dialogue is crisp and although the story isn't particularly original it's presented in a fresh and engaging way. A great addition to my library's collection of Branches titles.

ISBN: 9780545819985; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

Digging through the archives...

A few years ago, Emma and Megan were best friends. Then Megan's dad "invented some computer gizmo and made a bazillion dollars, and that was the end of that." Now Emma tries to blend into the woodwork and Megan is a follower of the Queen Bee, Becca Chadwick. Jess is just trying to survive another miserable year of school. Cassidy hates girly stuff and just wants to play hockey.

Emma's mom is a librarian.

She thinks a book club would be a good idea.

A mother-daughter book club.

Reading Little Women.

As the girls and their mothers struggle to read and relate, their lives change. There are growing pains to deal with, and some bad mistakes are made. Friendships are broken and renewed. Nothing goes as planned.

In the end, everything isn't perfect. But there's hope - and more understanding between old and new friends, mothers and daughters.

This is a sweet, warm read. A little over the top with the happy endings, but that's fine by me. I like to read stories of how the world should be - and this is definitely one of them.

Verdict: Strongly recommended - this will be a favorite with tween and middle school girls, and their moms.

Revisited: This series definitely has staying power. It's popular not only with tween girls, but with a lot of adult women I've met and many who read it along with their daughters. The last title in the series, "Mother-Daughter Book Camp" features the girls, now graduated from high school, coming together for one last book club before college. Although the series features increasingly older characters throughout high school, it's still acceptable middle grade fare with just a hint of romance. A definite must for most collections.

ISBN: 978-0689864124; Published April 2007 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Yellow Copter by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone

This is a board book adaptation of a 2015 picture book.

When a teacher gets stuck at the top of a ferris wheel, yellow copter comes to the rescue. The story is sprinkled with a few simple vocabulary words, "tail boom" and "rotors" and some fun helicopter sounds. The simple rhyming text is just right for toddlers and preschoolers. The digital illustrations are minimal and have plenty of color, albeit in soft pastels. Yellow copter is a soft yellow against a blue background with red highlights, while more colors burst out in the fair and other scenery.

The board book is a sturdy 6x5 rectangle and has standard chunky pages and tough binding.

Verdict: Toddlers who are into transportation will happily cuddle up for this simple story. If you're looking to expand your transportation or board book sections, this is a good choice.

ISBN: 9781101997963; Published 2016 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Perfect Dog by Kevin O'Malley

I'm most familiar with Kevin O'Malley as an illustrator of picture books like Miss Malarkey and creator of comic strip picture books like Captain Raptor. This is a delightful addition to his repertoire and will delight the hearts of dog-lovers of all ages.

An unnamed girl has gotten permission to get a dog and knows exactly what she wants...a dog that's big, but not too big. Fancy, but not too fancy. Snuggly, but not too snuggly...Maybe the decision isn't as easy as she thought! Fortunately, there's a furry friend out there who knows just how to solve her problem.

Most of the pages include a series of comparative adverbs (the grammar portion of my brain mysteriously emptied itself so I can't remember the exact word). For example, the girl is shown in jogging clothes walking a beagle, "The perfect dog should be fast..." then running with a dalmation "faster", then just her hand clutching the leash of a greyhound "fastest!" and then flying off the page herself "Maybe not this fast." O'Malley uses broad stripes of pastels to create an impression of comic panels and there are humorous expressions on the faces of the dogs and the girl. The endpapers include pictures of various dog breeds.

Verdict: This is a sweet and funny. The argumentative part of me wants to say it would be better if they were clearly choosing a dog from a shelter, instead of a specific breed, but that's a personal quibble. If you need more dog titles, this is a fun choice.

ISBN: 9781101934418; Published 2016 by Crown Publishing; F&G provided by publisher

Monday, June 13, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: My first book of baseball by Beth Bugler and Mark Bechtel, illustrated by Bill Hinds

Sports are really not my thing. I have a general idea how football, basketball, and soccer work - you're trying to get the ball into a goal. Simple. Baseball....I have never figured out how baseball works. It's so complicated!

However, most people who are not me like sports and it's difficult to find good factual, nonfiction sports books for young listeners and readers. I have gotten really good circulation out of the first book in this series, My First Book of Football, and was excited to see a baseball title.

