Saturday, January 30, 2016

This week at the library; or, We Melt All The Crayons

My girls, the M-Team. When they were posing with
the fruits of their labors, our first patron saw the new
kitchen and gravitated to it immediately!
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Read with Pearl (Jess)
    • Tiny Tots (sub for Pattie)
    • Emergency storytime in the evening - I basically just grabbed random books from the new ones I was checking in. Pearl came and was very white and fluffy. Felt vaguely disorganized but did plan department staff meeting and got through a bunch of misc. small stuff.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Middle School Madness: Dangerous Art
    • I worked on putting together toy bags whilst greeting toddlers in the morning, then I helped our charter school group create a Facebook group, then I went out to Sophos for middle school outreach. I'm only supposed to stay an hour, but the kids were so engrossed in melting crayons with my embossing tool that I stayed an extra 45 minutes!
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lakeland Tour/Storytime (Jess)
    • Lego Club
    • Sent a short order for more Valentine's books. Trying to get together all the materials for the remote circulation bags next week and writing complicated emails about outreach and school performances in my head. Next, I will actually write them down and send them.
  • Friday
    • No programs. No school either. I went to a SRP workshop in the morning, had lunch with friends, and then came back and worked on reports, weeding, and toy bags in the afternoon. There may or may not have been an interval of cheese shopping in there.
  • Saturday
    • Pre-work breakfast involved tasty food and much discussion of book catalogs. Work was crazy busy, between people wanting in-depth reference and technology help (not on a Saturday!) tax appointments (next year adult services has promised we won't be doing this) and the local art association picking up their current pictures (I'm the only one tall enough to get the top row!) Phew.
Projects in Progress or Completed
  • Weeding 500s
  • Putting together toy bags
  • CE and Meetings
    • SRP Workshop
What the kids are reading
  • Request for Minecraft games on PS3 and XBOX360
  • Picture books on Washington and Lincoln (teacher saving me time!)
  • Kindergartener who wanted to read a chapter book - Sophia Martinez
  • Lego books, Star Wars
  • Courageous Princess - checked out, ordered the third one
  • Teen Titans Go - second time they've asked, encouraged them to place a hold
  • Tinker Bell
  • Dragonball Z
  • Wall-E
  • Tangled
  • Descendants Isle of the Lost (glad I bought 3 copies)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shelter Pet Squad: Merlin by Cynthia Lord, illustrated by Erin McGuire

Usually, I read the first book in a series, but the first title in this series, Jellybean, has been consistently checked out and since I needed to read this for Cybils I decided to start with the second one.

I knew when I first read the description that kids would love this series and they certainly have. Suzannah loves animals but her apartment doesn't allow any pets so she gets involved with a local pet shelter. In this title, Suzannah and her friends encounter a ferret and learn about them and figure out the best way to get Merlin adopted to a happy home.

There are a couple things that set this series apart from the usual kids-involved-in-animal-shelter fare. First, Suzannah has to deal with being younger than all the other kids at the shelter. She's limited from participating in some activities and a major plotline in the book is how she tries to be seen as more mature in different ways, like choosing a longer book when they're learning about ferrets, but learns it's ok to ask for help.

I also liked that they showed the animals not just going to happy homes but all the work that went into caring for them and making sure the right people were adopting them. The art is fairly standard black and white pictures. It breaks the story up, but doesn't add a lot to the book in general.

Verdict: You can never have too many of this type of series and this is a popular one. A mildly diverse cast, plenty of helpful information, and a nice length between beginning chapter book and middle grade make this stand out a little from the rest. Definitely recommend this to your Critter Club, Puppy Place, Vet Volunteers, and Animal Ark fans.

ISBN: 9780545635998; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Petlandia by Peter Hannan

Madame Wigglesworth manages to tolerate the humans who worship her until they turn their attention to a new object of adoration: A pup named Grub. She can't take it any more! A few evil schemes later and the human Finkleblurts are out of the house for good and Madame Wigglesworth has founded Petlandia. Naturally, she will be the first dictator, ahem, president that is. But she didn't count on lovestruck Honeybaked Hamster voting for....Grub?? Things escalate quickly to all-out civil war. Will peace ever return to Petlandia?

Hannan's scratchy black and white cartoons are an excellent fit for the story. Madame Wigglesworth's vampire-like fangs, the teeny-bopper Honeybaked, nasty rats, and droolingly ridiculous Grub snarl and fight their way through an increasingly untidy background, ending with a stomach-turning scene with worms.

On the one hand, I read this and thought "Bad Kitty for kids who like Cartoon Network". On the other hand, I read this and thought "this has no redeeming qualities other than being grossly funny". The characters are stupid and/or nasty, and the ending is ridiculous.

Verdict: Not surprisingly, the author has done a lot of work on Nickelodeon and fans of that brand of humor will eat this up. It's a graphic blend - primarily text with spot illustrations - so a nice compromise for parents who don't want their kids reading graphic novels. It's not over the top gross or crude, just has a rather icky feel to it. It reminded me of Apocalypse Bow-Wow only with an actual plot. I'm not exactly going to recommend it, but it will certainly circulate.

ISBN: 9780545162111; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Small Readers: Katie Fry, Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Although I'm mostly looking for very beginning easy readers these days, I do occasionally pick up a fun new series for more intermediate beginning readers.

Katie Fry is small but smart. She uses the clues she finds to solve mysteries. When she hears about a lost kitten, she knows it's a mystery she can solve. Sherlock the kitten gives her some clues and she follows them back to find his lost home - and even comes up with an idea so she and Sherlock don't have to part ways at the end of the story.

Vanessa Brantley Newton's art is bright and cheerful with lots of details, unusual for an easy reader. I've enjoyed her art in other books but felt like her art was more fun than the books themselves. Katie Fry is a good match for her peppy, colorful pictures though.

Katie is an upbeat, smart character who's clever without being snarky or annoying. I was a little thrown off by the switch from the everyday mysteries she's solved at the beginning to the talking kitten, but I don't think kids will care.

Verdict: Give this one to kids who aren't quite ready for Critter Club but like mysteries with animals and cute pictures.

ISBN: 9780545666725; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Land Shark by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Ben Mantle

Beth Ferry, author of the quirky Stick and Stone, returns with another kooky story that's sure to grab readers' attention and tickle their funny bone.

Bobby loves sharks and he has a plan to get one of his very own. Everything seems to be going well and he has high hopes when he enters the garage to see his birthday present, which his parents assure him is just what he wanted...a puppy! WHAT??!! Bobby is disappointed, disgusted, and utterly upset. There is no way he will ever be a dog lover. He's a shark lover and nothing but a shark will do! Sharks are not cute and cuddly. Sharks are destructive forces of nature with a keen sense of smell and awesome biting abilities. Hmmm.....maybe, just maybe, Bobby can love something that's not a shark...

Mantle's colorful art shows determined, delightfully quirky Bobby in all his moods from planning to struggling not to cry (shark lovers don't cry) to finally happy and back to planning again. The pictures are gloriously goofy as Bobby slowly changes his mind and comes to like his new pet, even if it's not what he expected.

