Friday, September 30, 2016

Tales of Sasha: The Big Secret by Alexa Pearl, illustrated by Paco Sordo

Have you been looking, without success, for beginning chapter books to assuage the cries of horse fans and My Little Pony readers? Look no farther. Sasha is here!

Sasha isn't like the other horses in her valley. She's not good at staying in line and doing what she's told and she looks different - pale grey with a white patch on her back. On top of that, she has a strange desire to leap and climb! It's like the patch on her back wants her to jump. But how can that be? Then her patch starts sparkling...and suddenly she has wings and she can FLY! Are there more big secrets her parents haven't been telling her?

This beginning chapter book has everything horse-loving little readers will adore - lots of horsey fun, a sprinkling of magic, wish-fulfillment (who wouldn't like to discover they're secretly magical?) and a little mystery.

Verdict: Hand this to fans of Critter Club, Rainbow Magic, My Little Pony, and horse fans in general. That is, if it's ever on the shelf long enough to recommend to anyone! An absolute must for your beginning chapter collections.

ISBN: 9781499803891; Published January 2017 by Little Bee/Bonnier; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Poptropica: Mystery of the Map by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Kory Merritt

Three kids are on a hot-air balloon tour...which suddenly gets a lot more exciting than they expected! Suddenly, their guide is flying them straight into a storm and the next thing they know they're on an island. But it's not just an ordinary island - there are a lot of strange things, not even counting the dodos. Like the Vikings. Lots and lots of Vikings. It will take all their skills (and a lot of snarky humor) to escape the various villains and get started on the adventure of a lifetime!

Poptropica is a kid-friendly gaming website where kids explore different islands and play games, hunt treasure, and follow various stories. You can play it for free and also purchase a membership that opens up additional islands and other perks. It's considered safe as the kids interact only through scripts and are unable to exchange personal information.

The online world is expanding into graphic novels which introduce three characters, Mya, Jorge, and Oliver, stranded in the islands of Poptropica. This first title sets up some information for the story - the islands, the map, the villains. It's funny and intriguing, even if you don't know any of the back story of Poptropica, and includes some diversity - despite the cover image, Oliver is not the central character, all three share roughly equal time.

Verdict: Brisk action, tidbits of historical information, cartoon-style illustrations, and a tie-in to a popular game - this has everything it needs to fly off the shelves.

ISBN: 9781419720673; Published 2016 by Amulet/Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Pretty Princess Pig by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Sam Williams

[Digging through the archives...]

In simple rhymes, we learn about Princess Pig who likes to dress up - and play in the dirt. She is getting ready for her big tea party and dusts, paints, cooks and decorates with obvious enjoyment. Her polite friends show up to enjoy the goodies; and despite some shocked looks, no one comments on the mess Princess Pig has made of the house - and herself!

Sam Williams, who also illustrated a previous board book with Jane Yolen, Good Night Little Bunny, shows a rotund little pig who attacks her tasks with vim and vigor and is gaily unaware of the truly spectacular mess she is creating. The cover is strongly pink with spots of glitter, but the interior has an equal amount of yellow and orange blending with the pink.

The story is light and humorous and would be enjoyed by kids who will giggle over the mess and enjoy the contrast between Princess Pig's crown and flowery dress and her natural pig behavior. The format of the book is the main problem for me. It has the padded cover sometimes seen on board books and stiffened, thick pages; however, it's not quite a board book while still being smaller than the average picture book. The final page has a die cut fold out that says "I will fall apart" to me. Our processor could reinforce the fold, but not the shaped edges.

Verdict: This is a cute if unsubstantial book. I would go for Karen Katz' Princess Baby series if you're looking for princess board books or Jane Yolen's Not all princesses dress in pink if you're looking for active princess picture books. The format on this makes it a better present for a friend or child than circulating library book.

[Revisited: This book is still in print and I ended up adding it to the library, but I hold by my verdict - it just won't stand up to library usage. Before it was checked out and never returned, it was not in good shape. It is adorable and would make a good present though.]

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0833-3; Published May 2011 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates; Donated to the library

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

If a T. Rex crashes your birthday party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova

You might think having a T. Rex at your birthday party would be awesome.

You would be wrong. First, he's huge. Second, he's scary. Then there's all those teeth (which he's never brushed), those little arms (not so good for playing games), not to mention his temper. And he's never learned that you don't touch the birthday boy's toys!

But in the end, when he hugs you with his little arms, you know you want him back next year, even if you do have to hide your toys....

I'm not sure how I feel about these pictures. I like parts of them - the striped tights on the dark-skinned girl throwing water balloons at the T. Rex, a curious green turtle, the brightly colored dinosaur pinata. But overall the pictures just didn't click for me. There's too much white space and the style is too abstract for my taste.

