Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Busy Builders, Busy Week by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Leo Timmers

Wait, didn't we just do this? Well, this is the board book version of yesterday's picture book. Usually it takes quite a while for board book editions to be released, but this one was published at the same time as the picture book, so I got to compare both.

Apart from the endpapers and title page, the board book version has the same text and illustrations, just in a more compact format.

While I usually prefer more minimal and less detailed illustrations for board books, since I consider the audience for this format to be 0-2, I have to admit this book has a lot of charm as a board book. The smaller format makes little details, like the polka-dotted cement mixer, really pop and I can see young listeners who are able to sit still looking for all the little jokes in the pictures.

Verdict: I think this will circulate, but it wouldn't work as a choice for a lapsit and ultimately I don't think it's ideal for a board book, due to the illustrations which are a little too busy in the smaller format. It's fine as an addition to your board book collection, but if you have to make a choice, go with the picture book version.

ISBN: 9781681190297; Published 2016 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Busy Builders, Busy Week by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Leo Timmers

Jean Reidy, author of Too Purpley! and Too Princessy! (both very popular at my library) has teamed up again with Leo Timmers to bring back a group of animals collaborating to create something fun.

The work begins on Sunday with plans and friends gathering together, then continues throughout the week with a task allotted to each day. Bulldozers, cranes, tow trucks, and lots of mysterious equipment and items are moved about until it's time for the final landscaping and the big reveal; a playground!

Reidy's bouncy rhymes are an excellent match with Timmers' cheerful cartoons. A mouse in a skirt directs the construction while a grinning elephant, gorilla, giraffe, and crocodile do the heavy lifting. There are lots of fun details with participating worms, carefully stacked materials on trucks, and more.

Verdict: This is a fun choice for little fans of construction stories and animals, but it's also a great illustration of how processes work, as well as time. It would be an excellent choice to match up with building something or planning different events for days of the week. A must-have for libraries interested in getting your youngest patrons involved in making things and STEM.

ISBN: 9781619635562; Published 2016 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 29, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Mystery & Mayhem: Survival and Pirates and Shipwrecks by Tom McCarthy

 I'm looking at two titles from the Mysteries & Mayhem series, published by Nomad Press, today.

Survival is, of course, a collection of true survival tales. It includes both familiar and more obscure tales in the selection of five historical episodes. The first story is Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica, which resulted in he and his crew being stranded for months. It includes both the hardships they suffered and Shackleton's ability to inspire and sustain his men. The second chapter covers Captain Bligh, set adrift with a handful of sailors, after the famous mutiny on his ship, the Bounty. The third chapter covers William Lewis Manly, who, along with the party he was guiding, was lost in Death Valley when they were traveling west. The fourth story was new to me; Mademoiselle Picard and her family were victims of a horrific shipwreck and then stranded in the Sahara. Finally, the well-known drama of the Donner Party rounds out the book.

The stories are each introduced with a map and end with the results of the adventure; Continued controversy over Captain Bligh's actions, Mademoiselle Picard's life after rescue, etc. There is also a list of historical facts for each chapter, to put the events into context. There is a glossary but no sources or bibliography.

The second book I'm reviewing, Pirates and Shipwrecks, presents a shipwreck and encounter with pirates for sailor Daniel Collins, and the mysterious disappearance of Captain Franklin's expedition to the Arctic. It also includes the stories of two pirates; Mary Reed and Barbarossa. There is also a story of shipwrecks on the Andamans and encounters with the hostile indigenous peoples.

This book also includes a glossary, but only the story of Daniel Collins mentions a source.

Survival is not particularly unique, but does include a reasonable variety of stories including various people and ranging from well-known to more obscure. Pirates and Shipwrecks is very troubling in its depiction of native peoples, especially "The Wild Men of the Andamans." That particular chapter ends with this quote "A group of Wild Men watched the rescue from their hiding place, then turned and disappeared. They were probably disappointed to have missed out on a good meal." Um.....what? While this was the most glaringly outdated reference to indigenous cultures, both books in general have an "Adventures for Boys" 1950s feel, focusing primarily on action sequences and imagined feelings and thoughts of the historical figures and presenting an extremely stereotyped and outdated depiction of indigenous populations.

Verdict: The lack of sources make these titles additional choices at best, but the depiction of indigenous peoples made me cringe. Not recommended. There are many better choices for fans of survival stories and history. I frequently purchase the titles from the "Explore" series from Nomad Press and I'll be sticking to that series from now on.

Survival
ISBN: 9781619304802

Pirates and Shipwrecks
ISBN: 9781619304758

Published October 2016 by Nomad Press; Review copies provided by the publisher

Sunday, August 28, 2016

It's Cybils Season! I suggest you consider applying to be a judge, preferably in my category.


Once the excitement of summer reading is over, it's Cybils season! If you have been living in a hole without internet, you may not be familiar with Cybils. It's the eleventh year of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award and it's awesome.

There are a lot of children's book awards out there. They recognize literary quality, contribution to the genre and canon, and much more. Cybils is different. It's the only award that recognizes both child appeal and literary quality and the process is very transparent. You, the public, nominate books. Parents, teachers, librarians, and authors with public review platforms (aka bloggers) choose the best. Along the way, we review, discuss, and promote children's literature.

How can you get involved? At the least, you can nominate! Nominations will open October 1. However, if you'd like to dip your toes into the water of judging, now is the time to apply to be a judge! You can see the call for judges here. How to decide what category to apply in? As a general rule of thumb:

  • The most time-intensive categories are those with high numbers of nominations, first-round panelists. You'll be reading and discussing a LOT of books. Middle Grade Fiction, Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade, Speculative Fiction YA, and YA Fiction tend to have the highest number of nominations.
  • Categories for younger genres and more specific fields tend to have fewer nominations, but can require different approaches; fact-checking for nonfiction, early literacy for easy readers, discussing both art and text for graphic novels, etc. Nonfiction Juvenile/Elementary, Poetry, Nonfiction Middle Grade/YA, Graphic Novels and Easy Readers/Early Chapters. It helps to know about the genre and audience for these categories but they also tend to have 100 or fewer nominations.
  • Finally, there are a couple categories that defy categorization - Picture Books has a ton of nominations and you'd think you could zip through them, but no! We are an award with professionalism! Think of all the careful consideration of art, text, and audience! And we have a new category this year, Audio Books, which will be a whole new experience - looking at performance and production in addition to narrative.
If you don't have the time to read through a ton of books, second-round judge may be for you. These people take our finalists, announced at the end of the year, and choose the best of the best. There's less reading - but more intensive discussion.

