Saturday, December 31, 2016

Highlights from a year of reader's advisory

Just you and me Danny, facing the book-hungry
hordes together. Some back-up would be
appreciated, Christina!
Every week I include reader's advisory, requests, and other collection notes in my "What's happening at the library" feature. I use these records for updating collection development, keeping an eye on what kids are reading, and knowing where to push the collection. I've collected here the highlights that I plan to work on next year.

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • this is a specific young patron who always requests the same thing, usually books based on video games. I have tried to purchase some Sonic comics in prebound collections, but they never show up. I have a few floppy comics and I'm skeptical of widespread interest in Mario books.
  • Gingerbread man books
    • School request. Some of mine have fallen apart and need to be replaced.
  • Pokemon
    • I would really like easy readers and early chapter books. I will definitely get more copies of the Visual companion.
  • Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
    • I recommend these so often, I am working on replacing missing/damaged volumes and getting a few extra copies of the beginning books in the series.
  • Easy readers
    • Paradoxically, I am getting requests both for the very beginning, emergent readers (I am buying Holiday House's I Like to Read series and boxed sets of paperbacks) and classics like Frog and Toad and Mouse Soup.
  • Weather
    • This is on the new school curriculum. I have very few weather books for upper grade elementary students.
  • My Weird School
    • Weird resurgence of interest in these. Moved to the juvenile series paperbacks and plan to add more titles.
  • Tractor books
    • These are always big in the fall when kids see tractors in the fields. Can always use more!
  • Seasons, especially fall (apples, pumpkins, leaves)
    • There are never enough. Why can't we read books about hibernating snakes?
  • Old Macdonald had a truck
    • This was a HUGE hit - I plan to buy additional copies.
  • Mr. Ball
    • The Jump-Into-Chapters books have proved popular.
  • Chronicles of Narnia
    • Total lack of interest for years and suddenly everybody wants them. I will look into getting additional copies.
  • Gymnastics
    • I updated sports books this year and most of my requests have been for gymnastics, cheerleading, swimming, volleyball, etc. In other words, the subjects there isn't much on! I am working on getting more sports books featuring girls.
  • Max Crumbly
    • I only purchased 1 copy of this and although it has been consistently checked out there is not the interest there is in Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid.
  • History
    • I am updating the 900s this coming year. I have almost nothing on the Vietnam War and need newer titles on just about everything.
  • Magic Animal Friends
    • They were huge last summer. I am getting Fairy Animals of Misty Wood for fans. *gag*
  • I Survived
    • Perennially popular. I am going to try to add more hardcover/library bound to my collection of tattered paperbacks.
  • FukuFuku Kitten
    • Fans of this and Chi's Sweet Home make me think about a small, separate section for juvenile manga. I have no idea how this would work though, unless I put it in the favorites....
  • Disgusting Creatures by Elisa Gravel
    • Very popular series, probably due to my continued booktalking
  • Branches
    • This imprint from Scholastic continues to be very popular. I have collected nearly all the titles (excepting Notebook of Doom and Dragon Masters) into one section.
  • Spirit Animals
    • I shifted and made a bigger section for these and bought some on audio
  • Captain Underpants
    • I realized that not only did I not have enough copies, I am missing some titles. I have no idea how that happened....I will rectify it next year.
  • Mo Willems
    • I replaced all the Elephant and Piggie books and bought extra titles. Now I need to tackle the picture books, especially Pigeon.
  • Post Office
    • I bought a ton of community helpers books this year both to meet demand and in preparation for our big party in April, as the theme will be....community!
  • Courageous Princess by Espinosa
    • A fan introduced others and it flew off the shelves. I might get second copies for this summer...
  • Magic Tricks
    • You can never have enough, especially in the summer and after magicians perform.
  • Muddy Max by Elizabeth Rusch
    • I really loved this one and so did the kids, but sadly there was no follow-up although it looked like it should have been a series.