I also found the story baffling. The dinosaur basically behaves like a naughty toddler and so it doesn't make sense the kids would want him back. Parents, sure, but this isn't a "I'll love you no matter what" type of book. There are both longer chunks of text that will need an older child to appreciate them but also a very young feel to the book, in the T. Rex basically having a tantrum.

Verdict: Dinosaurs and birthdays are both popular subjects, but this doesn't combine them well. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781454915508; Published 2016 by Sterling; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, September 26, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Ocean Animals: Who's Who in the Deep Blue by Johnna Rizzo

When I was weeding the 500s this year and needed to update the animal books, I went to my go-to publishers which, of course, included National Geographic.

Finding Nemo and Finding Dory have made underwater creatures even more popular than they have been in the past, and the publisher capitalizes on that by placing reef-dwellers front and center. The book introduces readers to the major oceans and their general layout and then jumps right into the creatures that dwell there. They are separated into coral reefs, sharks, marine mammals, whales, marine reptiles and birds. The book ends with ocean habitats like the Galapagos and mangroves and then lists ways readers can be involved in conserving and improving ocean habitats. There are several additional sections not listed in the table of contents; weird ocean animals, extreme ocean environments, and other facts.

There are also credits, acknowledgements, an index, and glossary. The gorgeous photography of National Geographic's titles is expanded in this oversized volume, showing a little of the scope of the huge underwater world the creatures live in.

Verdict: Whether or not you are looking to update your ocean animals sections, this is a strong addition to any library. It will catch the interest of a wide variety of ages and Rizzo's accessible and knowledgeable text is a great introduction to the underwater world. I was happy to expend a little extra money on a library-bound copy, but it's also available in paperback.


ISBN: 9781426325069; Published May 2016; Review copy provided by publishers; Purchased for the library

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cybils! Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Panelists and Judges

In case you missed it, the announcement of the few, the brave, the determined has been made and the panelists and judges for Cybils are official! In a few days you'll see the category descriptions - there are exciting changes in several categories, including my own beloved nonfiction, so stay tuned!

Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Round 1 Panelists
These people have bravely volunteered to wade through 100+ books, haunting their local libraries and bookstores for copies, discussing the anatomical details of head lice at the dinner table, and plunging into discussions to choose the mighty shortlists come December.

Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction Round 2 Judges
To this group falls the task of choosing the one book that rules them all, the best of the best, the chosen one from the shortlists. They have only a few short weeks to read deeply, discuss thoroughly, and wade through the volume of emails their category organizer produces (me).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This week at the library; or, The summer refuses to end

What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
    • Autism Support Group cancelled
    • Promised storm did not appear, probably because I went around checking that all the kids had rides home. Self-regulation was the word I was trying to think of when explaining why I use the ABC Stop song on my first school visits! We finally fixed the hole in the hamster's tube - my aide went next-door and got some new tubes. I like small town life.
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • We realized we were disorganized and stressed.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Mad Scientists Club: Bubble Science
    • We attempted to assuage our disorganization. A fair number of people came to bubble science. Even more biting gnats came. We sacrificed an aide to the gnat cloud. She earned peanut butter M&Ms.
  • Friday
    • Outreach Storytimes (2 sessions)
    • It was supposed to be a half-day but I messed up the schedule and ended up with two outreach visits in the morning and then working the information desk until 2. My own fault. Fortunately, the kindergarteners were very cute and they all hugged me. I swear I have a sinus infection, not a cold. I went home to take lots of suphedrine and commence my vacation.
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • The YA weeding is done but the section still needs cleaning - old paid-discards that remained in the system, long-overdue titles to be replaced, duplicates, etc.
  • I cleaned off my desk
What the kids are reading, a selection (i.e. what I can remember afterwards)
  • Perfectly Poppy - don't have any
  • easy readers
  • storytime kids in love with Chalk - gave them Typewriter
  • read-alouds for younger kids - down girl and sit, digby o'day, my father's dragon
  • books with science - i have a list!
  • lego books
  • easy readers about bugs
  • hardy boys easy chapters
  • old macdonald had a truck - should get another copy of this!
  • Echo - checked out put on hold
  • space books for a four year old

Friday, September 23, 2016

Haggis and Tank Unleashed: All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks

This new Branches series features two kooky dogs and the art of James Burks, author of Bird & Squirrel and other fun books.

Haggis the terrier is bored. Tank the Great Dane is not. Tank has lots of great ideas, including being pirates! She's sure it will be lots of fun, but Haggis isn't so sure. Using their imaginations and some creative recycling, the two set sail on a wild adventure.

There's a lot of wordplay in the text, which mostly takes a back seat to the colorful graphics. Burks' trademark square corners and surreal humor shine through in the wacky adventure and Young's silly dialogue and easy text make a good combination.