Finally, I suggest you consider my category - Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction. We will be creating a finalist list for both age groups this year (great news for judges who suffered torments trying to compare apples and oranges, i.e. picture books and middle grade nonfiction last year). Nonfiction is on the rise with a ton of amazing books coming out, an emphasis on nonfiction in schools and libraries, and recognition that nonfiction is an amazing reading experience that goes beyond just learning facts. Join me in my quest for world domination through nonfiction...er, ahem, I mean, it's really awesome to discuss nonfiction with a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I guarantee you (and the children you teach, parent, or write for) will be all the better for the experience.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Small Readers: Giraffes by Jennifer Dussling

This nonfiction easy reader not only focuses on the habitats, behavior, and life cycle of giraffes, it also talks about their history and relationship with humans.

Giraffes are introduced as one of the "coolest animals" in Africa. People once thought they were mixes of camels and leopards, but we now know this is not true. The book explains giraffes' unique neck and bone structure, and how their necks and tongues help them eat acacia leaves and avoid thorns. Different predators of the giraffe and their defenses are shown, as well as their mating habits. There are several photographs showing how giraffes' skin patterns differ, and also a spread on the sounds they make. Finally, the book talks about the threats to giraffes and an unusual giraffe zoo in England.

Level 3 is for "transitional readers" so this is more challenging, almost into paragraphs. I still find some of the text difficult to read, as it's placed on different-colored backgrounds, from dark, blurry photographs to patterned colors. The photographs are fine, but they're not particularly eye-catching.

Verdict: An additional purchase if you need more high-level nonfiction easy readers.

ISBN: 9780448489698; Published 2016 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by the publisher

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Galactic Hot Dogs: The Wiener Strikes Back by Max Brallier, Rachel Maguire, and Nichole Kelley

I admit it; I had an ARC of the first title from a conference and didn't get around to reading it. But I did read this one! It was pretty easy to figure out what was going on, even having missed the first volume.

Cosmoe, boy from earth, is continuing his adventures along with Big Humphree (mostly ex-space pirate) and Princess Dagger (who has escaped from her evil queen and mother). Cosmoe has Goober, his....possibly sentient? booger-shaped companion to help him out, Humphree has big muscles, and Princess Dagger has unbounded confidence and all the sneaky lessons her evil mother taught her. Together they and their food stand, Galactic Hot Dogs, are having a great time. Until they run into Crostini's Cosmic Carnival. Cosmoe has some back history with circuses, but he doesn't want to talk about it, even when he becomes Cosmoe the Monster-Tamer, against his friends' advice. But there's something sinister going on in Crostini's circus.... will they get out alive and, more importantly, thwart Princess Dagger's evil mother, save the monsters and keep the wiener mobile running?

This notebook novel is generously illlustrated in wacky black and white pictures, comic panels, and includes more than enough cartoon violence. In fact, it's a non-stop whirl of action, puns, explosions, monsters, and hot dogs.

Verdict: This is just a little too silly for most of my readers. However, if you have a lot of really dedicated Captain Underpants fans they'll eat this up. Kids who like gross humor and nonstop action will also be fans.

ISBN: 9781481464840; Published May 2016 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Peekaboo Pals by Gareth Lucas

These aren't quite board books, but this is the closest category and the audience they're intended for, so here they are.

Opposites features colorful scenes with animals acting out the concept. There are also copious lift the flaps. A sample spread shows a pink beauty parlor. A lion getting a trim from a fox is labeled "Hairy"; lift the flap to see the bald (and shocked) lion afterwards. A yak with long bangs has the word "Straight" marching up the side of his flap; lift it to see his curly 'do with a cute bow. Finally, a zebra says "I need some color in my life!" in a "Before" picture. Lift the flap and it says "After" to match a rainbow-tinted mane and the zebra's panicked "Not every color!" to his disappearing stylist. The zebra is the only creature with any lines and after going through various scenes, including a city street, ocean, circus, bedtime, and more, a final spread shows the zebra's party, with double-fold-out flaps. Both pages fold out and have additional lift-the-flap tabs.


Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3 is a counting book. Once again, zebra is the only talking animal and he urges various alliterative groupings of animals on in the "Animal Antics" race. The count starts with "One polar bear on a pogo stick" and continues through "Fifteen ferrets on a ferry" and up to "Twenty turtles on a train." It then goes by tens, thirty, forty and fifty and then finishes with "One hundred rabbits in a rocket." Each flap has the letter both in digital and alphabetical form (that doesn't sound quite right, but you know what I mean) and you lift the flap to reveal the animals and their transportation beneath. A little green snail shows up on each picture, hitching a ride to the finish line.


The final book in this set, Peekaboo Pals: A to Z also features alliterative animals. Each flap shows an animal and their letter. Lift the flap, and you'll see an alliterative sentence of the animal doing an action. From "A is for alligator admiring some art" to "M is for mouse making music with maracas" the text is workable but not particularly unique. Zebra once again follows along, making impatient comments as he waits for his turn, only to give the reader a little surprise under the Z flap.

The art is bright and cheerful and the text simple and works well for the age of the audience. The books themselves aren't, strictly speaking, board books. The pages are a thin cardboard - slightly thicker than shirt cardboard - and the flaps are shirt cardboard sturdiness. Each spread is folded and then bound together (it's hard to explain without seeing it) so the binding basically holds a handful of folded cardboard. I can tell by looking at it and touching it that's it's nowhere near as sturdy as a traditional board book and, apart from the tearing of the flaps, the spine will quickly disintegrate.

However, while I wouldn't recommend this for your board book section, I think it would make a fun addition to your pop-up section (if you have one) or for a toy section. I'll be adding them to my circulating toy collection and making them seem "special" will help keep them intact a little longer. They'd also be a great purchase for supervised lapsit or baby storytimes. The large size of many of the flaps will help build fine motor skills.

Verdict: A fun purchase if you are looking to add different types of pop-ups and movable books.

Peekaboo Pals: Opposites
ISBN: 9781626865228

Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3
9781626865211

Peekaboo Pals: A to Z
9781626865204

Published 2016 by Silver Dolphin; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt

Michelle Robinson is back with another silly story, paired up with another kooky illustrator.