Verdict: For every kid who's ever wanted a pet or been disappointed by the "wrong" present and for shark lovers everywhere. Perfect for a dramatic read-aloud to kindergarteners. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781452124582; Published 2015 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The Human Body: The story of how we protect, repair, and make ourselves stronger by HP Newquist

When I first briefly glanced at this, I assumed it was just another book on the human body. However, when I finally cleaned out my tbr shelf and delved in more deeply I discovered a unique and fascinating combination of technology and anatomy.

This is the first book in a series called Invention & Impact and it not only covers the basic functions of the human body but, as the subtitle says, explains the inventions that have been used throughout history to repair and improve the human body.

The first section covers parts of the body; eyes, ears, teeth, heart, blood, limbs, and finally the body of the future. It not only explains how things like blood work, but also the way people throughout history have tried to substitute, improve, and repair damages and what inventions are currently focused in this area. For example, did you know that there is still no artificial blood? It's simply too complex to be cloned. Did you know that false teeth were once made from the teeth of corpses? That glass eyes would crack if subjected to extreme temperatures? That prosthetics can be made using a 3-D printer?

The next section talks about three basic medicines; soap, aspirin and antibiotics, their creation, use and the way they've changed the world. The final section discusses medical tools and treatments; surgery, the microscope, the stethoscope, x-ray and similar machines and vaccines. These sections are completely fascinating, discussing how soap was marketed to become a normal part of life, the dangers and difficulties of finding vaccines and some of the horrific diseases they have all but eradicated, and the truly gory early surgeries before anaesthetic.

Back matter includes websites and limited print resources, acknowledgements, and a detailed index.

I wish they wouldn't make these picture-book style layouts for middle grade nonfiction - it's difficult to get older kids to pick up something that "looks like a baby book" but this isn't as big as it could be and it's a decent length. It's not going to grab the average reluctant reader; it's a very dense title with a lot of information packed into it, but kids who are into science, medicine, history and inventions may be inspired to pick it up with some judicious booktalking.

Verdict: This is definitely going into my summer booktalks for upper grades and when I get my 5th/6th book club going (the current plan is for 2018) it will definitely be a top pick. It's one that will appeal to strong nonfiction readers and should be an excellent addition to libraries looking to encourage STEM.

ISBN: 9780451476432; Published 2015 by Smithsonian/Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library


Saturday, January 23, 2016

This week at the library; or, Excitement abounds!

What's Happening in My Head and at the Library
The most exciting thing this week is that my first nonfiction column for School Library Journal's new newsletter, is live and online! "Selecting and Promoting Nonfiction in Your Library"
  • Monday
    • Read With Pearl (Jess) (cancelled due to weather)
    • We had a staff meeting. I did things.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • January Outreach: Under the Snow (3 sessions)
    • I accidentally showed up half an hour early for outreach, but I was on time for the board meeting! Trying to weed the dinosaurs and schedule performers. With great dexterity I missed the "poop incident" by about five minutes. I did not inquire for further details.
  • Wednesday
    • We Explore Science (Jess)
    • This program was a great success! Jess had stations out for the kids to investigate evergreens - painting with branches, a matching game, investigating evergreens with magnifying glasses and water, etc.
    • Another webinar, good thoughts on communication and management from Marge.
    • Outreach tour with middle school kids from the special education school. They mostly wanted to look around and chat - some had cards and were regular users, some were very interested in getting cards. The video games got a lot of love.
  • Thursday
  • I had Friday off, in lieu of working several Friday and Saturdays recently.
Projects in Progress or Completed
  • Weeding 500s and board books
  • Scheduling performers
  • Webinars and meetings
    • Staff meeting
    • Options board meeting
    • (webinar) Managing Children's Services: Communication in the Youth Services Department
    • Wild Wisconsin Winter Web Conference: My 10 biggest mistakes and how to avoid them with Marge Loch-Wouters
What the kids are reading
  • Recommendations for fan of Naylor's Alice - Lauren Myracle. Might do Tara Altebrando next. 
  • award-winners for a battle of the books for an outside school
  • books about Wisconsin
  • ballet book
  • Cam Jansen
  • Muddy Max - wanted more, recommended Summer camp science mysteries
  • movies and books about hamsters (only came up with chipmunk movies - hidden kingdoms)
  • swiss family robinson
  • struggling/reluctant 1st grade reader

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rider Woofson: The Case of the Missing Tiger's Eye by Walker Styles, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

A new detective is on the scene, tirelessly working to keep the citizens of Pawston safe, it's...Rider Woofson!

In his first case, we meet Rider Woofson and his friends and assistants in the Pup Investigators Pack. With the gadgets of Westie Barker, smart and pretty investigator Rora Gooddog, and young Ziggy Fluffenscruff's nose, they solve crimes and keep citizens safe. When a valuable gem goes missing, it takes all of their talents and skills working together to solve the mystery...but have they found the real criminal behind the scenes?

I was looking at an ARC with unfinished art, but the black and white sketches seem light and funny, definitely adding humor and interest to the simple text.

This will definitely be a big hit with fans of the popular Paw Patrol tv series, both as a read-aloud and as a beginning chapter as they age up out of easy readers. It's an excellent transitional chapter book, with short paragraphs, a large font, and a mix of popular topics - dogs, mysteries, and jokes.

I was disappointed, but not surprised by the lack of gender diversity displayed. There's only one female member of the team, who is, of course, described as "pretty", makes stereotypical comments about wanting diamonds, and whose role seems to be mainly making smart comments and trying to get the male members of the team to behave. She takes no active part in solving the case other than getting buried under wigs at one point and yelling for help and pointing out some paw prints at the end.

It would be great if Little Simon could get on board and start diversifying their chapter book offerings - they have some great ideas for series, but I generally skip them because of the lack of diversity. However, hopefully Rora Gooddog will have a more active role in future titles and I'm willing to give this one a chance.

Verdict: The combination of popular themes - mysteries, jokes, and animals - should make this early chapter book popular with a wide range of children. I can't recommend it wholeheartedly because of the stereotyped representation of the one female character, but I'm hoping that will improve into the series and am willing to take a chance on it.

ISBN: 9781481460156; Published January 2016 by Little Simon; ARC provided by publisher

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

I was just thinking gloomily about the lack of good juvenile graphic novels in 2015 and then finally got around to reading this one.

It's different. Violet lives in a world where whales eat planets, but their poop powers everything. Her parents are struggling to deal with financial issues and the fallout from her father's past mistakes, and then her mom gets a chance at a "normal" life. When tragedy strikes, will Violet stick with her mom or her dad? Will she reunite her family and make new friends? Or will she and her friends get smothered by whale diarrhea.

So, first of all, this book is kinda gross. Whale poop, trash, etc. It's also weird. There's a Jewish chicken who journals his dreams, has seizures and visions, and interprets them with Biblical passages. There's a wild flock of aliens who are naturally very alien-looking. There's also mad (or at least irresponsible) scientists, all-powerful corporations, a ridiculous fashion industry, and lots of last-minute escapes from disaster.