For Branches I'd say this is intermediate - it does not have a lot of text, but the combination of simple sentences and dialogue would confuse a beginning reader and the font is smaller than the average easy reader. The wordplay will also be challenging to a reader who is not fluent or doesn't have a decent vocabulary.

Verdict: Fans of Burks' Bird & Squirrel and kids who like funny books but aren't quite ready for full-length chapters will be the ideal audience for this. It would also make a fun read-aloud for younger children. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545818872; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg and Lucas Turnbloom, color by Guy Major

Ben's dreams have been getting more and more vivid lately - and he's discovered he has the ability to "jump" into other people's dreams. His one friend, Jake, thinks there are great possibilities here and even his crush, Kaylee, is intrigued. But bigger things than Ben's school drama are happening. More and more children are falling prey to a mysterious disease that traps them in a nightmare world and Ben must take on his fears and fight back if he wants to save them.

As the set up for a series, this book contains lots of hints and bits of plot. Ben's father's mysterious disappearance, the presence of dream jumpers, the villains, etc. are all introduced although there's clearly a lot left to explain. The art (and story) are what I think of as Scholastic Graphix style. Very cinematic, colorful, with lots of action and drama.

Unfortunately, there's lots of stereotypes too. Ben, the ordinary middle class white boy, is naturally the hero. Although his crush is Asian, she's also in need of rescuing and has very little agency or presence, other than as an inspiration. Ben's sidekick, Jake, is the stereotypical "fat boy" a little dumb and babyish, mostly there to be made fun of and to stick to Ben no matter what.

This isn't a "bad" book per say; there's just nothing about it that stands out. It doesn't have the emotional depth of Amulet, the developed characters of Zita, or the twisty plot of Alabaster Shadows. More importantly, it brings nothing new to the genre and follows the same stereotyped characters used in a gazillion other kids' fantasy books and comics. In fact, I can pretty much predict the rest of the plot from the first book (I'm guessing his dad turns out to be the villain).

Verdict: Kids will happily pick this up, read it, and forget it. It's fine as an addition to your collection, but I don't expect it to get a major fan following like Amulet, Zita, or Bone. The story and characters have been told many times before; it's time to see something new.

ISBN: 9780545826044; Published 2016 by Scholastic Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Small Readers: Stinky by Eleanor Davis


[Digging through the archives...]

This is the only Geisel winner/honor our library doesn't have, so I thought I'd check it out! It's on the classic and pervasive easy reader theme of friendship. A slightly lonely, but generally happy monster in a swamp, and a new kid in town. At first, Stinky doesn't think he could ever be friends with a HUMAN! They like to eat yucky things like cake and take baths! But maybe they're not so different....

It's a fun and engaging storyline, easy for children to predict, but familiar and humorous. The comic panels are excellently designed for the early reader experience and the art is clean-cut and elegant.

While the story defaults to male, both characters could easily have identified as female, adding a little diversity to the swamp. This is a more challenging easy reader, almost a chapter book, with the combination of art and text requiring a fairly fluent reader. It's one of the earlier Toon books and a particular favorite of mine. It's funny, child-friendly, and engaging and at a nice level for readers not ready for chapter books yet.

Verdict: Definitely an honor winner! I'll be adding this one to our collection and I suggest you do the same.

[Revisited: Over the past few years, our easy reader collection has shifted to work more towards emergent readers and lower level readers. Meanwhile, Toon has gotten more and more sophisticated. We have 3 copies of this and it circulates regularly, but not heavily. I still love it, but if you missed it the first time it came out I wouldn't feel the urge to go back and purchase it.]

ISBN: 978-0979923845; Published September 2008 by Toon Books; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field

I'm not generally a fan of rhyming books, or picture books with a moral, but this one just kind of grabbed me.

A little mouse is tired of being scared and small. So, he decides to risk it all and ask the lion to teach him to roar! The lion is the king of beasts and also quite likely to eat the small mouse! Nevertheless, he perseveres, only to discover, after a difficult journey, that the lion is scared of...him? The two become close friends and realize they are better together than apart.

The plot, taken down to its bare bones, is not particularly unique or surprising but the presentation is delightful. The silly rhymes bounce along, rather like a Dr. Seuss book.

The illustrations, however, are what really caught my eye. Bright, creator of the Love Monster series, connects with a new illustrator, Jim Field, who branches out into a brilliant palette of golds and browns and a classic style that will remind readers of Gus Tenggren and other Little Golden Books artists. The giant-eared mouse, solemn lion, and all the other animals are set against a background that seems to pulsate with heat and color.

Verdict: A fun addition to storytimes; I look forward to seeing more from this artist/author duo.