On a lovely clear day, a brave knight rides off on his horse...no, that's not right, he didn't have a horse. He did have a sandwich. No, I mean a sword. He had to fight....something. What was it? Oh, yeah, a dragon. Worst of all its offences, it has eaten the knight's best friend, Sir Clopalot! He can't quite remember what Sir Clopalot looked like, but he definitely misses him....

After much confusion and wackiness, the knight finally remember what really happened, gets his friend back, and all ends happily.

Blunt's colored pencil illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's messy and funny scrawls, with untidy hair, bulgy eyes, and hasty swirls denoting scales, smoke, and more. The dragon looks both cool and bored as he waits for the knight to get his act together and the fleeing townsfolk, shown in medieval disarray in the vet's office, are hilarious.

Verdict: If you're planning any fractured fairy tale storytimes or programs, or just looking for some silly reads, make sure to add this one to your list.

ISBN: 9780803740679; Published 2016 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Otters love to play by Jonathan London, illustrated by Meilo So

I've felt ambivalent about some of London's previous nonfiction picture books, but I embrace this one whole-heartedly.

The bold text of the main narrative describes a family of otters who have moved into an old beaver lodge. "It's spring, and in a nest of moss, leaves, and grass, three newborn otter babies drink warm rich milk at their mother's teats." Frequent references to play behavior accompanies the descriptions of the otter pups' antics as they grow, learn, and live through the seasons. In addition to the primary text, there is a running narrative of information in a smaller font, explaining the instincts and reasons behind the otters' playful behavior and giving additional otter facts. There is an additional "About Otters" section at the back with more facts and a brief index.

Meilo So's playful watercolors really make the book, with frolicking brown otters, whiskers quivering, leaping, sliding and pouncing across the pages. The seasons glow with color and detail, from the cool greens and blues of spring to the chilly white and grays of winter.

Verdict: The layout follows that of Candlewick's series about Australian animals and leads me to hope there will be more books from different authors and illustrators about all kinds of animals! I love the juxtaposition of the bolder text, for reading aloud, and smaller text for more information for older listeners and readers. This delightful story will be loved by children and parents alike. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763669133; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This week at the library; or week with vacation

Next summer is a building theme. Hmmm, building, coral, I
think there's an idea there. I also want to do a display on all
the reasons Finding Dory is bad for fish, only more tactfully,
but that's a different discussion.
What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Supervisory stuff. Smelling toy bags to find the bad-smell culprit. reader's advisory meeting with a patron (why does Scholastic Reading Counts crash every summer without fail??). going through new books. cleaning off my desk. working on updating the toy bags.
  • Tuesday - Thursday
    • Vacation! I went to Chicago to visit the Shedd with Sara the Librarian, we also went out for yummy food several times, I did bits of this and that and cleaning and writing. I also started an afghan, using a pattern! I've never tried this before.
  • Friday
    • Back to work. Next time I take vacation it will be the whole week and that is all I have to say about THAT.
Projects
  • Finished redoing the Read 'n' Play bags, now tackling the handful of Imagine a Story and the bags that weren't redone with tips. I've weeded out the bags with costumes - they are being cleaned and will then alternate in our new dress-up corner.
Fall Schedule
I think we have it mostly figured out through December, although I still have to schedule outreach and field trips. Of course there are other things - conferences and substitutes for programs and vacations and things...
  • Monday
    • Morning - Jess on the desk, Pattie has two playgroups a month
    • Afternoon - Jess on the desk, I have off desk time to do important managerial things
    • Evening - I work the information desk, twice a month Pattie has Tiny Tots, twice a month Autism Support Group
  • Tuesday
    • Morning - I'm on the desk, Pattie has 2 toddler storytimes
    • Afternoon - I'm on the desk, charter school meets at the library
    • Late afternoon/early evening - I have book club twice a month
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach/Field Trips (September-October)
  • Thursday
    • Morning - Jess is on the desk, Pattie has baby storytime
    • Afternoon - either Jess or I cover an hour on the information desk
    • Late afternoon - after school club
  • Friday
    • Outreach
  • Saturday
    • I'm supervising the Ice Age Trail Mammoth Hunt in September
    • Pattie is doing It's Great to be 3 in October and Jess and I are both working a Saturday at the information desk (mine will coincide with Pattie's program)
    • Fairy Tale Adventure in November and it's my turn to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving
    • Scholastic book sale and Santa's Kitchen in December and Jess is working a Saturday

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers

Louie and Ralphie are tough, just like their dad, Big Lou. Big Lou doesn't talk much, especially about their mom. He always says they should be tough. Louie and Ralphie decide it's time to show everyone just how tough they are.

First, they steal tough Chad Badgerton's hat. But it turns out to belong to Tiny Crawley and the boys get congratulated for standing up to bullies. Then they try shoveling all the snow in front of Mr. O'Hare's store - but they shovel in the wrong direction and get told how thoughtful they are, instead of how tough. They try to pick on a new kid and accidentally make her feel at home. They soap a mean neighbor's window and get thanked for cleaning it.

When their dad finds out about how kind they've been, they admit that they've been trying to be TOUGH, just like him - and Big Lou admits that it's hard to be so tough all the time - and maybe they should be kinder, just like their mother was. Now they're not the toughest Ratsos anymore - they're the kindest.

Black and white cartoons fill the book, showing silly bunnies, tough rats, and more animals populating the Ratsos' city. This light and funny story, with a not-unexpected ending, is a fun addition to beginning chapter book collections.

Verdict: This was cute, but I'm not sure I have an audience for it. It's a little too didactic for my taste also.

ISBN: 9780763676360: Published August 2016 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Great Flood Mystery by Jane Louise Curry

I hate to tantalize you with books you cannot purchase for your library, but occasionally I cannot resist. I was delighted to see that Aladdin has recently republished Willo Davis Roberts' classic mysteries - so why not Jane Louise Curry?

While this includes an historical element, like many of her titles, it's also a straight mystery with hidden rooms, criminals, and, of course, skeptical family and police! Gordy Hartz is in trouble - again - for his wild stories. He was absolutely sure he saw a burglar in the empty house next door, but nobody believes him after the UFO scare. Even his best friend Izzy's dad, who is a policeman, is mad at him. On top of this, his family isn't doing too well - his dad has been unemployed for a while and money is tight. Gordy is both worried and excited when his parents decide to rent out their house and spend the summer with Great-Aunt Willi. Soon he's finding secret rooms, mysterious happenings, and potential criminals. Even when he gets Willi and some of her elderly friends involved, researching events of the great Johnstown flood that seem to be resurfacing, will anybody believe him? And is there really a treasure?