This week at the library; or, A brief moment

What's Happening
  • We were closed Monday and Friday, so this was a short week. We worked on many things.
Projects
  • Finished reviewing juvenile series (paperbacks) section for new series and replacements. Order list ready for January.
  • Started working on Winter Wigglers materials and instructions (my associate runs these programs)
  • Finished various toys and kits that had been waiting for bits and pieces and instructions. Added to Read 'n' Play blog.
  • Boring paperwork like budgets, schedules, etc.
  • Cleaned off the prize book cart
  • Working on order lists for January-March
  • Monthly report and part of the yearly report done.
Professional Development
  • Webinar: New Nonfiction for Youth Spring 2017 (Booklist)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Small Readers: Sky High: George Ferris's Big Wheel by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Gene Barretta

There has been a little surge of interest in Ferris wheels and several new books on this subject over the past year or two. I'm not sure exactly why, but it's always a popular topic for my area, since it ties in with our big county fair.

This high-level easy reader hits several simple points in the story of the creation of the first Ferris wheel and the life of George Ferris. Readers will learn how, as a boy, George enjoyed watching water wheels, how his wife encouraged him to enter for a contest for the World's Fair, and the difficulties he encountered in creating his great wheel.

Cheerful cartoons feature an (all white) cast of characters mainly composed of Ferris' family and investors. Even when laughing at his invention or refusing funding, all the people look friendly and cheerful which is a bit disconcerting.

This is a level 3 Step into Reading, aimed at grades 1-3. It has longer text, although still in a simple, large font, and more complicated vocabulary. Readers who are fairly confident will enjoy these titles with the shorter text and cheerful pictures.

Verdict: While the book is, generally speaking, historically accurate, it's an additional purchase at best. The easy reader format doesn't often lend itself well to history (in my opinion) as it doesn't have space or vocabulary to fully address the context of events. However, it's a good choice for kids who want additional reading material and might get interested in learning more about Ferris wheels or the World's Fair.

ISBN: 9781101934531; Published 2016 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stick Dog wants a hot dog by Tom Watson

The first Tom Watson title I read was Stick Cat. It was ok, but I wasn't crazy about it. My friends all assured me that Stick Dog was much funnier and I should try that instead. I picked this one to read for the simple reason that it's falling apart and I need to replace it anyways and I had run out of books to read at lunch.

This is the second Stick Dog title. In the first, Stick Dog and his friends manage to secure hamburgers. In this title, they are after the wonderful frankfurters they have seen and smelled (yes, they're hot dogs but that's just too confusing). The dogs will have to content with crazy plans, a gang of raccoons, and one of their friends getting dognapped before they can have a chance at the delicious food.

This was funnier than Stick Cat; the tongue-in-cheek humor and Stick Dog's dichotomous character move the story along. On the one hand, Stick Dog is practical and intelligent, much smarter than his wacky friends. On the other hand, he's still a dog and obsessed with interesting smells, chasing squirrels, and above all - food!

Verdict: I can see the quirky appeal of these books now - they're just right for readers who want something silly with pictures but also more sophisticated humor than the average chapter book. I don't specifically recommend them since they're like Wimpy Kid - something you're bound to have anyways - but I think it would be fun to use them in a book club if the kids haven't already read them.

ISBN: 9780062110800; Published 2013 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My Little Storybook: Little Monkey's Day of Play illustrated by Sarah Ward

No author is given for this board book and frankly I am not surprised as the text leaves something to be desired. Halting rhymes show little monkeys playing throughout the day; "Little monkey and his friend have fun as they climb,/but when their tummies rumble they go home for dinnertime." Both little monkeys are male and it's confusing that only one parent-child combination is shown - where did the second monkey come from and where is he going?

The art is sweet, soft pastels in brown, green and blue with spots of brightly colored flowers. The cute little monkeys are attractive but the size of the book and the pastel hues of the art makes the pictures hard to discern, especially for the audience. I prefer board books with bold, simple pictures that are appropriate for babies' visual development.