ISBN: 9780545873505; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: What's the Buzz? Keeping Bees in Flight by Merrie Ellen Wilcox

I really like Orca Footprints, but sadly they don't circulate much for us. However, I have high hopes for this title.

The book is divided into four chapters. The first explains different types of bees, their habitat and behavior. The second chapter, "Bees at Work", explains their vital contribution to pollination and how they fit into the various life cycles of their habitats. The third chapter talks about how bees function and how beekeepers work with them. Finally, "Keeping the Bees in Flight" discusses the perils facing bees and how kids and adults alike can get involved and help.

Resources include books and websites, acknowledgements, glossary, and index. The book throughout is illustrated with photographs and some drawings.

Beekeeping is a hot topic in our town right now - the city recently gave permission for people to keep bees within city limits (no chickens yet though) and we've had several very well-attended programs on keeping bees. I was looking for more updated information to add to our pet section for kids on keeping bees and this is the best I found. It includes more information on how bees work than on how to keep them, but my understanding is that beekeeping is more of a hands-on thing, not something you learn from books.

Verdict: If you're looking for updated resources on bees and beekeeping with a children's perspective, this is the best recent title I've found so far. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781459809604; Published 2015 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This week at the library; or Reaching Out

Horrible bushes have been removed!
What's happening in my head and at the library
Projects in progress and completed
  • YA fiction crisis weeding - COMPLETE
  • Juvenile nonfiction weeding through 800s - COMPLETE
  • Updating field trips and outreach storytimes
  • Finalizing programs for the fall
  • Missing list - COMPLETE
  • Collection development - building order lists of true emergent readers for next year
  • Still working on the last bits of the Parenting collection
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • looking for a new fantasy series - reading Crown of Three from summer reading cart. Recommended Jessica Day George
  • Apples
  • I spy
  • pond life
  • mammoths
  • Swiss family robinson on audio
  • dance picture books
  • easy readers
  • Dork Diaries

Friday, September 16, 2016

Small Readers: The Toad by Elise Gravel

Behold the toad, latest in the Disgusting Critters series.

The toad has many admirable and fascinating qualities. She waits for prey (bugs, worms, and spiders) to walk by and then gulps them down. She eats her shed skin, releases a toxin when threatened, and does NOT have warts! They're just camouflage, to help her blend in with the ground. Just like frogs, since toads are, after all, a type of frog, she lays eggs which hatch into tadpoles.

All these and more facts are included in this delightful easy reader. Gravel's cartoon illustrations are hilarious, with a pop-eyed toad cheerfully going about her business, unconcerned with what humans think of her. Toilet water? It's still water! Eating your own skin? Part of a healthy diet! The text is laid out in large, bold fonts, including different colors.

One thing that particularly caught my notice was the use of female pronouns. I don't know if you've noticed, but many picture books and easy readers, including nonfiction, default to "he" when talking about animals. I find myself doing it unconsciously, so it's nice when an author takes the time to add a little diversity!

The reading level of this book, like most nonfiction easy readers, is going to be a little challenging for beginning readers but the highlighted single words offer plenty of practice for them when reading together with an adult.

Verdict: Another delightful entry in a fun series. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781770496675; Published 2016 by Tundra; Review copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen

Six kids - and a stuffed cat - gather in the bathroom during a tornado warning. Jordan is in the bathroom trying to stem his latest bloody nose (he has some anxiety issues which he covers with humor). He's joined by new kid Avery (plus stuffed cat), tough guy Taylor, air-guitar-playing Devon who never interacts with the world, and hyper-involved Mason and Regan. Six more disparate kids could not exist and yet, by the time the all-clear sounds they've formed friendships and learned to appreciate each other's differences.

This novella has Paulsen's trademark humor and quirky kids; it's also followed by a one-act play, in case you want to recreate the scenes yourself. One of the things I also found interesting was that all the names of the kids are gender-neutral and the playscript calls for either boys or girls. Which leads to an interesting discussion - is the behavior of the kids typical of only middle school boys or does it ring true across the spectrum of genders? Even in a short novella the book also gets into the underlying reasons for the various kids' behaviors. The "if we just talked together we'd be friends" theme seems a little naive, but reluctant readers will enjoy the humor and also the short length and teachers will find interesting talking points in this as well.

Verdict: If you have Gary Paulsen fans, this is a good addition, or if you need plays for kids. Otherwise it's probably an additional purchase, but it's a light and fun read and you can't ever really have too many of those for middle schoolers.

ISBN: 9781481452236; Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Baby Animals Day & Night by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

This simple board book is both sweet and ideal for introducing books to babies.