Verdict: A snazzy new cover on a reissue would make this an excellent mystery - it's got historical elements, features kids with economic struggles, and has plenty of clues and excitement. I hope some publisher puts this on their reissue list!

Used copy purchased on Amazon; Donated to the library book sale

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Small Readers: Slow, Slow Sloths by Bonnie Bader

I have a confession to make: I do not find sloths cute. Or particularly interesting. Now you know.

This nonfiction easy reader features photographs of sloths, both on a white background and a blurry green habitat, and walks readers through basic facts. It starts with their habitat and related animals, and pictures the two different types of sloths. Most of the book is devoted to a description of the sloth's early life and habits, from a baby to adulthood.

This is a level 2, for a "progressing reader" which is roughly intermediate. The sloth pictures are cute (if you like sloths) and the information clearly written, but I am not a big fan of Penguin Young Reader's nonfiction titles, compared to, say, National Geographic. My primary complaint is the layout of the text. It's a larger than normal font, but it's still fairly small and you have to search for the words on some pages. Also, some pages change the text from black on a white background to white on a blurry photographed background, which I find confusing.

Verdict: An additional purchase if you need more nonfiction easy readers or have a lot of sloth fans.

ISBN: 9780399541162; Published 2016 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Aberdeen by Stacey Previn

Aberdeen is a sweet little mouse with a lot of curiosity. He "didn't mean to leave the yard. BUT a balloon floated by, so he followed it." Aberdeen wanders away following the balloon and gets carried away (literally) on a little adventure. Eventually, his adventure turns scary when he is confronted with an owl. Scared and lonely, he manages to frighten away the owl and find his way home. He apologizes to his mama for making her worry, "I didn't mean to make you worry." The story finishes with Aberdeen getting a hug and his mom saying, "BUT you did."

This was a sweet story although it wasn't earth-shaking. However, I did find the abrupt and somewhat cryptic ending a little disturbing. I can see it's meant to circle back to the beginning, but it just sounds kind of weird. The rich watercolor art is lovely, especially cute little Aberdeen, his balloon, and the brightly colored flowers. I did think Aberdeen's mother's face in the penultimate spread was a little out of perspective.

Verdict: A peaceful, sweet story, albeit without particularly memorable characters or plot. If you are looking for additional picture books, especially about listening to parents or staying focused, it would make a nice addition to the library.

ISBN: 9780451471482; Published 2016 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 15, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Platypus by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson

It's here! It's here! Candlewick has been publishing an amazing series of nonfiction picture books about Australian animals and there's finally one on the platypus! Now all I need is one on the wombat for true happiness...

The narrative begins with a pond in the shade of gum trees and a mysterious duck bill poking out of a hole. But it's not a duck; it's a platypus! The story takes us through a typical night for a platypus, from early evening to sunrise. The platypus dives, feeds, and hides from predators, and briefly encounters his mate and pups. Throughout the story, additional information about the platypus is included and we learn about their habits, diet, and unique adaptations. There is an additional spread on the oddities of the platypus and their current threats (pollution etc.) and a quick introduction to their reproductive cycle. There is also a brief index.

The mixed media illustrations are very swirly and muddy. It's a perfect medium for a creature that's most active at night, diving into a weedy pond and camouflaging itself among reeds and undergrowth. There are a couple spreads where the text is difficult to decipher against the convoluted background, and if you are looking for photo-realistic images this is not the best choice, but I like the atmospheric illustrations.

Verdict: Part of me thinks I should focus more on getting kids to recognize local/more familiar animals (still haven't forgotten that kid who id'd an otter as a walrus or that 98% of the classes I visited said the biggest bird in the world was an eagle even after I told them it didn't fly, never mind the one who said our hamster was a beaver) but it's so fun to introduce kids - and adults - to animals they may have never heard of or know little about. I just love this series and it's delightful to see the kid's faces when they learn all about the strange creatures in Australia. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680985; Published 2016 by Candlewick (US publication); Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The benefits of freedom; or, Fine free programs at the library

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not a "one-size-fits-all" library policies person. I think fines are just fine, if not necessary for some libraries. However, for my library and community, if given the choice, I'd clear out all fines for juvenile and young adult materials in my library and just block cards until missing items are returned or paid for. (I wouldn't make juvenile cards fine-free, as I know some libraries do, since the attendant issues with adults using their children's cards would be exasperating, to put it mildly). I've suggested this and a few staff are, if not completely in favor, at least in the "it wouldn't hurt to try" camp, but unfortunately the way our consortium is set up and other concerns mean that it simply wouldn't work. So, over the past couple years I've been working around it as best I can to make sure kids continue to have access to library materials.

Our current policy is 25 cents per day, per item, capped at $10 per item. When total fines of $10 accrue on your card, it is blocked. If you have a lost item and pay the replacement fee, any overdue fees attached to that item are removed (you don't have to pay both). If you have lost items that mount up over $50 (not just overdue fines) the police will eventually get involved (this is a process that usually takes up to if not more than a year and involves multiple letters, offers of payment plans, etc.).

I've instituted the following fine-free programs over the space of more than five years. It took a lot of research, discussion, argument, and waiting for the right moment, the right staff, and the right Board to support the programs. It's not something that happened overnight.

All year I have a "read off your fines" program for juvenile card holders. This would be kids under 16, since in our consortium when they turn 16 they get an adult card. The idea is pretty simple - read a book, fill out a form, get $3 off your overdue fines. You can clear off up to $21 every year. If kids really struggle with reading they can give their little "report" orally. If they only write two sentences, I don't care. If their parent writes it for them, that's fine too. They read a book at some point, I take some fines off and relieve a little stress. Here's the form if you want to try something similar at your library.

In 2014 I started a summer fine amnesty program. Every child I visit before summer reading begins (which generall means four year old kindergarten through middle school) gets a coupon that will clear off ALL their fines. It does have an expiration date (end of June or July) and they do have to not lose it. The thousands of dollars some people thought we would lose over this did not materialize - in 2014 it was $900 (with one $300 fine), in 2015 it was about $400 and in 2016 back to about $860. You can see a sample coupon here.