The book is a small rectangle with rounded edges. The pages are thick cardboard with a coating of the picture that looks and feels like vinyl or laminate. The hinge on the spine is very thin and I'm not sure how well it would stand up.

Verdict: Cute and many parents are likely to scoop it up, but the small size, lengthy and drab text, and pastel pictures make this one I wouldn't recommend to libraries.

ISBN: 9781499802276; Published 2016 by little bee books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stripes the Tiger by Jean Leroy and Berengere Delaporte

I glanced at this, briefly, when I first received a review copy for Cybils and then added it to the massive stack of books to read and review. When I finally got around to reading it thoroughly, I fell in love.

Stripes is a small cat with a BIG personality. In fact, excuse me, he is not a cat at all, he is a tiger! Stripes does his best to live up to his idea of himself as a great hunter and a frightening creature, but his owner is not at all appreciative. When his owner takes him to the zoo to meet a real tiger, Stripes realizes what he really wants to be... and makes it come true.

I absolutely love the twist in the end of this story. SPOILER Rather than having the little cat learn that it's just as good to be little, or to be content with what you are, it turns out that he was just in the wrong place all the time.

The art is delightful with lots of bright colors and the faces are hilarious. The personality of each character, from the parrot sticking out its tongue to Stripes' stubborn face to the bored tiger, are just right and will keep readers giggling through the whole story.

This translation of a Canadian (French) title from 2010 garnered positive reviews but seems to have flown under the radar for most of its recent release. I strongly suggest that changes and people get on the Stripes bandwagon. ROAR!

Verdict: This will make a hilarious read-aloud for a wide variety of ages and I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 9781441321848; US (English) edition published 2016 by Peter Pauper Press; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Monday, December 26, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: How Kate Warne saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Valentina Belloni

As anybody who knows me is aware, I am not a fan of picture book biographies. However, I went into this one thoroughly prepared to enjoy it, since I was excited about having more information on Kate Warne.

Unfortunately, I ended up not liking it after all, and not just because it was a picture book biography.

Kate Warne was the first female detective hired by Allan Pinkerton. She collects information at tea parties and by telling fortunes. Then the Civil War begins and Kate's work takes on a dangerous turn. She intercepts a plot to assassinate President Lincoln and works with Pinkerton to save the president's life. Kate Warne continued to work for Pinkerton and was publicized as the first female police detective after her death.

An author's note mentions the lack of information about Kate Warne and a few more brief notes about her life as well as a short bibliography.

While I appreciate the lack of information to work with and the limits of the picture book biography, this felt very sketchy. I was skeptical of the dialogue given to some of the characters; it definitely lent an historical fiction feel to the book. Most of all, I disliked the art. It's sweet and cute and gorgeous - and completely unsuited to the story of a woman making her way in a man's world in the gritty Civil War era. All the characters, including background characters, are pasteboard white and look about sixteen. There is a lot of vibrant colors in the dresses, something I doubt Warne would have had as a poor widow working for a pittance.

Verdict: I'm not generally a fan of picture book biographies to start with, but I felt that this one didn't even make much of an effort to be historically accurate. It's awesome to have more women in history, but I had hoped for something better. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780807541173; Published 2016 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Friday, December 23, 2016

Small Readers: Animals in Winter by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

Bullfrog has a new weather series, "What happens in winter?" which I absolutely must have for the library. The set includes Animals, Birds, Plants, and Weather in winter. I was given Animals in Winter for review.

In simple, brief text the book walks the reader through animal behavior in winter, as the animals grow sleepy, hibernate, change their fur to camouflage themselves, and store food. Animals mentioned include deer, foxes, hares, a bear, and a frog. The book is illustrated with bright, clear photographs and attractive, simple shapes of color to outline the words and photographs.

Bullfrog books have been very popular with my beginning readers, even though I shelve them in the picture books. They're great introductions to popular topics for teachers to read aloud in class or for kids to pore over as well.