I think the temptation is going to be to call it a read-alike for Zita the Spacegirl, but it's really not the same at all. Yes, Violet is spunky, has ideas, strikes out on her own, and makes new friends. But while Zita's whole story arc is working towards her dealing with her isolation and coming to know herself and build a new life, Violet is trying to put back together the life she used to have. She's at home in the galaxy, even if her "home" is a cruddy spaceship in a galactic trailer park. There are plenty of tense moments and excitement, but the quirky/funny elements outweigh the adventure. There's not a lot of resolution for the issues, no great victory over the unfeeling corporations and scientists. In the end, Violet settles down in her new school with  new friends and her family back together. Life is ok and better than before but there's no perfect ending.

Verdict: I think this will appeal most to graphic novel fans in that specific upper middle grade age range, say 10-12. Hand it to readers who don't mind gross, may or may not pick up all the allusions and commentary, but will certainly enjoy a funny, exciting, and ultimately uplifting story.

ISBN: 9780545565417; Published 2015 by Scholastic Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hoot by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

I've been trying different books recently from the My Little World series and striking out. They're fun, but just not quite, exactly what I want.

This one starts out with Little Blue who is all alone. He goes looking for the other owlets and finds them one by one. Each is a different color and adds one number (Little Green is number two, etc.).

The pictures are bright and full of bold shapes and colors. There are graduated die cut holes for the owl's eyes that provide a sensory experience. The book is a sturdy square.

But...it's a little too busy. I can't get on board with some of the color choices, especially the one with a lavender background and Little Blue in shades of, well, blue. The many bright colors, the different shades, the numbers, the additional details on each page, it's just too much. I wanted to see more contrast - if they'd stuck with the background and colors of the cover and just focused on the numbers that would have been better.

Verdict: It's not a bad board book and I'm not sorry I bought it, but if your budget is limited it isn't the best of the series.

ISBN: 9781589255951; Published 2014 by Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My Little World: Snap by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

I've really liked some of the previous titles in this series, but this one kind of confused me.

On the first page, the crocodile says she has a "super square" and that readers should yell "snap" when they find its pair. The next page does have two green squares, but the text is about a circle and invites readers to spot its pair. The next page has only one square, two circles, and you find a pair of stars. And so on. The diamond shape is called a "kite" throughout. The last two pages invite readers to match up all the shapes on the pages. I think the "game" is confusing - are you looking for a square in each page? or the matching shapes talked about on each page? That's not clear from the first pages. I also think the diamond should be called a diamond. I wonder, though, if this is a British thing I'm missing out on - isn't there a British game called Snap?

The illustrations are colorful and attractive and kids will certainly enjoy the die cut shapes in the thick cardboard pages. The book is a sturdy square and most kids won't care much about any little issues in the text.

Verdict: I would recommend this one if you have the rest of the series; if not, start with the others first as this one isn't quite as good as the other titles.

ISBN: 9781589255661; Published 2014 by Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Frog on a Log by Kes Gray and Jim Field

This is on my pick of funny books for the year, which I had previously missed out on (no, I don't have that list anywhere, but I probably should).

The story begins with a bossy cat, loudly telling a frog he should be sitting on a log. When the frog demurs, the cat sets out on an explosive journey of rhymes. Only cats can sit on mats and only hares can sit on chairs. There's worse things than sitting on a splintery log though - what about lions sitting on irons or storks on forks? Finally, frog wonders what dogs sit on....oops.

Originally published in the UK, the art has what I think of as distinctive British style with pop-eyes and silly details and slightly tilted perspectives. The animals' all have individual expressions ranging from the shocked to the smugly content and as frog learns about proper sitting technique his own expression goes from annoyed to exuberant as he gets into the rhyming game, then resigned at the twist in the ending.

Verdict: A hilarious story that uses rhymes the way they should be used - to make everyone explode in hysterical laughter. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780545687911; Published 2014 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, January 18, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Australia's Cane Toads Overrun! by Sneed B. Collard III

Bearport publishes a lot of animal-focused nonfiction, but it's not the typical research-one-animal series. This new series focuses on invasive species and brings a new perspective, even though it addresses some animals already included in previous series.

The series includes titles on cane toads, Burmese pythons, fire ants, feral pigs, and brown tree snakes. I was sent a sample of the title focusing on cane toads. The book opens with a dramatic story of a dog poisoned by a cane toad. The story then explains how cane toads came to Australia; they were imported to feed on destructive cane beetles who were eating the sugar cane crop. Unfortunately, the toads not only didn't eat the cane beetles, they rapidly spread across Australia and became a serious issue, threatening native wildlife, poisoning domesticated animals, and generally just being gross (seriously, have you SEEN a cane toad? yech.)

The book discusses how the toads came to spread, why they're difficult to stop, and what people are trying to do to eradicate this invasive species. Back matter includes information on other invasive species of amphibians, a glossary, index, and brief bibliography and reading suggestions. Like all Bearport's high-interest titles, there is limited text at an accessible reading level, plentiful photographs, and a strong narrative that grabs the reader's interest without excessive drama.

Verdict: I'm currently looking for more basic titles on specific animals to update my animal section, so this isn't a series I'm in need of right now. However, if you're looking to update your invasive species titles or just fun animal titles, this is a good selection. Collard is a strong science writer and Bearport has put together an excellent layout of information and photographs.

ISBN: 9781627248280; Published 2015 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What are the kids reading? Most checked out titles in 2015

The Statistics Octopus.
It's a Thing.
You thought I was going to talk about the ALA awards didn't you? I'm not feeling it this year. Not because of any particular dislike of the chosen titles, I've just felt rather "meh" about publishing all last year for everything. Anyways.

I thought it would be fun to see what was most checked out in 2015 and got the report for the further enjoyment of data. Of course, "most checked out" doesn't really equal most popular - a book kept overdue, something weeded because it fell apart, multiple copies split the numbers, etc. But it's an interesting thing to consider.