Caricatures and sports figures with humorous notes fill the book, explaining the basics of the game, scoring, and players. The book is divided up into innings and carefully walks the reader through the movements of each play. Players from a variety of teams are pictured participating in the game. Terms like "bullpen", "strike zone", etc. are illustrated and defined through context. The page backgrounds are brightly covered in bold, primary colors.

Verdict: This is a must-have series for your young sports fans and, while I confess to still not seeing the point of baseball (so many rules! so complicated!) and wanting to see more girls/women represented, it's a nice starting point for anyone, child or adult, who wants to understand the basics of the game.

ISBN: 9781618931672; Published 2016 by Sports Illustrated Kids; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to library

Nonfiction Monday: Baseball Then to Wow

I am conflicted about this title. First, I really know very little about sports in general and even less about baseball. Frankly, I care even less. However, kids like sports and I have a lot of very enthusiastic fans who devour sports books.

A lot of them are girls. This leads me to my very mixed feelings about this title.

So, it's a history of baseball. It starts out with a rather florid introduction to the game, which says in part "Fair play, however, has always governed baseball." Um....sure. We can overlook all the newspaper reports I guess. It then goes to a timeline of how the rules have changed, teams and changes there, uniforms, equipment, and stadiums. These are all included in the "Basics" chapter. Fair enough. The next chapter is focused on "The Players" and here I have....some problems. So, as I said I know next to nothing about sports but I do know the story of Jackie Mitchell. Whether or not she really struck out Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, shouldn't there at least be a mention of the women who attempted to play the game? The chapter continues through statistics and trivia about players - fastest, "pitch masters" etc. There is one spread dedicated to "Pioneers" featuring Jackie Robinson and players from Latin America and Japan and then the chapter jumps back to statistics and milestones.

The next chapters cover the other aspects of the game, the management, coaches, playing strategies and umpires. Oh, look another spread on organizations other than Major League Baseball! There's a section on minor leagues and two historic leagues - All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and the Negro Leagues. No mention of any contemporary women's leagues. Back to famous baseball teams and then over to marketing and memorabilia. One last spread covers other similar games - a quick paragraph on Little League (no mention of Mo'ne Davis) and a paragraph on softball that says "More popular with girls than boys." Back to the memorabilia, trivia, ballpark food and finishing with photo credits.

Verdict: So...this is very attractively presented, there are lots of facts and information, it does include some information, if very little, on diversity. But I simply can't see handing this book to any of my female sports fans. It's very male-centric and, from what I understand, baseball is pretty much men only and while this isn't necessarily the place to mount a platform for more recognition of female players (or fans for that matter) I felt like they were completely overlooked. So I don't really have an opinion on this. Most sports are male-centric and I'll be working hard to buy more female-focused sports books as I update my sports sections. I really need more books like this that provide attractive overviews of sports. But I find it hard to feel happy about adding it to my library.

ISBN: 9781618931429; Published 2016 by Sports Illustrated for Kids; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, June 11, 2016