Five simple spreads show fluffy animals awake and asleep; a chipmunk, a bobcat, an otter, a skunk, and a cute, curly-haired baby. The final spread, showing the baby, is in color. The others are in delicate black and white ink color. There is a subtle coding of the backgrounds as well. Diurnal animals, like the chipmunk, have a white background (day) when they're awake and a black background (night) when they're asleep. Nocturnal animals, like the bobcat, have a black background when awake and a white background when asleep.

The small, simple cardboard board book is about 5 by 5 inches square and the pages are thin but sturdy.

Verdict: This simple little book is a perfect addition to your board book section. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781580896092; Published 2016 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Return by Aaron Becker

Aaron Becker's wordless fantasy concludes in this final book of the trilogy that includes Journey and Quest.

The lonely girl of the first two stories returns to her fantastic world when her dad still doesn't pay her any attention. When he finally realizes she's missing, he follows her into the world she's discovered, meets the boy with the purple crayon, and tries to reconcile with his daughter. Things take a dangerous turn when they are attacked and the magical crayons stolen. As they work together to defeat the evil army and release the magic, the father and daughter reconcile and the father makes the final plan to release the magical colors. The final picture shows an empty studio, an open door, and a red kite floating through the sky, implying the father and daughter have gone together on more adventures.

I loved Becker's illustrations, especially the magical woods, when I first encountered his art on Seven Impossible Things. This book expands the fine detail of the previous books, showing more aspects of the fantasy world while still leaving it open for readers to imagine their own aspects. The explosion of magic colors, when they are released from the evil soldiers' mechanical device, sends brilliant color splashing across the page, ending with a flight of colorful, magical birds into the sunset, signaling the end of the trilogy as the magic is sent out into the world for more adventures.

ISBN: If you only purchase a few wordless picture books, this trilogy is definitely a must-have. Perfect for a dreamy child to explore or to use for inspiration in an art class or storytime.

ISBN: 9780763677305; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Living Fossils: Clues to the Past by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Andrew Plant

I really liked some aspects of this nonfiction picture book, but others weren't quite what I wanted. Which is my explanation for keeping it several weeks overdue *cough*.

The story opens with the discovery of the coelacanth, a "living fossil." Using this strange fish as an example, Arnold explains the concept of living fossils, from an explanation of the basic idea of a fossil to what we can learn from living fossils.

The rest of the book is a comparison of living fossils then and now. Horseshoe crabs, dragonflies, sphenodontids (lizards), chambered nautiloids, and Latonia frogs. The book ends with a timeline and a spread of thumbnails with more details about the creatures mentioned in the book. There is also a glossary and bibliography of further reading.

Each spread about the animals is 3/4 art with a column of text describing what is known about the prehistoric creature, then a similar spread for the modern creature including an extra box on their survival.

So, it's a really interesting concept, the art is great, and it's nicely arranged. Somehow, though, I wanted more contrast in the then and now - more direct explanations of how the creatures changed throughout time. Although, the other side of that is that we don't really know what they were like originally, so maybe that information just doesn't exist?

Verdict: I'm always looking for new fossil books and this is a unique and interesting take. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781580896917; Published 2016 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Parenting Collection

In my heart, it's still called "Tough Topics." We've moved this around a lot, tried different labels, re-cataloged it, added learning aides (which will eventually be listed on my Read 'n' Play blog) and this year, since I finally went through the juvenile nonfiction and found things that should have been moved before and since I had money put aside, I decided it was time to tackle the section.

We decided to redo the labels, formerly in Dewey which was cumbersome, into simple subject headings. Our headings right now are:
  • Adoption
  • Bullying
  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Emotions
  • Illness
  • Family
  • Puberty
  • Safety
  • Special Needs
    • Autism
This is how I decide what items go into Parenting and what goes into the picture book neighborhoods

The parenting section includes materials meant to be used with preschool and school-age children. It includes issues parents will want to introduce themselves (death, puberty, divorce), specific issues (special needs, adoption, emotion, bullying) and tough topics like safety (sexual abuse) and illness. These books are intended to teach; if you have a book that teaches you about asthma, it will be in the parenting section. If you have a book that happens to have a character with asthma who plays soccer, it will be in the sports neighborhood. Another example; Goyangi means cat by Christine McDonnell is a lovely book about family and home that features an international adoption. This book is in the family section of the picture book neighborhoods. On the other hand, Mr. Rogers' Let's talk about it: Adoption (yes, it's ancient) is in Parenting.

General growing up titles - potty training, learning to share, sleeping in your own bed, families (traditional and non-traditional), the five senses, books about your body that are strictly anatomical - all these are in the Ourselves neighborhood. This has three subheadings: Family, Feelings, Growing Up.

Materials aimed at parents like "how to potty train your child in ten days or less" and "how to deal with kids when they drive you crazy and have them do all your chores for you in five days or less" are in the adult nonfiction.