I have made "$5 off your overdue fines" certificates as a teen prize in the past, but they didn't get taken so either the kids with fines aren't reading much or they prefer to deal with the fines in other ways and have candy instead! Get out of fines coupon here.

Finally, in the summer of 2016 our Board approved a "clean slate" policy for kids turning 16 and moving from a juvenile to adult card. The policy is as follows:
  • Young adults who have reached the age of majority (age 16 for library purposes) and have a juvenile account with outstanding bills will have the opportunity to clear their account with a “clean slate” and start over with an adult (General) card. 
  • The library is willing to forgive one half of the fines owed, if the young adult will pay the other half, with a maximum payment of $20.00. 
  • Fees for lost items will not be forgiven, but transferred to the co-signing parent or guardian’s account. 
  • The profile on the account will be changed from Juvenile to General. If the juvenile card is lost, they will not be charged for a new card.
  • This policy is not applicable for juvenile accounts that have been sent to the police.

I'm super excited about this - it will mean teens who had fines years ago as kids can start clean, and it will also clear the cards of kids whose parents abused their children's library cards.

The main arguments I've heard about not forgiving fines for kids is that the library will lose money, that they won't learn responsibility, it's not fair to adults who don't get their fines forgiven, that kids won't return their books on time if there's no penalty, they'll just rack up more fines, and they're just going to use their cleared cards to go on the internet and check out movies/video games.

To the first argument, I tracked our first fine amnesty program last year and we forgave $900 in fines, $300 of which was one single fine. We got several hundred dollars worth of materials returned that we would otherwise have never seen again. Our yearly fine revenue is about $25,000 so that's really a drop in the bucket.

To the rest of the arguments my response is; I don't give a shit. What, you thought I was going to include some carefully reasoned points for debate? My job description is not "to teach kids to be responsible" or "to make everything fair for the grown-ups." My job is to get kids and families to visit and use the library. End of argument.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This week at the library; or, The second week of August

What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Any Monday that starts with a dentist visit is probably not going to be a good one. How can it be that I slept most of last weekend but I am still so tired?
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-O-Rama
    • Another enthusiastic group - we're definitely repeating this program on no school days.
  • Wednesday
    • Head Start visit
    • I love this group - they are so great about cleaning up after themselves! And it's so exciting to introduce people to the library and get them new library cards! On the down side, our a/c is not working so well. It's quite hot.
  • Thursday
    • Free Lego Build
    • They finally fixed the a/c. It was hellish. I am working on the toy collection and doing supervisory things. Lots of happy little kids playing with Legos.
  • Friday
    • I worked half a day because I was working Saturday. I also discovered that the pee smell is mostly likely coming from the toy bags and not the floor. Now I have to smell all the bags to find the culprit.
  • Saturday
    • Finally, summer reading is officially over. I am exhausted to the bone.
Projects

Friday, August 12, 2016

Dr. Kitty Cat: Posy the Puppy by Jane Clarke

There....there is a little guinea pig with a purple hat. Be still my beating heart. Oh the adorability!

Dr. Kitty Cat and her assistant Peanut the mouse take care of all the animals - and with field day happening there are lots of bumps, bruises, and scrapes! When Posy the puppy gets caught in the agility course, Dr. Kitty Cat and Peanut race to the rescue in the vanbulance. Luckily, Dr. Kitty Cat knows just what to do for first aid and to extricate a scared puppy! Then she has to figure out what's wrong with Posy; "Sometimes being a doctor is just like being a detective!" With Peanut's help, they figure out what's wrong with Posy - and where Dr. Kitty Cat's missing ball of yarn has gone!

This is hilarious. It's illustrated with black and white photos of cute animals, decorated with purple clothes and accoutrements. There's also lots of first aid information included as Dr. Kitty Cat takes care of her patients.

Verdict: Fans of Critter Club, Magic Animal Friends, Doc McStuffins, and all things cute and furry will devour these. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780545873338; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier returns with another graphic novel that is both light-hearted and accessible, moving and heartfelt.

Catrina, known as Cat, is trying hard to be mature about her family's move up the coast from southern to northern California. She knows it's mostly for her younger sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. Her family hopes she'll be able to breathe more easily in the cold northern air of Bahia de la Luna. Maya is adventurous and eager to experience everything her new town has to offer, including the ghosts reputed to haunt the town, the traditional food and culture, and the new friends she plans to make. But Cat is more reluctant. Ghosts frighten her and she just wants to be normal. In her pursuit of normal, she makes some serious mistakes and learns she still has a lot of growing up to do.

There is so much packed into this book - Maya's struggle with CF, their mother trying to reclaim the Mexican heritage she rejected, Cat making decisions about how she will present herself to her new friends and town and how she defines her own identity. There's plenty of shivery and teary moments, some giggles, and a thoroughly satisfying ending that will have readers turning back to the beginning to experience the story all over again.

Telgemeier's art style is still recognizably hers, but with more dark colors and ghostly shimmers to show the setting of her newest story. Copious back matter is included that talks more about Dia de los Muertos, cystic fibrosis, and Telgemeier's inspiration for the story from her childhood and a cousin who died when she was thirteen.

Verdict: Another popular, award-winning, meaty graphic novel from Telgemeier; buy multiple copies.

ISBN: 9780545540612; Published September 2016 by Graphix/Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at BEA; Preordered 2 copies for the library

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Small Readers: Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon

Big Duck, Little Duck, and Porcupine are friends. Together, they have some adventures. First, they go on a picnic. But a rainstorm spoils it! Can they still have a picnic in the rain? In the second adventure, Big Duck has forgotten something. But what is it? Could all the presents and party preparations be a clue? Finally, the three friends are having a camp out. Big Duck knows just what they need; basically, everything. The others aren't so sure and luckily Little Duck knows the one thing you can't have a camp out without - marshmallows!

Salina Yoon's signature, colorful style and blocky outlines continue to gain popularity. Her simple picture books about Penguin and Bear have been popular choices for storytime and reading aloud and she's now offering a delightful new series of easy chapter books in simple comic style.

Each spread has a thick, black border and the animals speak in speech bubbles. Their faces have minimal changes - the shape of an eye, a lift of a beak, but still convey the action and humor of the story. Some of the text is a little advanced for an easy reader, especially one featuring a more child-like plot, but advanced younger readers will find it a good match and older readers will enjoy the silly humor and vibrant art.