Board Books
  • 22: Shapeasaurus
  • 20: ABC Alphaprints
  • 20: Batman is Brave!
  • 18: Ten in the bed by Guile
  • 18: That's not my princess - her tiara is too bumpy
  • 18: Dinosaur zoom! by Dale
Picture Books
I...kind of cheated on this one. The top books are all tub books - the 8x8 paperbacks I toss in tubs. They check out constantly and frequently. However, because they have a picture book location, they come up on top! So I picked out the top picture books from the list and just ignored the tub books.
  • 21: Catch that cookie by Hallie Durand
  • 19: Monster Machines: On the construction site by Vandewiele
  • 19: Nana in the city by Lauren Castillo
  • 19: Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina
Easy Readers
  • 21: My new friend is so fun by Willems
  • 21: Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete
  • 20: My new friend is so fun by Willems (2nd copy)
  • 20: The camping trip by Hapka
  • 20: Swim, fish! by Neuman
  • 18: Happy pig day! by Willems
  • 18: Pinkalicious: Tutu-rrific
Juvenile Fiction
  • 17: Pokemon Visual Companion
  • 15: Garfield Show: Unfair Weather
  • 13: Big Nate and Friends
  • 13: Big Nate genius mode
  • 13: Lego Ninjago: Challenge of Samukai
  • 13: Lego Ninjago: Rise of the serpentine
  • 13: Star Wars, Clone Wars incredible cross-sections
Juvenile Series
  • 15: Rescue princesses: The stolen crystals
  • 12: Rescue princesses: The magic rings
  • 12: Rescue princesses: The moonlight mystery
  • 11: Rescue princesses: The golden shell
  • 11: Mermaid tales: Treasure in trident city
  • 11: Mermaid tales: trouble at trident academy
  • 11: Rescue princesses: The rainbow opal
Juvenile Non-Fiction
  • 14: Just Joking 4
  • 14: Big book of minecraft by Talley
  • 14: Just Joking 3
  • 13: Minecraft essential handbook
Children's DVDs
  • 39: Team Umizoomi
  • 36: Paw Patrol
  • 36: Doc McStuffins: Mobile Clinic
  • 36: Bubble Guppies get ready for school
  • 35: Doc McStuffins
  • 34: Paw Patrol: Winter Rescues
  • 33: Doc McStuffins time for your checkup
  • 32: Barbie and the secret door
  • 32: Barbie a fashion fairytale
  • 32: Lego Batman, the movie
  • 32: What's new Scooby-Doo (2nd season)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

This week at the library; or, Why is this happening to me? I have always been a patron of the arts!

However, despite the insanity of this week,
I have TWO Swimmy bags from Kohls.
Theoretically, I could give one to a friend.
Theoretically.
What's Happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Read with Pearl  cancelled due to weather
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • I started Monday by finding a stinkbug on my toothbrush and going to the dentist. Now I think I have a cold. Why? WHY?
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • I definitely have a cold. WHY ME?
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Block Party (Jess)
    • January Outreach: Under the Snow (4 sessions)
    • Thankfully my outreach combined their last two classes. I didn't think I could make it through a fifth rendition of storytime. I decided it's time to go back through all my "what the kids are reading" for 2015 for any requests I missed. Also dealing with Calendar Chaos. Planning, oy.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Messy Art Club: Collage
    • Did I mention it's also the Book and Bake sale, so I squashed Messy Art Club into the Storyroom? And that I bit my tongue while it was numb on Monday and it STILL hurts? And that I can't breathe? And then we had an Incident and I finished Thursday spending about an hour with police and panic. I have no words.
    • I plunged my first toilet of the new year.
  • Friday
    • No programs today. I was, to put it mildly, trepidatious about what the day might hold, especially when I heard what happened after I left last night. Thankfully, while many, many things went wrong, none of them were my problem. Phew. I left early to do a Walmart run and the week was over, to my vast relief.
Projects
  • Meeting for summer reading
  • Updating outreach storytimes
  • Weeding 500s
  • Cleaning out and relabeling magazines
What the kids are reading
  • It Takes Two (promised patron the newest one when I ordered it)
  • Alice by Naylor (need to keep buying the Denos covers)
  • Stranded series (need to fill in)
  • character-building books
  • Disney classic movies
  • Octonauts
  • No dogs allowed (I don't have any Bill Wallace) they went with Boys are Dogs for their book report instead

Friday, January 15, 2016

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher by Liam O'Donnell, illustrated by Aurrelie Grand

Mysteries are always popular with beginning readers and this is an excellent mystery - with a twist.

Myron does not like new things and a whole lot of new things are happening to him. New baby, new school, new bullies and, perhaps, new friends. Myron just wants to settle in and figure out his new routine in school and in Room 15, but his self-appointed friend, Hajrah, have other ideas. Soon they're investigating mysterious messes and disappearing snacks in the kitchen, following clues, and making sure the wrong person doesn't get in trouble!

Myron is autistic and Hajrah is in room 15 because she "[bounces] around too much." The other children's reasons for being in room 15 aren't explicitly stated, but their differences are casually woven into the text. I appreciated that they didn't discover amazing talents or inspire anyone, but they were shown with some advantages - Myron's literalism makes him good at dealing with facts - and some disadvantages - he doesn't understand how people react or behave.

The illustrations show a diverse classroom and school and are funny without being too cartoonish. The author's acknowledgement lists people who consulted on making the references to autism accurate.

Verdict: This is not only a good beginning chapter mystery with a story and characters kids will enjoy, it ably represents kids with different abilities as more than their differences. An excellent addition to beginning chapter mysteries.

ISBN: 9781771470698; Published 2015 by OwlKids; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills by Katie Kath

Mills expands her realistic school stories to hit a slightly older audience with this new series starter.

Nora loves science and her new obsession is ants. Unfortunately, her classmates, especially the girls, don't appreciate her interests. She's determined to be the youngest person to get a science paper published in a journal, make her classmates appreciate her ants, and hopefully get a good grade on her persuasive paper. But somehow things don't go as she'd hoped, no matter how often she checks her facts and keeps her notebooks up to date. People - and ants - are more unpredictable than she'd expected.

Mills writes realistically of the obstacles faced by a girl interested in science, not least the indifference of her peers. She also sympathetically portrays the naivety and innocent excitement of Nora as she tries out new experiences and goes through everyday growing pains. The minimal black and white illustrations add a light touch of humor (incidentally, it would be cool if Claudia Mills and Ruth McNally Barshaw collaborated. I just thought of that, as I think Ellie McDoodle and Nora would be good friends).

Verdict: This series fills a niche - it should be a hit with younger readers who are ready for more challenging titles but not more challenging themes and for kids who enjoy science, humorous stories, and realistic fiction but aren't ready for the more angst-driven middle grade and teen fiction that currently dominates the market. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780385391610; Published 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to library

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Small Readers: In! Over! and On! (The Farm) by Ethan Long

Ethan Long's concept stories are one of the new comic easy reader series and one that, I think, is successful because it stands on its own and doesn't try to imitate other popular series. Like, as it may be, Elephant and Piggie.

Three short chapters illustrate three prepositions in hilarious art with quirky characters. The first story, "Let me in" features Hen who has been booted from her own coop by the other animals during the rain. Why? Open the lift-the-flap door and you can see it's crowded! But Hen has a solution for that...and the other animals are out in the rain themselves. Hen is back in "Jump over" as the other animals try to get her over or under the fence. Neither one works, but fortunately Cow has a solution. Pig is the protagonist of the last story, "I am on" and he certainly is - on the tractor that is! One by one the cow and goat join him until....they are no longer on the tractor. Sploosh!

Ethan Long's simple lines and colors develop the minimalist text to its full funny potential. What are at first bland sentences illustrating the prepositions become hilarious statements when paired with the animals' expressions, ranging from deadpan to mischievous, and their wacky antics.

Verdict: I'm always looking for the very beginning easy readers, with just a few words. Although this is in no way similar to the sweet and silly antics of Elephant and Piggie, Ethan Long has the same ability as Willems to capture a whole story with just simple illustrations and a few words. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780399169076; Published 2015 by Putnam/Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Small Readers: Written and drawn by Henrietta: A toon book by Liniers

This is a stunning work of graphic art. But is it a good easy reader?