I am currently building a comprehensive spreadsheet of all the items in this collection. It was requested by the school; I'm previously provided a list of sex ed and puberty books for them. You can view it here (please note it is under construction as well as waiting for new materials later this fall).

I also have two reading lists:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

This week at the library; or, Fall begins!

What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday - Closed for holiday
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Bookaneers
    • The 3-D printer is back. I find the sound...distracting. A nice, relatively peaceful start to the week. Miserable weather outside but for once it's nice and cool inside. First day back at school, so still setting up field trips, outreach, etc.
    • I want to start a middle school book club, primarily sixth grade, that's all nonfiction and comics. (I didn't say I was going to, I said I want to)
  • Wednesday
    • No programs. This left me free to begin crisis weeding in the YA and clean out some more Maker Kits, among other things.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lego Club
    • I was a little disappointed by the turn out for Lego Club, but reminded myself we usually start a week later in the fall and it will take time to get going. It was a long day.
  • Friday
    • I finished the Parenting reorganization. I looked at my desk. There is a lot of stuff on my desk. I left.
  • Saturday
    • Mammoth Hunt with the Ice Age Trail Alliance
    • I want to make slideshows for these. It was very cute and the kids had fun. We had to do it all indoors, since the weather was rainy. Of course it cleared up after we finished. Typical. Juuuuust typical.
Projects
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • How to eat fried worms
  • Finding Dory book
  • 39 Clues
  • Flat Stanley
  • Arthur chapter books
  • Easy reader suggestions
  • Yes, I do need more copies of Chronicles of Narnia
  • Discussion of movies for younger children. I'm always happy when I can recommend my favorites!
  • Mr. Ball
  • Timely. As I'm updating the parenting books a parent asked for some!
  • craft and cooking books

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

Bambang forever! I don't care about anything else, IT'S A TAPIR. And they are not pigs!

Mango Allsorts is a girl with many abilities, not least the ability to keep working at things that are hard. One day, coming back from her karate lesson, she sees a strange lump in the road. A lump which turns out to be a very frightened creature called Bambang, who does NOT like tigers. Bambang is not a pig - he is a tapir. Together they have lots of adventures. There's the time Bambang tries on hats and gets into trouble with Dr. Cynthia Prickle-Posset, the adventure of finding a just-right swimming pool, meeting George, and finally the story of the tapir's song.

Vulliamy's purple, black and white illustrations are an exquisite accompaniment to this most delightful of British tales. Mango is pert and charming, with determination and character. Bambang is just the kind of tapir everyone would want to be friends with - a little lumpish at times, but always adorable and eager to be friends.

Verdict: Sometimes British books like this are too British to appeal to American audiences, but I really don't care on this one. It's a tapir! It's funny and adorable and sweet. A great read-aloud to younger children and a fun choice for beginning chapter readers who like quirky books. Mango is also a strong female character, which I love. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763682262; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Song of the deep by Brian Hastings

This is another book where an author wanted an example of a "strong girl" for their daughter. However, I feel a little more happy with this one - for one thing, there's not the "there were no books so I wrote one" thing which I find annoying, for another it's actually a tie-in for a video game which does sound super cool.

Merryn lives a lonely but peaceful life with her father on the edge of the sea. When he disappears one day, she sets out in a golden submarine to find him and discovers a whole mysterious world beneath the ocean. There she finds both danger and wonder as she follows clues and finds the truth behind the stories her father used to tell her.

The writing is more descriptive than anything else and although there are moments of peril and wonder, the story is generally slow-paced and feels more like a script than a story. There are illustrations, but I couldn't get a good sense of them from the drafts in the arc.

Verdict: I didn't think this was particularly well-written for a novel, but it definitely intrigued me and I think the game sounds wonderful. I probably won't purchase the book, but I'm looking forward to purchasing the game for the library.

ISBN: 9781454920960; Published 2016 by Insomniac Games/Sterling; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Alphaprints: ABC by Sarah Powell and Jo Ryan

[Digging through the archives...]

This is a super-cute ABC book with a twist. All the letters are represented by animals and each animal is a thumbprint. There's half of a rhyming couplet for each picture "M is for Monkey, Very silly and fun./N is for Newt, The quiet, sneaky one."

The text is simple and could be skipped or adapted, depending on the age of the child. The pictures are, as they should be in a board book, the best part. The finger prints are combined with collage and bits of art to create fun animals with lots of different parts to point out and identify. For example, "J is for Jellyfish" shows a large blue finger print with two black dots for eyes and a black squiggle drawn as a mouth, little blue...fins? sticking out the side, and what looks like sour gummy worms for tentacles. "I is for Iguana" has an iguana whose body is a fingerprint, legs from twisty straws, and spines are the pointy tops of crayons. The pictures are on stark white backgrounds. The letter text (H is for etc.) match the general color of the animal, while the text below the picture is black, in a smaller font.