Verdict: Add this one to the slew of early comic readers like Elephant and Piggie, Toon Books, Pig in a Wig, and others. A fun addition and the first in a series.

ISBN: 9781619637238; Published 2016 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Spring: A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter

I don't normally review, or purchase, pop-up books and other novelty books. However, I liked this one so much that I might actually add it to my small professional collection of pop-up books we use in storytime, or maybe put it in a toy bag.

Six spreads showcase delightful pop-up art. It's not so simple that it's boring or so complex that it's beyond a small child. The first spread shows a multi-layered, three-dimensional water lily rising from a pond. Various things are labeled, a dragonfly, tadpoles, koi, etc. There is also simple text "Raindrops fall from the sky, pitter-pat." The next spread continues the text, "making the tree frogs croak, ribbit, ribbit." and has branches of a blossoming cherry tree stretching out from between the pages. The third spread features three bees circling a pop-out of meadow flowers and the fourth decorates a rosebush with various creatures. The fifth opens a blooming dogwood tree above the book, complete with robin, nest, and hungry babies and the last spread slots a triangular bouquet of flowers in another meadow.

The book is a small size, about 7x7 inches, with a bright, colorful color scheme. The pop-ups are not particularly sturdy; several of theme include pieces that are only loosely slotted into place. However, I don't think I've ever seen a really sturdy pop-up book - after all, what would be the point?

Verdict: If you buy pop-up books, this is a delightful choice. Colorful, clever, and an enjoyable experience to introduce younger children to the delights of movable books.

ISBN: 9781419719127; Published 2016 by Abrams Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Monday, August 8, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Dylan Metrano

A simple poem introduces the reader (and listener) to twenty common North American birds; chickadee, robin, owl, heron, crow, pigeon, eagle, gull, woodpecker, and more. Each bird has a single line and full-page illustration, "Hawk hunts every day for prey./Cardinal flashes fire./Woodpecker taps hollow trees./Crow rests on a wire."

The back matter includes the full text of the poem and individual thumbnails of each bird with additional information. There is also a small list of further resources (some generic bird guides and websites) on the cataloging information page.

The cut paper illustrations are intriguing - they are very stylized and formal, but still make the birds easily identifiable. They remind me a little of Susan Stockdale or Charley Harper's bold colors and formal lines, but they're more like stained glass in effect.

Verdict: While I'm not personally a big fan of rhyming books, I can see many uses for this title. It would make a great read-aloud in toddler storytime, since it's short and simple. It could inspire an art program, creating birds out of tissue paper or other collage materials or even doing a stained glass program for older kids. It would be a great title to include in a birdwatching kit for younger kids as well. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545699808; Published 2016 by Orchard/Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, August 7, 2016

RA RA Read: Strong Minds, Strong Hearts, Strong Girls

I read a book that purported to be about a strong female character, written because the author implied there weren't many of such books, and I was so annoyed that I've made my own list of middle grade books that feature strong girl characters. There are a LOT of "strong girl" lists out there - I don't necessarily think mine is any better and it's certainly not more complete. But what I would like to see is more books that show girls' experiences as valid and that you don't have to change the world to be "strong."

All titles are, to the best of my knowledge, in print and relatively recent (published within the last ten years or so) *Starred titles include diverse characters as well.

Realistic Fiction
  • Tara Altebrando
    • The Battle of Darcy Lane
    • My life in dioramas
    • Altebrando writes realistic novels about girls finding their voice, struggling with friendships and growing up, and learning that life isn't always perfect but you change and grow as you go along. I frequently recommend them to girls who like realistic fiction and/or are having friendship struggles.
  • Angela Cervantes
    • *Allie, first at last
    • *Gaby, last and found
    • Like Lopez, Cervantes deals with strong Latina girls dealing with some tough family issues.
  • Michele Hurwitz
  • Diana Lopez
    • *Ask my mood ring how I feel
    • *Confetti Girl
    • Lopez' strong Latina characters deal with the fun, drama, and heartbreak of life with zest and courage.
  • Leslie Margolis
    • Annabelle Unleashed
    • Maggie Brooklyn
    • Margolis writes funny, spot-on books about tween and middle school girls. Annabelle's stories detail her growth into a strong, independent girl with friendship struggles and boy drama along the way. Maggie Brooklyn is perfect for any girl who's looking for a modern-day Nancy Drew with some realistic relationships along the way.
  • Wendy Mass
    • Willow Falls series
    • Mass validates the feelings and experiences of tween girls as she writes about everyday experiences and struggles with a hint of magic.
  • Lauren Myracle
    • Winnie years
    • *Flower Power
    • Myracle writes a wide variety of books, from beginning chapters to intense teen titles, but these two middle grade series feature tween girls and their friendships and choices.
  • Lisa Yee
    • *Millicent Min, Girl Genius
    • *So Totally Emily Ebers
    • This collection of novels also two about boys in the same school. They're told from the point of view of different characters - Millicent, who is a genius and Emily Ebers who is struggling with her parents' divorce. Although my personal favorite of this quartet is Warp Speed, these are great too!
  • The trouble with rules by Leslie Bulion
    • Fourth grade means more rules, written and unwritten, like girls and boys not being friends. Protagonist Nadie learns how to make her own choices and stand up for her friendships.
  • *Out of my mind by Sharon Draper
    • For the first time ever, Melody finally has a voice - but will anyone listen to her? One of the very few middle grade titles to feature a protagonist with a physical disability.
  • *The blossoming universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Wood
    • Violet is biracial and has grown up with her white mother and family her whole life. When she turns eleven, she decides she wants to know about her father's side of the family and her other heritage and ends up learning not only about her family but about herself.
  • *Brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
    • This is actually a memoir in verse, but I chose to shelve it in the juvenile fiction as that is where it will most easily be found. It's a very popular title at my library. It tells Woodson's story of growing up African-American in rich poetry that is accessible and relatable.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Pegasus by Kate O'Hearn
    • O'Hearn's exciting mythology-based fantasy series has a girl, Emily, as the main character.
  • *Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
    • This trilogy by popular fantasy author Riordan features a bi-racial sibling duo. Sadie, the younger sister, is the most bold and daring and often breaks the rules. She's also adept at magic.
  • Cronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu
    • A mythology-based series where the major protagonist is a girl, Charlotte Mielswetzski.
  • Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West
    • This mildly creepy series features a shy but curious girl, Olive, who takes on a dangerous villain with the help of some clever cats.
  • Merrie Haskell
    • The princess curse
    • *Handbook for dragon slayers
    • Haskell turns the fairy tale adventure genre on its head with a princess who'd rather be anything else - and has a physical disability - in Handbook and features a girl who's not a princess at all, but could definitely use the reward money, in The Princess Curse.
Nonfiction