This week at the library; or, Zero Hour

Working on sewing samples for the workshop next week
Yes, that is a bunny with hypnotic eyes and mini-fangs
What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Jess gone, cleaning up from Festival, cleaning off desk, how can there be so much stuff on my desk when I was only here last Friday?? Pearl couldn't make it today, still no attendees at the Autism support group, but we'll try some more publicity. More summer planning.
  • Tuesday
    • Third grade field trip (2 classes)
    • OPtions summer presentation
    • I let the third graders and homeschoolers check out books from the presentation, since they are the last groups. I wasn't sure I could use up all the time for the third graders, especially since they were so squirrelly, but they didn't want to leave! Board meeting for OPtions in the afternoon.
  • Wednesday
    • Middle school presentations
    • Summer reading sign-up, collection development (sending my big summer order tomorrow hopefully) and writing up budget requests.
  • Thursday
    • Mother Goose on the Loose (Pattie)
    • Middle school presentations
    • Working through the order list for June (basically a big order for the whole summer) and caught up on a webinar. Because I can multitask.
  • Friday
    • Family Camp-Out
    • I came in late, did some random things, did the camp-out, and went home.
  • Saturday
    • Safety Shower (Pattie)
    • Summer reading officially begins. I left early and got ice and refreshments for the knitters and doughnuts for the staff (and me). Pattie handed out stuff and was awesome in the lobby and I signed people up for summer reading in the library and got a few random things done. Working on my sewing samples for the maker workshop too. Pretty quiet day.
Professional Development
  • Managing Children's Services: Scheduling and Time Management in the Youth Services Department (ALSC webinar)
What the kids are reading, a selection
  • Very picky preschooler, said no to everything. I failed.
  • read-alikes for Kasie West. Deb Caletti and a couple other ones
  • Greek mythology
  • chapter books - wanted Monster High, was satisfied with Ever After High
  • books about presidents
  • third grade visit
    • guinea pigs and gymnastics
    • Hamster Princess
    • Telgemeier
    • Wimpy Kid
    • books to read aloud to a younger sibling - National Geographic
  • Middle schoolers were enthusiastic about everything. I love 6th graders! Awkward, Wishing Day, Bubonic Plague, all were popular.
  • Octavia Spencer Ninja Detective. Available at another library
  • Panda and horse chapters - suggested National Geographic chapters and Silver Pony Ranch
  • Dystopian/action/romance/realistic - Forest of Hands and Teeth, Elizabeth Scott
  • Warriors
  • Recommended DK Adventures and You Choose -need more of these hybrid books
  • Pokemon - really wish they'd publish new easy readers and/or chapter books
  • Emily Feather
  • Shannon Messenger
  • Magic Tree House fan - talked to parents a little and recommended Notebook of Doom
  • Fuku Fuku kitten - need to put all the kids' manga together or something...
  • Rick Riordan
  • Toni Yuly and Laura Wall
  • Panda books
  • Origami
  • Stick Cat
  • Stinky Cecil

Friday, June 10, 2016

Silver Pony Ranch: Sparkling Jewel by D. L. Green, illustrated by Emily Wallis

There are school visit books and there are Barbie books. School visit books are titles I buy, recommend personally, and basically consider worthy of taking on school visits. They're not necessarily all award-winning literature - I like to recommend fun chapter books, cute and gross nonfiction, and all the wide variety of books that makes a library welcoming to all readers.

Then there are Barbie books. I buy a lot of them. They circulate like crazy. They are what the patrons want and I am here to serve my community, not my own tastes and ideas. But I don't sit down and recommend individual Barbie books to kids - I just point them to the tub.

This new Branches series is a Barbie book.

Tori and Miranda are visiting their grandmother's ranch for the summer. Miranda is crazy about the dogs while Tori is obsessed with the ponies. Gran has a new pony, Jewel, who is quite a handful and Tori can't wait to ride her! But Gran says it's not safe. Tori (and Miranda) constantly break the rules, let Jewel out of her stall (Tori leaves the stall unlocked twice) whine when they don't get their way, go out at night to search for a puppy after Gran tells them to stay in, etc. In short, I wanted to smack them.

The cover and interior black and white illustrations are very 90s. There are several inaccuracies in the art - the dog, Lady, is described as a collie but pictured as a sheepdog. After Tori is told to stay away from Jewel, because she might kick, she sneaks into the stall and is shown braiding Jewel's tail. Gran says she's disappointed she disobeyed her, but proud that she's tamed Jewel and then lets her ride the pony. I don't know much about horses but this strikes me as dicey, to say the least.

So, why on earth would you buy something like this? Well, it's pure wish-fulfillment for horse-crazy kids. The little squabbles and fusses of the girls make it feel more realistic and a seven year old girl who loves horses and has probably never done more than a pony ride at the fair is not going to be critical. She's just going to enjoy imagining herself riding the spirited Jewel.

Verdict: Is this great literature? Heck, no. It's not even particularly good literature. But will kids enjoy reading it? Yep, absolutely. I read plenty of trashy books myself. It's a perfectly good "Barbie book" and as such I'll be purchasing the whole series.

ISBN: 9780545797658; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Demigods & Magicians by Rick Riordan

I am not really much of a series reader. Long, long ago I read The Lightning Thief, made my way through most of The Sea of Monsters and then lost interest when I made a shot at The Titan's Curse. I've been cheerfully recommending Rick Riordan's fantasies and read-alikes ever since (can it really be 10 years? Yes, yes it can.) but never picked up another book. Until now. I had a sudden urge to read his latest companion novel and got caught up in it.

This book is composed of three short stories which are interconnected. The first introduces Carter Kane, from Riordan's Egyptian series, to Percy Jackson. The second connects Sadie Kane, Carter's older sister, to Annabeth Chase. The third brings all four together to defeat a common enemy.