The book is on the large side, 8x9, with a cute little string of animals along the spine. It's about an inch thick and the spine feels a little wobbly to me, but that's generally true of these bigger board books with actual covers. The fingerprints are all slightly raised, so you can feel the lines as small bumps.

Verdict: Another winner! The simple text is easily adaptable for a range of ages, the brightly colored illustrations are equally workable with a variety of audiences. The textured art, different shapes and items in the collage art, bold print, and recognizable animals make this a board book that will work with pretty much every audience from the youngest baby to toddlers getting ready to transition to picture books.

Revisited: I purchased this and other Alphaprints for our board book collection and they are quite popular. They did eventually disintegrate, but held together longer than I had expected. I still strongly recommend this series.

ISBN: 9780312516468; Published 2013 by Priddy Books/St. Martin's Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hey, That's MY Monster! by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

I need my monster was a surprise hit for me, and many others, and several years later the author revisits the delightful story.

When Ethan checks under the bed for his monster, as usual, he's shocked to find a note and a missing monster. How could anybody else need his monster more than him? Well, it turns out his annoying little sister Emma just can't stay in her bed - and she needs a monster to keep her there. But is Ethan's monster the right choice?

As different monsters try to scare naughty Emma into bed, kids will giggle along with the joke and gasp at each scary monster as they turn out to be not-so-scary after all. Will Emma ever find HER monster?

McWilliam's digital art is just as glowing, fun and cinematic as in the original book. The silly monsters are both fuzzy and terrifying, with lots of horns, scales, claws and drool as well as grouchy and annoyed expressions when Emma doesn't find them scary!

Verdict: A delightful sequel, perfect for kids who are worried about the monster under the bed or who have siblings. Or just for fun! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781936261379; Published 2016 by Flashlight Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, September 5, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Radioactive! How Irene Curie and Lisa Meitner revolutionized science and changed the world by Winifred Conkling

Conkling tells the complex and mostly forgotten story of two famous scientists who were also women. Irene Curie, the daughter of more famous Marie Curie, was a brilliant scientist in her own right but was denied recognition by the male scientists of the day. However, she continued to research despite discouragements and survived the both world wars. Largely overshadowed today by her more famous mother, her own accomplishments should be more than enough to give her standing in her famous family.

Lise Meitner has a much more tragic story; denied entry into the masculine world of science, she nevertheless carved out a niche for herself and eventually came to earn a measure of success and even some slight acceptance. All of that ended with Hitler's rise to power and Meitner's accomplishments were overshadowed and deliberately erased by her long-time colleagues and by the upset and destruction of war.

The discoveries of Curie and Meitner led to the creation of the atom bomb, although both refused to be involved in using their discoveries for war. It's interesting to contrast the lives of these women, who both stayed true to their principles in different ways, with the scientists who became involved in the use of atomic power for weapons.

The science in the book is explained along the way as needed and even I could follow along (I somehow missed out on physics in both high school and college. Oops.) Conkling's research into science, history, and the politics of the time period is shown in the careful writing style, which frequently refers to original documents and takes the time to explain the context of actions and behavior of the many protagonists.

Verdict: This is not a fast-paced adventure story; Although there are moments of peril and danger, it's mostly a thoughtful discussion of the role Irene Curie and Lise Meitner played not only in the development of scientific discoveries but also in the involvement of women in science. It will take a little additional booktalking to get kids used to constant action to read this, but older, more mature middle grade and teen readers will be intrigued and enlightened by this dual biography. It's going to be available in paperback next year and I will certainly be adding it to my nonfiction section then.

ISBN: 9781616204150; Published 2016 by Algonquin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Two weeks at the library; or, Plan all the things

What's happening in my head and at the library
  • No programs these two weeks. Staff meetings, planning programs, writing reports, working on the toy bags, spreadsheets, meetings, and way, way too many emails.
  • More emails
  • Setting up outreach plans, why does part of the juvenile fiction smell like stinky feet? especially after I have finally located all the pee-scented toy bags! tracking down missing items, thankfully sending other people out to take all the marketing around, how can we need to look at the staff schedule again already?
  • Shifting and shifting and signage. Thankfully Jess is doing the signage. She is very good at it.
  • Reports, reports, reports, Augh! Can't sit still any longer! Going to shift something. Oversize will do. Aides are very excited about getting to shift things too. Really. Nonfiction orders. More spreadsheets.
  • Meetings, planning, planning, all the spreadsheets for processing the nonfiction order are finally completed.
  • I would just like to point out that the last time I broke the laminator was in 2014, so this one has survived me for quite a while.
  • Everyone is tired and crotchety. A three-day weekend will get us all rested and refreshed for the start of programs on Tuesday!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Small Readers: Jack and the box by Art Spiegelman


Digging through my archives... this is one of the first Toon books and the first I reviewed.