Henrietta has a new box of colored pencils and she's going to tell a story. With asides to and with her cat Fellini, she explains the process she goes through, writing and drawing her story of monsters, hats, and messy closets.

The art includes both panels that showcase Liniers' simple lines and muted colors as well as splashy colors and exuberant drawings that show Henrietta's work. Henrietta's art is presumably drawn with colored pencils, as introduced at the front of the books. The speech bubbles for the child's art are drawn with the same splashy, sketchy vivid colored pencil work as the art itself.

This is a level 3 Toon book. Toon's level 3 is intended for "advanced beginners" and one of the things it encourages is that a "reader needs to make connections and speculate." Maybe because I've been focusing on very beginning readers for a while, but while I can see the artistry in this book and admire the seamless storytelling on multiple levels, it just didn't strike me as a good book for a beginning reader, who is still trying to decode language. In addition to the challenge of reading itself, the reader has to follow two different storylines, one drawn in a handwritten font that didn't seem easy to read at all to my eyes.

Verdict: Readers who excel and are moving seamlessly into chapter books will probably no problem with this unique story. However, sometimes it seems like I only ever get requests for struggling or poor readers and the "good" readers are thin on the ground. This was an artistically beautiful book, but ultimately I didn't feel like it really had much of a story to offer and didn't fulfill what I need from easy readers for my patrons.

ISBN: 9781935179900; Published 2015 by TOON; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Small Readers: I will take a nap! by Mo Willems

Ah, Elephant and Piggie. It will be a sad day indeed when there isn't a new one to introduce to the kids at my pre-summer visits. Last year's offering, I will take a nap! won the approval of teachers and kids alike, all the way up to the fifth graders who raised the roof with their pig snores.

Elephant is feeling a bit cranky and decides it is time for a nap. Piggie thinks a nap sounds good too, but she doesn't quite grasp the technique....until suddenly she does. And then there is lots of loud snoring. And turnips. And floating. And...what??

Willems has created another masterful easy reader that's the perfect blend of art and story. It's got funny in several levels - I had to turn it back a few times to figure out the subtle visual cues for when the story shifts to a dreamscape.

Verdict: Elephant and Piggie should be a mainstay of any easy reader collection, along with Cat in the Hat, Frog and Toad, Fly Guy, and other classics. Everyone will have their favorites (mine are Watch me Throw the Ball and Can I Play Too?) and I predict that this one will end up on several read it again, absolute favorite lists.

ISBN: 9781484716304; Published 2015 by Hyperion; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lily and Bear by Lisa Stubbs

I am a sucker for bear stories and this is a delightful one that I am excited to add to my repertoire.

The book begins with "Lily loved to draw." and draw she does, a colorful, joyful series of paintings until she draws a teddy bear...and he comes to life! Bear is adorable, with a plump tummy, scratchy brown fur, and sweet flushed cheeks, the perfect accompaniment to sweet Lily with her striped shirt, tutu, and dark brown hair. Together they explore, imagine, and play all day long, first in Lily's human world and then in Bear's forest. Finally, it's time for bed and under a dark blue, star-speckled sky they settle down for sweet dreams together.

The endpapers are created from the author's daughter's artwork and the whole book is a wonderful celebration of art and imagination, from the viewpoint of a child. The simple text makes this accessible for young audiences and a fun choice for storytime, one-on-one reading, or a lovely bedtime story.

Verdict: A joyous celebration of imagination, art, and bears. What could be better? Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481444163; Published 2015 by Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, January 11, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Up in the garden and down in the dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

This is the spring/summer companion to Messner's Over and Under the Snow which I frequently use in my winter outreach storytimes.

The story begins with the bare garden at the end of winter, as a child and their grandmother think about the coming spring. There are bugs and worms underground, already preparing the soil. As they prepare the garden, cleaning out dead plants, making compost, and planting seeds, the creatures below ground prepare as well. The story progresses through the spring and summer, showing the creatures below ground and the creatures above and the plants growing in between. Finally, it's harvest time and the humans and animals gather food for the winter. The little creatures burrow down and the leaves and snow cover the ground, waiting for the next spring.

An author's note talks about all the different creatures that work together to build a garden and the important part each one plays. There is a list of further reading on gardens, compost, and garden creatures followed by several pages of detailed descriptions of the creatures in the book from spiders to birds to worms.

Neal's art is the perfect accompaniment to Messner's poetic text. The endpapers are covered with delicate charcoal sketches of plants and animals while the interior illustrations have blocky swatches of dirt punctuated with small delicate flowers and insects. The illustrations include tiny details, like the worms tunnelling through the dirt and butterflies in the background as the child takes a drink of water and imagines being in the cool dirt.

The grandmother is refreshingly non-stereotypical. She has long gray hair but is active and interacts lovingly with the child, who appears to live with the grandparents.

Verdict: This is a lovely introduction to the spring and summer season of growing and the importance of all those little creatures above and below ground. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781452119366; Published 2015 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Budget Numbers, Circulation Numbers, Programming Numbers, I Haz Them ALL (Part 3: Collection and Circulation)

The Statistics Octopus. It's a Thing.
Last year was the final "weird" year in my collection development, due to Neighborhoods and other changes. From now on, it's going to be beautifully organized! Really. I have fancy spreadsheets to divide up the money in each category and I'm going to stick to them. Also, if you are anal enough to check my math, total circulation won't match the collected numbers by location because it includes holds from other libraries.

Total Circulation: 124,502
Increase from 2014: 3,905

Circulation by Location

  • Board Books: 4,215
    • Decrease of 298. I did not buy a lot of new board books last year. We have reached maximum saturation and I need to weed this collection before I can purchase new titles and bring circulation up again.
  • Easy Readers: 9,190
    • Down by 510. This is disappointing, but I think I need to purchase heavily more of the very beginning books as that's what people are looking for.
  • Juvenile Fiction: 14,624
    • Increased by 504. The increased outreach and remote collections with school-agers, plus the book clubs, are behind this I think.
  • Juvenile Series: 3,194
    • Increased by 300. I'm finally catching up after the traumatic move a few years ago.
  • Juvenile - New: 3,113
    • This was an increase of 1,013 but that's basically because I bought a lot of juvenile fiction this year and we didn't change the locations very frequently.
  • Juvenile Nonfiction: 7,558
    • Down by 1,432. I finished the neighborhoods at the beginning of 2015, but I still have a few more things to move. I also need to do a lot of serious weeding and updating.
  • Picture Books: 31,002
    • Increase of 3,788. The neighborhoods just keep on raking it in! My increased outreach collections didn't hurt either.

  • Young Adult Graphics (includes manga and anime): 2,597
    • Increased by 672. I more than made up for my decrease last year! Hopefully continuing to steadily add new manga and comics will keep these numbers up. Also I started an anime collection.
  • Young Adult Magazines: 336
    • Increase of 64. This is basically due to my donation of my collection of Deadpool.
  • Young Adult (includes nonfiction and audiobooks): 5,394
    • Down by 320. Who can predict YA?