Teamed up, the four are definitely powerful but it takes them a while to work together. Carter and Sadie are much younger than Percy and Annabeth; Carter and Annabeth are analytical, prefer to research and plan before taking action, but both have very different experiences. Percy and Sadie are both very physical and more willing to take action and see what happens and rush into situations. They will have to figure out how to combine their very different magics and abilities to defeat an unexpected foe.

It's been a long time since I read any of the Percy Jackson books and I've never read any of the Kane siblings titles. However, I had no problem picking up the threads and jumping into this fast read. It's hard to tell how much of that is my ability to retain information from books I've read and intuit content (yes, I've passed tests on literature I haven't read. Shhhh, don't tell my professors). There's really only one mild spoiler if you haven't read the previous titles, Percy and Annabeth's relationship, although there are a few general references to previous events. The book also includes color plates, I would guess from the graphic novels, depicting the characters in action.

Verdict: This is really a book for fans; it doesn't exactly introduce the characters and their backstories, although it might draw in new readers and interest them in going back and reading more. Really, it's a fun tidbit for fans, a quick and exciting read and generally enjoyable.

ISBN: 9781484732786; Published 2016 by Disney-Hyperion; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Little Sleepyhead by Elizabeth McPike, illustrated by Patrice Barton

I'm not usually a fan of sweet and sentimental, especially when it comes to board books, but Barton's delicate watercolors are such a lovely match with the lullaby that I'm happy to have discovered this little book.

The borders of the cover show a picture of a soft, textured fabric that puts one in mind of a baby blanket. The simple rhyming text talks about each body part being tired, "Tired little arms, stretching up so high,/Tired little hands, waving bye, bye, bye." A variety of races and skin colors, as well as adults, are shown - babies with an older sibling, with a grandparent, with a father, even with a dog. Eventually the baby drifts off to sleep alone, clutching a favorite toy.

Barton's softly glowing illustrations show rosy-cheeked babies with plump bottoms and tummies, stretching little hands out to their loving family members. I was a little disappointed that, although she includes babies with a variety of skin color and ethnicity, the children with darker skin are still fairly light. A dark-skinned baby would have been an adorable addition to the collection of sleepy babies.

Verdict: Sweet and simple, a good purchase if you need more bedtime board books, an additional purchase overall.

ISBN: 9780399544842; Published 2016 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Beachy and Me by Bob Staake

The reviews for Staake's latest book were mostly meh, but here is where I think sometimes "professional" reviews miss the boat. Is it a lasting work of award-winning art? Nope. Will parents and kids check it out? Absolutely! It's fun, cheerfully illustrated, and while it's not great literature it's definitely an improvement on the gazillion tv tie-ins I spent two hours last week buying (Barbie. Ugh.).

The endpapers are decorated with a delightful faux-pirate's map which shows the two main characters - Beachy the whale and Pixie the girl - in the corner. Pixie is all alone on her tiny island when Beachy shows up. Washes up, to be precise. Once the beached whale has been restored to his home, he and Pixie have a delightful time playing in and exploring the ocean. It's a sad parting when Beachy has to migrate, but it's not long before he returns and their friendship resumes.

Staake's unmistakable illustrations shine with life and color and although the rhyming text is rather bland, this is a fun book for storytime or beach reading.

Verdict: Staake fans, of whom there are many, will be satisfied with this colorful and silly tale. Not a top choice perhaps, especially if your budget is tight, but a definite additional choice.

ISBN: 9780385373142; Published 2016 by Random House; F&G provided by publisher

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Let's Garden! A step by step introduction by Clara Lidstrom and Annakarin Nyberg, illustrated by Katy Kimbell and Li Soderberg, translated by Viktoria Lindback

As our library garden project finally starts getting off the ground (We have a contractor for the fence! Maybe! We are drawing up plans for the butterfly garden! Ok, Jess is, but I am supervising.) I am focusing on adding a wide variety of new and classic gardening books to the children's section. In a way, it's a difficult section to add to because it's hard to focus on books for such a hands-on type of activity. However, I have found several that address different aspects of gardening.

One of the things we want to focus on in our children's garden/outdoor educational space is letting kids be hands-on and experiment. This book is the perfect accompaniment for that philosophy since it strongly encourages kids to try the projects on their own! Besides a brief note to ask a grown-up for help with sharp tools, the kids are encouraged to try things on their own and work them out themselves.