I don't know who first said it, although I'm sure I read it on a blog somewhere, but "surreal" is definitely the word for this book.

Jack gets a toy. It is a very silly toy. It is a very creepy toy. It has scary eyes. It has a big red nose. It has teeth that stick out. It jumps at you.

Yeah. So.

Spiegelman's art is layered and intense; the color scheme changes with the mood of the story from reds and oranges to blues and greens. Jack, the bunny, has a range of reactions from fear and anxiety to trying to ignore or lighten the mood with his crazy toy. The simple panels are generally set in three, one large, two slightly smaller, making it easy for beginning readers to follow the story.

We went back and forth on putting this in juvenile graphic novels? Because it's a comic with panels. Or in easy readers? Because the reading level is definitely easy. We finally put it in easy readers because it felt like it fit more with Elephant and Piggie than Babymouse. Thus are momentous decisions made.

Verdict: Toon Books are a great idea, but I'm a little doubtful about the appeal of this particularly title.

Revisited: This is pretty much how I still feel about Toon books. This particular title has not been popular, although more mainstream titles like Silly Lilly have circulated well. I feel that sometimes Toon sacrifices readability and child appeal to artistic sensibility and this is definitely true in this surreal story.

ISBN: 978-0979923838; Published October 2008 by Toon Books; Purchased for the library

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

This was promoted at BEA as a similar to Beverly Cleary and is a debut novel. I'm going to say upfront that it was well done, but it's not all that.

Gertie has a mission. In fact, she always has missions, but this is a special one. She is going to be the greatest fifth grader ever, starting with making the best after-summer speech, then she is going to visit her estranged mother and make her realize how foolish she's been in throwing away her chance to be in the life of someone so awesome as Gertie. She's not quite sure what will happen after that, but she'll deal with that when it happens. Of course, things go wrong right away when new girl Mary Sue shows up and is instantly the focus of attention, being that she's from Hollywood and everything. Things go from bad to worse as Gertie manages to alienate her smart friend Jean, anxious follower Junior Junior, and even little Audrey, the girl her great Aunt Rae babysits, who is like her little sister. Then the whole school turns against Gertie when Mary Sue's mother, who is a an environmental lobbyist, says horrible things about Gertie's dad, who works on an offshore oil rig. Will Gertie ever prove she's awesome or will she end up the most vilified fifth grader in history?

The writing is smooth and enjoyable, Gertie's trials and travails are dramatic and humorous, and readers will sympathize as everything seems to go wrong when she has such good intentions. There is a lot of positive buzz on this title from blurbs by well-known, award-winning authors to positive reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. Jillian Tamaki's illustrations give it a classic, Ramona feel. However, I didn't care for it much and unless it wins a major award won't be purchasing it. Why not?

The historical setting of the book confused me. Various details seem to set this story in the late 1950s or early 1960s. However, some are contradictory (and that may well be that I simply don't know this time period well - feel free to let me know in the comments!). Audrey is obsessed with the Waltons, Gertrude was still a "normal" name during this time period. However, Gertie's teacher, Ms. Simms, is African-American as is her best friend Jean and Alabama's schools were not desegregated until the early 1960s. I find it hard to believe that nobody commented or had any issues with Ms Simms (or hired her in the first place) in a small town in Alabama. Gertie is shown wearing shorts and I'm pretty sure girls simply didn't wear shorts in the 1960s in small towns in the south (or anywhere, as far as I know). Offshore drilling seems to have also started being used more around this time but environmental concerns seem to be a later development. Gertie's friend Junior Junior shows up with a mohawk hairstyle, which wasn't widely seen until the 1970s. The whole book felt like it was trying to be modern, and yet was also historical which was odd.

However, my main reason is just that most kids won't be interested in this book. Yet another white protagonist with friends of color (personally I was much more interested in how Jean, a smart African-American girl, fared in a small coastal Alabama town in the 1960s), a brash, spunky Southern girl with mother issues (I'm from the south, sort of, and I assure you that all our mothers are not dead or absent, though you wouldn't know it from middle grade literature) and a story set during the 1960s, which is a time period my readers can hardly picture, let alone drum up interest in. Teachers and librarians who date from this time period may fall on this with cries of joy, but there are plenty of similar books out there and, no matter how well-written this one is, it's just not unique.

Verdict: If you have lots of fans of Clementine, Kate DiCamillo, or Susan Patron this will be a popular choice for your library. Otherwise I'd call this an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9780374302610; Published October 2016 by Farrar Straus Giroux; ARC provided by publisher at BEA