Saturday, August 6, 2016

This week at the library; or, August begins

Craft-o-rama. I took this picture near
the end, and b/c faces don't show in it
What's going on, in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Autism Support Group
    • Youth Services Staff Meeting. Many phone calls. Much scheduling.
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-O-Rama
    • I opened the Storyroom from 10-5 for the Craft-o-rama. I had an easel reminding people to sign in, be careful with scissors, and tidy up. I love our patrons. They were very tidy - including toddlers, roving bands of unattended kids, and a school. I had paint, paper, scissors, popsicle sticks, yarn, die cuts, boxes of craft supplies that were donated that I hadn't sorted through, and more. Kids were very creative and it made me happy! About 60 people came through.
    • I also worked on sorting through and moving the nonfiction dvds. We made space to bring them back by the fiction dvds.
  • Wednesday
    • I don't remember.
  • Thursday
    • Free Lego Build
    • Not as many people came to the all day open Lego build, but that was because it was more of a flow between the Storyroom and the play area. About 40 people signed in. I was so tired and hot. But we managed to get quite a lot of work done - program meetings, scheduling, finished the nonfiction dvds, and more.
  • Friday
    • I came in late because I supervise the twice-yearly knit-in (those ladies are wild!) and because I needed to bake for the book 'n' bake sale! Summer reading has really died off this last week - I think the craft-o-rama and free lego build are great ideas to bring back next summer, but I'm looking forward to implementing our new plan, starting summer reading on the first weekend in June, regardless of the school calendar, and ending in July. I am so tired.
These are some of the books kids wrote on their logs as favorites.
Summer Reading Favorites - Chapter Books
  • Cupcake Diaries
  • So B it
  • Hypnotists (Gordon Korman)
  • Alex Morgan books
  • Eve of the Emperor Penguin (Magic Tree House)
Summer Reading Favorites - Picture books
  • king of the zoo - Perl
  • Take me to the zoo
  • Zoo babies
  • Tickle time (2)
  • Itsy Bitsy spider
  • Fuzzy ducks
  • 10 little ladybugs
  • Rapunzel

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fluffy Strikes Back by Ashley Spires

The saga of Binky the Space Cat may be over, but there are still stories to be told...

Sergeant Fluffy Vandermere was once a brave young agent in the service of P.U.R.S.T. (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) but now he heads up the whole operation. He and his loyal assistant, Click, keep the humans and space pets of the world save from the hideous aliens (bugs) that strive to destroy them!

But one day, the bugs launch a secret offensive and invade the secret headquarters, hitherto kept well-hidden under a large sandbox. Is Sergeant Fluffy just a desk cat? Are all his skills gone? Or can he save himself, Click, and the whole headquarters of P.U.R.S.T.?

I always end my booktalks of this title with "Or will he end up....in the sandbox?" and after a pause there is a ripple of giggles!

Verdict: Fans of Spire's quirky, tongue-in-cheek humor and her spare art style will be delighted at the beginning of a new series. This has all the charm and jokes of Binky, but without recycling old stories. It's as fresh and delightful as starting Binky for the first time. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781771381277; Published 2016 by Kids Can Press; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

SPOILERS

Alice is a misfit. Too big, too awkward, too heavy, her hair is too bushy, she's too shy and she never fits in or has friends anywhere. She's pretty sure her wealthy New York parents can't stand her, as they waste no time in shipping her off to various schools (suggested by an "educational consultant") which all end disastrously. Finally, she gets sent to The Experimental Center for Love and Learning. It's a ramshackle collection of buildings on the edge of a lake and all the kids and teachers seem as weird as Alice. Best of all, she can run off into the woods and go to the lake as often as she wants. She doesn't even mind the vegetarian/vegan food.

Then Jessica arrives. She's the kind of perfect girl who always hates girls like Alice. Even so, Alice falls for her overtures when she suddenly wants to be friends. Of course, it ends horribly with Jessica and her friends playing a nasty trick on Alice, stranding her in the lake with no clothes and then taking a picture of her covered with mud, which they then proceed to spread around the school and internet, calling her a Bigfoot.

Meanwhile, across the lake, Millie is a misfit with her clan of Bigfoots, or the Yare as they call themselves. Too small, too talkative, her fur is light-colored and her feet are small. She dreams of losing all her fur and singing on television, of joining the No-Fur world. When Millie and Alice meet, at first they seem to be the perfect friends, misfits who have finally found their place. But people are looking for the Yare and another misfit, a boy named Jeremy, is on their track.

In a final confrontation, Alice uses the cruel prank Jessica played on her to save Millie and her tribe and the school stands together in solidarity against the Bigfoot hunters, declaring that they are all freaks and this is their place for "Everyone here has something." Even the nasty Jessica, spurred on by Millie's threats, admits that she too is a freak - she has a tail and was forced to leave her last school because of the cruel bullying of her classmates.

The story ends on a cliffhanger as Jeremy apologizes for setting the hunters onto Alice and Millie, but tells them there's a secret government organization who knows about them now - and that blood tests have shown Alice is not completely human.

Reviewers so far have praised the book. Kirkus called it "an engaging tale that helps children understand both bullying and the difficulties faced by people who in some way deviate from the norm." PW said "Well-drawn characters, high comedy, and an open-ended finale will leave readers eager for the next installment."

I strongly disagree. Prepare yourselves for a Librarian Book Rant.

First, Jennifer Weiner writes one of those maddeningly patronizing introductions, saying she wrote the book because she wanted her daughters to have strong female role models and "For every Katniss or Princess in Black, there's a Harry Potter or a Percy Jackson." As a librarian, this really annoys me. A tale of Bigfoots and bullying with "cute" language like "snackles" thrown in is NOT a read-alike for Hunger Games or Percy Jackson. I can produce a great list of middle grade fantasy titles in only a few minutes (moreover, even some with diverse protagonists!). Can we use more books with strong female protagonists? Of course! Is this one? Well....I would say Not Quite.