The projects are a mix of craft and gardening; They include painting pots and planting greens to grow "hair", several varied planting projects, feeding birds, bean projects, cutting slips to plant, growing and cooking food, and foraging for edibles (grown-up supervision advised). There are also some more unique projects, like planting a rabbit's poop to see what they've been eating, transplanting a weed, and I have to admit to being a little doubtful on the suggestion of watering sunflowers with urine but hey, if it works...

The book is illustrated throughout with charming, simple drawings and collaged photos. Only three children are shown, but they are the authors' children who inspired the book so I don't fault the lack of diversity there. Each instruction has its own little illustration, helping kids who struggle with reading to follow along in the projects. There are a few things that may be unfamiliar to non-European children; the use of the metric system and some ingredients/tools, but they are easily explained by the context and, since the point of the book is for kids to try things themselves, this would be a great opportunity for them to experiment and/or do a little research!

It reminded me a little of Christina Bjork's Linnea books, especially Linnea's Almanac and Linnea's Windowsill Garden. In short, I loved this and can't wait to introduce it to our little gardeners and let them get their hands dirty!

Verdict: This is a much-needed addition to the subject of children's gardening, introducing a fun variety of projects and encouraging kids to learn and grow on their own. It's a little more expensive than the average nonfiction hardcover, but definitely worth the money and has more content than many comparable library-bound series. Recommended.

ISBN: 9783899557473; Published 2016 by Little Gestalten; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 4, 2016

This week at the library; or, Summer has begun for all intents and purposes

A couple tigers on field trips to the library
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday - Closed!
  • Tuesday
    • School visit (4 grades)
    • We officially opened registration for summer reading this week and my "big" school visits started this morning, so summer reading has begun even though we won't be marking logs or officially doing programs for a few weeks yet. I went to log on to my computer at work and got this message "The trust relationship between this workstation and the primary domain failed". A young patron was looking over my shoulder and said "it doesn't want to be friends with you anymore." One of my teen aides offered to counsel us, as she intends to study psychology in college. I said no, since I was feeling a lot of hostility and wasn't in the right frame of mind for an intervention then.
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • School visit (6 grades)
    • I was standing from 8:30am until past 12. I am glad I am not a teacher.
  • Friday
    • Outreach at children's festival
    • I worked 12-3 at the information desk, wrote my monthly report, handled a variety of issues, and then went out to a big children's festival. I had already sent my aides out to set up goo (in retrospect I wish I hadn't promised goo until I knew more about what the festival would entail) and another staff member took out tables for us. It was fairly successful - we made a lot of goo and signed up several kids for summer reading and handed out calendars. I'm not sure we'd do it again (and not just because two of us got sunburned. The third person we have renamed she-who-tans-and-smirks and we are not talking to her) because the bulk of people weren't from our town, but it will just depend on the timing I think.

What the kids are reading (expanded school visit edition)
  • Awkward had a lot of fans at school visits, especially when I compared it to Telgemeier
  • I will chomp you was a big hit also, especially when I stopped reading it halfway through
  • MOST POPULAR book by far is Elise Gravel's Head Lice. (I reviewed Worm earlier)
  • All the feels - Booktalking Save me a seat by Gita Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks. Student gasps "That's ME!!"
  • Just Dance 2016 and 2015 on regular Wii
  • Volleyball and swimming (planning on it for new sports books)
  • Minecraft (you can just assume there were a gazillion requests for this all summer from here on out)
  • Pokemon
  • Pendragon
  • Head Lice and Fuku Fuku kitten still the most popular.
  • Science Comics Dinosaurs was requested
  • Awkward got lots of excitement from fans of Smile
  • Warriors, Olympians (O'Hearn), Maximum Ride

Friday, June 3, 2016

Small Readers: Weird but Cute Barn Owl by Kathryn Camisa

While I'm looking for more in-depth animal books for my juvenile nonfiction, this cute series from Bearport is just right for my easy reader nonfiction section.

The first spread has text in different shapes and formats, introducing the barn owl. Simple facts about the barn owl's behavior, habits, and unique attributes follow. In addition to the simple sentences on each page, there are additional facts highlighted in hot pink and occasional captions in yellow.