  • Juvenile Music CDs: 915
    • I separated this collection out in the middle of 2014 so it will be one more year before I can accurately judge the numbers.
  • Children's DVDs: 26,677
    • Down by 797. I am ok with this. I weeded a lot of titles so the shelves weren't packed so full and we didn't hit the high circ numbers in summer because the pool was available again.
  • Juvenile Audiobooks: 627
    • Increase of 45. I purchased some additional audiobooks before summer.
  • Book + CD bags: 208
    • This is the exact same number as last year!
  • Juvenile Blu-Ray: 1,196
    • Decrease of 42. This is not really a popular format.
  • Juvenile Video Games: 3,117
    • Increase of 142. I added several new formats - the newer formats of xbox and ps and ds games.

  • Holiday Books: 1,849
  • Juvenile Magazines: 365
  • Parenting: 77
  • Juvenile Spanish: 185
  • Toys: 614
Collection size: 
Overall, our collection increased by 1,181 to a total collection size of 23,708. No collections drastically increased or decreased. Picture books, Juvenile fiction and YA graphics were up the most, Nonfiction, Spanish, and Oversized were down the most due to weeding and relocating materials.

Budget Numbers, Circulation Numbers, Programming Numbers, I Haz Them ALL (Part 2: The $$$)

The Statistics Octopus. It's a Thing.
I wasn't as obsessive when taking account of all my supplies this year. The big difference is changing summer reading - I saved over $1,000 and used that money for additional performers. I'll have more specific numbers for my collection development next year.

Program Supplies: $3,500
Summer Reading: $250
Performers: $1,500
Toy Collection: $250

Book Budget: $16,500
Audiobooks: $1,500
Movies, Video Games, Music: $6,500

Grants
  • Friends of the Library (programming): $1000
  • Friends of the Library (juvenile biographies): $500
  • United Way: $1200
  • VIP Aktion Club: $200
  • Kohls Cares for Kids: $2000
  • LSTA mini grant: $305
  • Pig Money: $85
  • Franks Piggly Wiggly donated the cookies and frosting for Santa's Kitchen - about $100

Budget Numbers, Circulation Numbers, Programming Numbers, I Haz Them ALL (Part 1: The Programs)

The Statistics Octopus. It's a Thing.
Well, the overhauling of teen programs didn't happen. We still have virtually no teen programs. I cancelled a lot of our minor programs with small attendance and added more big programs. I also started two book clubs, which went very well. I stopped doing our big summer craft parties and hired performers instead. This was a great relief. I also continued to expand outreach.

Total Programs (including outreach storytimes): 389
Total Attendance (including outreach storytimes): 12,405
Average program attendance: 32

This was an increase of 25 programs from 2014 and an increase of 123 attendance. This was a much more manageable jump than the almost 1,000 that we went up in 2014! Summer attendance was down, due to the opening of the new pool, from "striped wombats we're not going to survive the summer" to "we are all having fun and can actually enjoy the programs".

Programs
  • Storytimes and early literacy programming for ages 5 and under (*facilitated or offered by my school partner)
    • *Toddlers 'n' Books: 36 programs, 1,346 attendees
    • *Books 'n' Babies: 36 programs, 923 attendees
    • *We Explore Science: 6 programs, 241 attendees
    • We Explore Favorite Artists: 8 programs, 146 attendees
    • *Playgroups: 25 programs, 756 attendees
    • *Tiny tots, Family Game Night, Tap to play (evening programs): 27 programs, 333 attendance
    • Winter Wigglers: 6 programs, 141 attendees
    • Preschool Interactive (ended after winter/spring session): 6 program, 72 attendees
    • We Explore Nature (ended after winter-spring session): 1 program, 17 attendees
    • *Garden programs: 4 programs, 116 attendees
  • Family and school age programs
  • Special or One-Time Programs
  • Performers
    • Puppet Story Theater
      • This was supposed to be two kindergartens, a total of about 200 people. Unfortunately, one of the schools came a week early! They got an impromptu version of my We Explore Favorite Artists instead. But I'm counting them here because it's simpler.
    • Science Alliance
      • Chemistry Show - two schools' fifth graders came, about 160 kids
      • Rept-O-Mania (summer show): 125 attendees
      • Chemistry Show (subbed for Storywagon): 117 attendees
    • Welty Environmental Center
      • We All Speak for the Trees: 42 attendees
    • Storywagon
      • Hillbilly Silly Science Spectacular (daycare attended): 150 attendees
      • Magician Lou Lepore daycare attended): 140 attendees
      • Jump Up! Family Music: 56 attendees
      • Naturalist David Stokes: 85 attendees
    • Ice Age Trail: Going on a mammoth hunt: 50 attendees
    • Schlitz Audubon Center
      • This was the cancelled storywagon. They came in the fall for two schools of third garders, approximately 180 kids.
    • Kohls Wild Theater
      • This included self-led tours and included two four year old kindergartens with approximately 145 kids and caretakers attending.
  • Outreach
    • Off-site outreach visits
      • 3 year old preschool and 4K: 65 visits, 1,033 children reached
      • 5 year old kindergarten: 21 visits, 420 children reached
      • Elementary school visits for summer: 15 visits, 1763 kids reached
    • On-site outreach (visits, tours, etc.)
      • Preschool (Pete the Cat): 3 visits, 60 kids reached
      • 2nd grade community walk: 3 visits, 165 kids reached
      • 3rd grade summer reading visit: 107 kids reached
      • Summer school pre-kindergarten field trip: 100 kids and caretakers reached
      • 1st grade field trips: 4 visits, 80 kids reached
      • Kindergarden field trips: 2 visits, 90 kids reached
      • Other
        • Cub Scouts: 2 visits, 16 kids and parents reached
        • Early Literacy tour: 10 kids reached
        • Special education school: 1 visit, 14 kids and caretakers reached
        • Homeschool tour: 10 kids and caretakers reached
        • Head Start tour: 15 kids and caretakers reached
Stealth Programming
  • Reading Programs
  • Activity Stations
  • Other
    • Valentine's Drop-In: 30
    • School Art Show Open Night: 100
    • ARRL (ham radio): 20
    • Battle of the Books (district): 80
    • Chick Central (no attendance counted)
    • Culver's Coloring Contest: 190
    • *Safety Shower (no attendance counted)
    • Stuffed Animal Sleepover: 29
    • Read with Pearl: 3 meetings, 31 attendees