The scope of the book doesn't allow for a complete coverage of the topic; migration isn't mentioned aside from the opening sentence noting the geese flying south. Although it's not stated, it's clear this is a midwestern/northern winter with snow, cold temperatures, and familiar "winter" animals like bears and elk.

Verdict: This isn't complete coverage of the topic, but the easy text, attractive pictures, and compact size of the book make it an excellent addition to your winter offerings if you're located in the Midwest. Personally, I can never have enough seasonal titles and I'm eager to add this set to my collection.

ISBN: 9781620313930; Published 2016 by Jump!/Bullfrog Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

First, I have to confess that I was absolutely sure this was a picture book. In fact, I told the cataloger to put it in picture books and wondered why she was so confused!

It is not a picture book. It is a heavily illustrated, beautifully crafted, meticulously researched, 160 page biography of the beloved children's author.

Beginning with E. B. White's childhood, Sweet takes readers through the different phases of White's life and writing career, from his work at the New Yorker to his reclusive life on a family farm and the writing of each of his three famous children's books. Sweet alternates between brief, succinct paragraphs describing the events and thoughts and quotes from White's letters and writing. She references the writers and children he influenced, the responses of adults and children to his books, and the legacy he left.

Sweet's collage illustrations are completely integrated into the text and layout of the book. One spread has a full-page illustration of a young boy on a swing paired with a passage from White's collection One Man's Meat, reflecting on his years in Maine. Another spread has richly layered illustrations of eggs, chalkboard, swans, and an excerpt from The Trumpet of the Swan. Even pages that are primarily text have photographs, small inset illustrations, and other things to catch the eye and enrich the story.

All quotations are clearly attributed within the text. There is also a two-page author's note about the inspiration and art process for the book, an afterword by White's granddaughter Martha White, a publishing timeline, notes, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: This is a beautiful book, much like the spare but lovely prose of E. B. White himself. It may not fly off the shelf but it will be appreciated by children who love beautiful language and want to experience the reflective life of E. B. White. I won't say it's a necessity for every library, but if you can purchase it, I recommend it.

ISBN: 9780544319592; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi

This is very clever and just the thing for kids who want something to grab their interest and their little fingers.

The left side of each spread lists 1 item with a variant on the title - look again, unless, could it be, etc. The right side shows the single item, but when you pull out an accordion fold the 1 thing turns into several things. This is the counting portion. 1 mushroom turns into 4 toucans, 1 strawberry turns into 5 red birds, all the way up to 10.

The pictures are colorful and, if they sometimes push belief a little (why do the carrot-turned-rabbits have spring of green on their ears?) they are undeniably clever and cute. Kids will also enjoy manipulating the double folds that reveal the creatures.

However, I'm a bit doubtful about how this will hold up to repeated uses by a library audience. The folds are, of necessity, thin, slick cardboard. They are not too flimsy, but very few fold-out pages or movable parts last past more than a couple circulations in my library.

Verdict: A fun and interesting concept. If you have an audience who's careful with their board books or the budget to replace frequently, definitely add this one.

ISBN: 9789888341207; Published 2016 by Minedition; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske

Sometime I'm going to make a list of funny fish stories with surprise endings. Really, it's a genre. Although technically barnacles are not fish (they are related to crustaceans).

Barnacle is bored. The waves come in, the waves go out. Nothing ever happens. She just sits there. If only She was more like that fun fish! He gets to swim around, probably has all sorts of fun with other fish like....that....eel.

Oh.

You know what, Barnacle isn't so bored anymore.

The real trick to getting a funny fish story just right is the timing and art and Fenske hits it all the way. Barnacle's bored eyes and dangling limbs, shift back and forth in the flat, blue ocean. She imagines a colorful, exciting life for the cute polka-dotted fish, all the while showing her boredom and annoyance with just the few shifting lines of her eyes and mouth. The few simple colors of the ocean and deck on which Barnacle sits extend the monotony of her existence. When the eel comes through, the pages are laid out just right - no need to flip ahead or behind when reading this one in storytime! You get the full shock value (-:)

Verdict: For fans of eat or be eaten fish stories (and who isn't?) I most sincerely was not bored. Thanks Barnacle.