Additional information at the end includes quick profiles on three more owls, a brief glossary, index, and more information.

This is part of Bearport's Little Bits easy reader series. Unlike a typical easy reader, they have a square format, roughly 8x8. Although the endpapers have patterns, the backgrounds of the pages with text are solid white or other colors that don't distract from the words. The photographs match the text well and are engaging.

Although National Geographic is my first go-to for nonfiction easy readers, Bearport is a popular runner-up. Their titles are a little more expensive, coming in the library bound nonfiction range, but they have good deals if you buy sets and will be popular for a long time to come. This new series will please animal-loving young readers and encourage them to keep practicing their reading and learn more.

ISBN: 9781943553273; Published 2016 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Stick Cat by Tom Watson

Usually I have no issue recommending books I haven't read. I've been recommending Stick Dog for years without having cracked one open. However, having finally picked up and read a title, due to an emergency lack of books during lunch (yes, I do work in a library) I have to admit that I have been recommending these all wrong.

Stick Cat is the start of a new series (although the author assures us that Stick Dog will continue) and features, wait for it, Stick Cat. The "author" of the books purports to be a kid, who happens to have a crush on a girl, who happens to like cats, and who happened to request a cat story. Hence, Stick Cat. In this first book we are introduced to Stick Cat and his friend Edith. They play exciting games that involve staring at each other, sleeping, and listening to Edith go off on weird tangents. They also enjoy listening to a piano tuner in the next building over play music. But when there's a nasty accident, can Stick Cat and Edith work together to save the day?

The book is a typical notebook novel, with hand-drawn sketches of cats, people, and other doodles and printed on a faux-notebook paper.

I found it unutterably boring. I am being truly honest here. I did not understand how kids think this is funny and I found Stick Cat's attitude towards Edith (and Edith's character) rather stereotypical as well. But you know what? I am not the audience for this book. And this is where I've been making a mistake - I've been recommending it as a read-alike for Wimpy Kid, which it is, but it's also much, much younger than I realized. I should have been recommending this to kids who aren't ready for Wimpy Kid yet.

Verdict: Despite my own disinterest, this series is perfect for younger kids who enjoy silly humor and easier chapter books and older readers who just want something to relax with for a little while. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062411006; Published 2017 by Harper; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Peekaboo! by cocoretto

Peekaboo is always a fascinating game for babies and these delightful board books take the game to a new dimension with flaps, guessing, and bright, cheerful colors.

Peekaboo! In the Ocean features a dolphin, octopus, turtle, seal and crab. They are all doing fairly typical activities - the dolphin is splashing, the crab is digging, etc.

Peekaboo! On the Farm includes a horse, chickens, sheep, cow and dog. All but the chickens are active; leaping, chasing, or galloping.

Peekaboo! In the Jungle shows a tiger, parrot, monkey, frog and crocodile. Their actions are a little more diverse, from monkey swinging to crocodile yawning and includes a couple sounds; parrot squawking and frog croaking.

Peekaboo! In the Snow features a more vague selection of animals; polar bear, reindeer, penguin, snow leopard, and wolf. This title includes one sound - wolf howling - and generally sticks to the leaping/climbing formula.

All of the books have the same structure. The left page of the spread says "Peekaboo! Who's there?" while the right shows the animal with its hands, legs, or flippers over its face. The hiding face is a flap; while it is almost the size of a complete page, it has a curved edge along the gutter, which makes it easy to lift. Beneath the flap is a picture of the animal in action and the accompanying text "Monkeys swinging!" or "Chickens clucking!" and so on.

The art is bright and colorful, featuring bold shapes and outlines in the animals' pictures against vibrant backgrounds. The high contrast in colors and shapes make the simple actions easy to follow. The books themselves are a typical 7x7 square and made out a thin but durable cardboard. The hinge of the flap does not look at all sturdy to me; I think excessive wear (and in my library all wear is almost immediately excessive) will rip the flap off. However, a sturdy pieces of library tape down the spine should reinforce it enough for many circulations to come.

Verdict: This series includes cheerful, child-friendly pictures and text and playfully encourages children to participate in a favorite game. The enjoyment is worth the possible damage. Recommended.

Published 2016 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

In the snow
ISBN: 9781846438653

In the jungle
ISBN: 9781846438660

On the farm
ISBN: 9781846438646

In the ocean
ISBN: 9781846438677