Saturday, January 9, 2016

This week at the library; or, Plunging into the New Year

Sometimes
You just have to do what you have to do to get to the good stuff
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • I usually start programs the week after school starts but for various reasons we started back this week. I have lots of exciting plans for the winter/spring semester and a very healthy to do list! But I'm not going to tell you. It will be a surprise as it unfolds. So there.
  • Monday was exhausting. We had a very busy Saturday and the repercussions held over to Monday! We had a staff meeting, I cleaned off my desk, and then I spent most of the afternoon packing 8-9 outreach baskets (about 175 books total) to go out to various classes and preschool groups. I have created an online spreadsheet to keep track of the books for my upper level remote collections (the preschools take what they can get).
  • Tuesday I flaked out. After Monday and everything....I just sat at the desk, smiled at everyone, and worked on mindless updating of lists of things. And then did book club.
  • Wednesday things finally slowed down, which was good because my associate was out. I worked on more lists and things after I did storytime. And new books came!
  • Thursday my associate was still out. I got bored and came to work early, had a good group for Lego Club and a few kids for Tap to Play.
  • Friday I planned to get all my projects done! Of course, there were interruptions...I pulled more books for teachers, a group home visited, etc. but I did finish my yearly report, a big chunk of weeding, and answered a real reference question. It doesn't matter that it was a five year old who asked. Research Happened.
  • Saturday Things didn't go as planned - staff were out sick, I forgot we'd have to move all the tables after movie night, etc. but a decent number of people turned out despite the snow and I was finally able to go home. Talk about the week that never ended....
Programs
Projects
  • End of year reports and Facebook posts
  • Updating Pinterest new materials boards and lexile spreadsheets
  • Weeding 400-500s
What the kids are reading
  • Looking for the new books (I moved them)
  • Talked to a kid checking out Ninja Meerkats
  • Reidy's too purpley, too pickley etc. (I think my copies fell apart)
  • Amelia Bedelia
  • penguins and elephants
  • children's book about making new year resolutions. um...don't have anything.
  • fairy tales (winter reading and forensics)
  • kids' favorites from storytime, which they checked out - Jan Thomas, Don't push the button, It's a tiger
  • isle of the lost
  • lots of easy reader questions
  • i love to draw dogs
  • star wars questions
  • where is our minions rental? nobody knows
  • Diary of Anne Frank
  • books about food for a baby shower
  • dolphin fiction for a high-level six year old. This really stumped me. I gave them one of the National Geographic chapters, which has dolphins, and Hesse's Music of Dolphins (told the mom to read it first) and suggested One White Dolphin and Island of the Blue Dolphins, both of which were checked out.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon

I was ambivalent about the first Dory Fantasmagory book, but this one I really, really liked. Normally I don't often read sequels and I certainly wouldn't have picked this up, but as it was nominated for Cybils I read it and I liked it. Really liked it.

Dory is ready for her first day of school....maybe. Her imaginary friends have lots of advice and so do Dory's older brother and sister. Dory tries to follow everyone's advice, but she's still, well, Dory and at first things don't go so well. But then she meets a friend; a real, true friend! She's a princess and lives in a castle...her siblings are sure it's just another imaginary friend but what if she's not....?

Hanlon's art perfectly captures Dory, in all of her too-small, mismatched clothes, mischievous smile, inability to sit still, and crazy imagination. She's the kid that every teacher groans a little bit when she comes in but can't help liking. She's the awkward kid who really wants friends but doesn't quite fit in with the other kids. I just laughed and sighed over Dory's determination to be friends with the elegant Rosabelle, who at first seems to be a totally opposite character....but then they turn out to have a lot in common.

Verdict: Kids and parents alike will see themselves and their kids in this story, enjoy Dory's wild adventures, and maybe take a second look at potential friends in their classroom. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780525428664; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

The Friendship Garden: Green Thumbs-Up! by Jenny Meyerhoff, illustrated by Eva Chatelain

I liked some aspects of this, but I'm not sure it stands out enough from the crowd of beginning chapter books to make it onto our shelves.

Anna has just moved to Chicago and started third grade and she would really like some new friends. She also misses her family's garden and fresh food from back home and her family on the whole is adjusting to having her dad home and her mom working. When her class gets an assignment to write a persuasive speech and Anna discovers the local community garden, she has an idea - what if she could get kids involved? Maybe she could make friends AND have a garden again?

I liked the realism of this - not all the kids jumped at the chance to do hard work in the garden and Anna did not become instantly popular. There were problems with rules and the parents were busy and couldn't help. Anna does some silly stuff that's embarrassing and she doesn't make instant-friends with anyone. However, in the end there's a generally positive result, kids and adults get involved, and Anna has some hope of settling into her new home and making friends.

The black and white pictures are cute without being too cartoonish and show a fairly diverse classroom of kids. I found the parts about Anna's dad not being a good cook to be rather stereotypical. Granted, his wife is a chef and Anna is used to eating fancier food, but I have a hard time seeing how an adult adjusting to a new situation would think it was a good idea to experiment with recipes (especially when they're not good at it). The recipes and garden instructions in the back were a nice challenge.

Verdict: Overall, this was a sweet, gentle story about moving to a new place and the challenges and joys of urban gardening. It's not uncommon for kids in my area to move back and forth from Chicago, so there could be some local interest there as well. Not a required purchase, but a nice addition.

ISBN: 9781481439060; Published 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tales from Maple Ridge: Logan Pryce Makes a Mess by Grace Gilmore, illustrated by Petra Brown

I was really interested to try this out. Firstly, there aren't a lot of historical fiction beginning chapter books and secondly there aren't many historical fiction books that feature boys. Or are there? I feel like there aren't and that girls ask for historical fiction more than boys. Anyways.

Logan Pryce loves living on the family farm and working in his "Fix-It Shop." But then there's bad news. Like many other farmers, his father is having a hard time supporting the family and will have to get a job. Logan and his three siblings and worried and scared. Will they have to give up the farms? Should they quit school and look for jobs also? Pa finds a temporary job at the store and Logan comes along to help, but he makes a big mistake by not listening to his father. Will Pa lose his job?

There is no definite end or resolution of the family's problems at the end of the story. Logan's mistake is resolved and the book ends with the future uncertain but Logan and his siblings secure in their family's love and determination to make things work. Each sibling has a defined characteristic and Logan's is his inventions, fixing and recycling things in his Fix-It Shop.

The text is simple and in a large font, just right for beginning chapter readers. Brown's illustrations were just black and white sketches in this ARC, but they look friendly and well-suited to the historical setting.

There are no specific details given about the time period or geographic location, but I would guess late 1800s or the turn of the century, certainly not much later. Which is why several details struck me as jarring. The use of the word "recycled" felt out of place. From a brief search, it looks like that word was first used in manufacturing process in the early 1920s and wouldn't come into common speech until much later. The whole concept of the Fix-It shop struck me as off. At that time period and in a rural and poor area, wouldn't the whole family be fixing and "recycling" things? The concept of someone saving junk for inventions and fixing broken things rather than throwing them away is, I think, a modern one.

Verdict: This is a decent start to a series and a fairly unique premise. Kids are unlikely to notice or care about the historical anomalies. My main quibbles are that there's more talk than action in the story, although that could be due to the first book in a series setting the stage. The other reason I probably won't purchase this is that I simply have little to no call for historical fiction for beginning readers. The few people who ask for it are perfectly satisfied by the abridged Little House chapter books. If there's an audience for it in your library, it's an acceptable purchase, but not a necessary one.

ISBN: 97814814262449; Published April 2015 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; ARC provided by publisher at ALA midwinter 2015

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pip Bartlett's guide to magical creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

I'm usually a little skeptical of authors stepping out from their own genre or audience, especially if they're going "down" on the audience scale. But this was really, really fun!