I have a strong objection to books that make kids with differences seem like "the other" and this is exactly what this book does. Although it does avoid the Wonder trap of having a kid so vastly different that "normal" kids won't see bullying a slightly different classmate as comparable or using a child with disabilities as an "inspiration", it strongly suggests that Alice can only be happy with "her tribe." The two girls in her cabin who were willing to be friends but were put off by Alice's refusal to engage with them made a good point as well, but in the end they come together as us vs. them, the freaks vs. the normals. The final scene where all her classmates call themselves freaks was deeply disturbing to me. Their "differences" range from looking strange to not fitting into gender norms. One teacher says "How many places in the world do you think there are where I can look like this and not be laughed at?" In other words, the only safe place for people with differences is hidden away from the general population. They can never "fit in" or be happy with "normal" people. At least Wonder ends with the kids learning to accept differences in their world; The Littlest Bigfoot advocates for segregation of differences.

Finally, the privilege and disconnect from reality just drips from the book. What a sad message to send to kids who are different, that the only place they can be safe and happy is away from their families, towns, and schools. What about kids who aren't from wealthy New York families and can't afford to be sent to special schools? Millie's dreams of being a No-Fur had a disturbing racist overtone to me, rather like portraying a black child who dreams of being white. Weiner had a good idea to portray a strong female character, female friendships, and some sweet and funny magical beings, but in the end the book is disturbing and sad. There's no empowerment here, just acceptance of a world gone wrong.

Verdict: While I did read the entire book and some kids will enjoy the dramatic mean girl scenes and the cutesy depiction of the Yare, I won't be purchasing this title and can't honestly recommend it. It has inspired me to work on a read-alikes list for strong female characters though, so there's that.

ISBN: 9781481470742; Published September 2016 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Small Readers: Snail and Worm by Tina Kugler

This is one of those quirky easy readers that I don't, personally, get the humor of but which reviewers generally love.

The first story features Snail with some new friends - a stick and a rock. Worm shows up and is introduced to "Bob" and "Ann" but gets a surprise when she asks Snail to play... The second story shows Worm encouraging Snail to follow her dreams and climb a tall flower. In the third story, Snail and Worm meet each other's pets, a dog and a spider, but which is which?

The stories are clever, but rely on a more subtle humor than I like to see in easy readers. I find that most kids can't concentrate on picking up more subtle cues in the art and text when they're trying to decode the language. I also felt that the endings of the three stories fell a little flat - they seemed like they needed something more.

I did love the illustrations. Cheerful greens picked out with red, brown, yellow and pink spread across the pages, showing Snail and Worm's miniature world. I liked the details of lines, they gave the book a cozy, friendly look.

Verdict: This isn't a really bad book; it's quite good, especially for a first effort, and I'd be happy to add it to my collection and use it in book club. It didn't wow me, but I did enjoy it. Kids who like understated humor and more classic easy readers will probably pick this one off the shelf.

ISBN: 9780544494121; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi

Another mysterious and beautiful book from Akiko Miyakoshi.

The story begins on the endpapers, as a single, fuzzy black bird drifts through a stormy, grey sky. The story opens with a nameless child in a landscape of black, white and grey pencil, with spare text explaining that the child is expecting a beach trip. However, a storm is promised and the child worries that the promised trip will be cancelled. The sky slowly darkens and the family prepares for the storm. When it hits, the landscape is wild and distorted and the child takes refuge in their bed, where they imagine sailing into the dark and wind, blowing the storm away. They wake in the sunshine and, on the final page, a brilliant blue sky greets the child through the window. The endpapers show a blue sky with floating clouds; the storm is over.

The text is really secondary to the rich black and white imagery of Miyakoshi's magical art. It's a slow-paced, reflective story, which looks at both a child's inner life and the contrasting outdoor storm. The art moves the story through the slow build-up of the storm and into the cathartic clear skies and sunshine of the next day.

Verdict: This is one of those lovely books that won't necessarily have widespread popular appeal, but it will be treasured by a smaller group of thoughtful children.

ISBN: 9781771385596; Published 2016 by Kids Can Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, August 1, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The Story of Seeds by Nancy F. Castaldo

Castaldo's last book, Sniffer Dogs, was awesome but I was a little taken aback to see she'd jumped to such a different subject. Still, I decided to sample it and was intrigued enough that I ordered it for the library before I'd finished reading it!

Castaldo begins by explaining the vital importance of seeds and biodiversity. She discusses how seeds have been viewed and used through history and then the current discussions surrounding genetic modification of seeds. Finally, she discusses the vaults and processes being put into place around the world to protect seeds and biodiversity and how readers can get involved from local seed libraries to buying heirloom seeds and plants.

The resources include a list of seed companies, an overview of seed libraries along with locations in each state, further information that includes organizations, documentaries, books and museums. There is a glossary, author's note about the inspiration behind the book, timeline from Gregor Mendel's birth to Vermont's GMO labeling law in 2014, and index.

Throughout the book are included stories from personal anecdotes to tales of past and current "seed warriors" who are fighting for genetic diversity and saving seeds. There are also discussions of topics such as labeling foods made with GMOs, and interesting facts and seeds and crops.

There are a couple things that bother me, one personal and one just confusing. The seed library in my town (Walworth County Seed Library) is listed, but as far as I know it has not been active since 2014. It might still be ongoing, but their web presence is gone. But if the author knows how to contact them I wish I knew because we could get them involved in our library garden project! Secondly, and this is somewhat a personal gripe, but I feel that books suggesting environmental protection and conservation are always packed with a lot of privilege. Suggestions include buying via a CSA, getting in touch with local farmers, composting and community gardens, the usual suggestions for reducing use of fossil fuels and other projects. However, the assumption that you have time, an appropriate space, money and education to invest in these things bothers me. Of course, that's not the point of the book and I did appreciate that the book didn't just discuss how a typical, middle class suburban family would be affected by biodiversity and GMOs but also other countries, farmers at different levels, and people from many different cultures.

Verdict: Mature readers will appreciate the thoughtful discussion of a controversial current issue; for them, it would make a good pairing with Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open, discussing news and the environment. Less mature readers will be drawn in by Castaldo's excellent storytelling skills and will be fascinated, horrified, and inspired by the stories she tells. I look forward to booktalking this one to upper level students and adults. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544230239; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library