Most people think magical creatures are a nuisance. But not Pip. Pip loves to learn about them, especially because she can talk to them! But nobody believes in her special talent and after some rather....unfortunate troubles with snooty unicorns, she gets sent to stay with her aunt and annoying cousin for the summer. Pip hopes that she will be able to have some safe and fun interactions with magical creatures at her aunt's veterinary office but then the troubles begin...an infestation of Fuzzles! Fuzzles are cute and harmless, until they start bursting into flame. Can Pip save the day, make a friend, and keep the Fuzzles from being exterminated? Can you even exterminate them anyways?

Maggie Stiefvater did the illustrations for this fun and quirky book, primarily in the "encyclopedia entries" that Pip reads and corrects as she meets new creatures and learns new facts. I reviewed this from a galley, but the black and white illustrations remind me a little of Ursula Vernon's fun pictures and kids who like wacky creatures will definitely be drawn to them.

Things I loved about this book: Pip is a gender-neutral character. I didn't even register she was a girl until I was halfway through, since the emphasis is on the magical adventures and problems and not her friendships and feelings or lack thereof. Tomas, her new friend, is hyper-allergic and freaks out about stuff, but he's not like the anti-stereotype boy who's kind of wimpy. He's got actual reasons for being scared of stuff and Pip realizes that. There are lots of adventures, humor and excitement, but it's not a scary or overly dramatic magical adventure a la Harry Potter. Finally, at under 200 pages it's a really comfortable length.

Verdict: There is a small but vocal group of kids at an intermediate level who really like cozy magical stories like this. It's a great example of the genre and one that I highly recommend.

ISBN: 9780545709262; Published April 2015 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Baby Penguins love their mama! by Melissa Guion

This is a board book version of the 2014 picture book. Unlike some board book versions of picture books, it's not changed in any way, just formatted into a smaller layout.

There are a lot of baby penguins and every day of the week Mama teaches them something new, from sqwacking to preening. But on Sunday, Mama finally gets a rest - and a present from her baby penguins.

The art work does not work as well in the smaller format of the board book as it does in the picture book, in my opinion. Babies and toddlers need bold, definitive lines and the soft watercolor sketches are sweet but indeterminate.

Verdict: This is one that mothers will enjoy and older toddlers will pick up on watching the baby penguins, although some of the humor will be over their heads. A good mother's day or baby shower present, an additional purchase for board book collection.

ISBN: 9780399175527; Published 2015 by Philomel/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: What's That? by Cocorette

 I have some reservations about the sturdiness of the flaps, but this series is so fun it's worth it!

Choo! Choo! Guess the Vehicle! features a number of, you guessed it, vehicles. Each page shows the sound and the question "What's that noise?" on the right side of the page, and a colorful animal on the left. The entire left side opens out into a page-sized flap (the edge is curved for easy lifting) showing the whole vehicle. The train says "choo choo", the tractor says "chug chug", the digger says "dugga dugga", the motorbike says "vrooom vrooom", the fire engine says "wee-oo wee-oo".

You can't really guess most of the vehicles from the sounds or the clues in the pictures, but kids really won't care. Once you've read it, they'll adore going back through and finding their favorite vehicles.

Tap! Tap! Guess the Toy! follows the same format but includes more clues. "Ting a ling" signals a bell (on a tricycle), "tap" is a hammer for a pounding toy, "crash bang" is bricks (more familiar to US audiences as blocks), "quack" is a set of rubber duckies in the bathtub, and "beep" is the hooter on a riding toy.

This was too British for my audience I think. No toddler is going to guess the sounds as part of toys and we don't use some of the terms like "bricks" or "hooter". At least, we do but they don't mean the same thing (-:).

 Toot! Toot! Guess the Instrument! is a unique title - I don't think I've ever seen instruments for this age group. Most of them are much easier to guess - the clue for drums shows the elephant with drumsticks and part of a drum, the monkey has sticks in his hands that lead to the shaking maracas, the bear is blowing on what turns out to be a trumpet, you can see part of the guitar around the hippo playing it, and the beaver's playing sticks (what do you call those things?) and a corner of the xylophone are shown. Although I'm not sure "xylophone" is seen anywhere but in alphabet books!

This is very well-done and even if kids don't know all the instruments by name, they'll be able to guess most of them with a little help. The clues, showing parts of the instruments, make a big difference.

Snap! Snap! Guess the Animal is the easiest and most familiar. There are plenty of animal guessing books out there, but this one is cute and fun. You can see part of the crocodile's jaw and hear her "snap", see the dangling tail of the roaring leopard, the blue tail feathers of the squawking parrot, the bulging eyes of the croaking frog, and the red tail of the hissing snake.

This is the simplest and will probably work the best with the youngest children as the clues are very clear and most children are familiar with animals.

The art in all four books is bold and bright, with lots of simple shapes and colors. Children will enjoy the friendly animals that populate the pages and finding different colors and shapes in the pictures.

The physical format....I'm a bit torn. On the one hand, the books are a pretty sturdy cardboard and the flaps are a whole page, not little individual ones that will get torn off. On the other hand, I foresee a LOT of lifting and turning and I'm not sure the hinges will last. Child's Play titles generally run a little more expensive - in the $6-7 range and while I'd normally say it's absolutely worth it, on these I'm not so sure.

Verdict: I think I'd get the musical instruments and animal ones to start with, see how the flaps hold up, possibly see if they can be reinforced, before investing in the whole set. They're a nice additional purchase, but the toy one is too British for most of my audience and the vehicles doesn't have enough clues for the age of the audience.

Published 2015 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Snap! Snap!
ISBN: 9781846437489

Toot! Toot!
ISBN: 9781846437496

Tap! Tap!
ISBN: 9781846437472

Choo! Choo!
ISBN: 9781846437465

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Time-Out for Sophie by Rosemary Wells

This is an example of a picture book adapted to a board book that works better in that format! A rare thing for me to say, but it's true in this case.

Sophie is an adorable baby mouse. Adorably naughty that is! Yummy dinner? Oops, it got thrown on the floor. Helping Daddy? Oops, all the laundry got UNfolded. Reading a book? Uh-oh, someone is taking Granny's glasses! Time-out for Sophie until she learns a lesson....for the moment anyways.

Wells' delicate but colorful illustrations show a mischievously naughty baby that parents will snicker over and babies themselves will happily gurgle and point to. The story has a gentle, appropriate plot - Sophie is naughty, gets a time-out, then is good.

The text is a little smaller than the usual board book font and a little longer, but this is perfectly suited for toddlers who can listen to a little bit of story and will recognize their own naughty behavior in the pictures. The book is a sturdy 4x6 with borders around the illustrations to make them pop.

Verdict: An excellent choice to add to your board book collection. Even if you already have the picture book, I'd go ahead and get this one and if you're deciding between the two (not likely since the picture book came out in 2013) I'd go for the board book first.

ISBN: 9780451477668; Published 2015 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library