ISBN: 9780545865043; Published 2016 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 19, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Plants can't sit still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada

Hirsch and Posada combine to produce a delightful and unique book about plant movement.

Vines creep, flowers open and close, seeds explode; plants are just one big parade looking for what they all need, light, water, and earth. With the repeated refrains "plants can't sit still" and "all plants need water, sunshine, and room to grow" the creators have made a fun and informative book. There are plenty of different movements to mimic, either in storytime or your own scientific experiments, as well as additional information woven into the text. A hungry grasshopper causes a mimosa to close its leaves, moonflowers open for the moon, and coconuts float on the ocean, looking for a new home. Posada's cut paper and collage illustrations are vibrant and create a sense of movement and growth.

Back matter includes an author's note, glossary, and more information including books at a young reader's level and websites to learn more about plants that move.

Verdict: A great choice to add to storytime collections and your general library collection, perfect for learning about plants or the outdoors. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781467780315; Published 2016 by Millbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This week at the library; or, I am Done

Some of the holiday bags I've made
for people who are lucky enough to get
presents from me this year.
What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • The aftermath of the storm meant a very quiet day. I got new internet.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddler Cookie Party (Pattie)
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • Vast numbers of people came to eat cookies and play in the Storyroom, including Early Head Start. A small but happy group attended book club.
  • Wednesday
    • No programs. We got work done.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • We were supposed to have an outreach program but it was too cold and we cancelled. A couple babies did show up though! We sorted toys and cleaned out the Storyroom, I suddenly remember the need to do the newsletter, and I stayed late to FINISH the juvenile fiction project! This involved going through the juvenile fiction by browsing by call number. Making a list of all items that should have been deleted and weren't (old missing, old paid-discards, etc. - over 200), pulling and reviewing all multiple copies including everything that was back in storage (which had been removed when we shifted things last October), checking everything that was checked out for long-overdue, checking classics etc. for new editions AND cleaning out and updating the series spreadsheet!
  • Friday
    • Staff holiday breakfast and I am on VACATION.
Projects
  • Sonic, Lego Batman books
  • Gingerbread man books
  • Scaredy Squirrel
  • German cooking

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ling & Ting: Not exactly the same! by Grace Lin

[Digging through the archives...]

Ling and Ting look the same. They have the same smiles. They have the same hair. But they are not exactly the same and after a trip to the barber everyone can tell! Happily, they move on to other adventures, including trying magic trips, making dumplings, checking out library books, and telling stories.

This is a gorgeous easy reader! At first, it seems to follow the typical episodic chapters of a classic friendship easy reader. But it's not quite the same...first, can you think of any easy readers about twins? I can't. Definitely a new topic, not to mention that I've never seen an easy reader about Asian kids either, at least not with them as the main character; Rosemary Well's stories don't really count, since Yoko is a cat. I can think of several little adopted Chinese girls in our community who will be thrilled to find a story that features girls who look like them - especially one that deals with the "you all look the same" thing in such a funny but firm manner.

Moving on...Grace Lin adapts the episodic chapter format to her writing style by creating a lovely and subtle story arc. Starting with Ting's accidental haircut, which distinguishes the girls, moving on through stories that show how they are different and how they are alike, and finishing with a storytelling plot that revisits each of the previous stories, Lin gently teaches narrative structure and reinforces comprehension while writing a funny and sweet story kids will enjoy reading and parents will want to listen to. Her illustrations are both classic and contemporary - the girls' clothing won't get outdated in future years, but there's a definite of the moment feel to the pictured events.

Verdict: Buy it! Give it to kids with siblings, twins, and kids who like funny stories!

[Revisited: This series is still in print and Lin has written several sequels. While I have more of an audience for lower level easy readers, this is still a good choice and one that more intermediate readers enjoy. I still recommend it frequently.]

ISBN: 978-0316024525; Published July 2010 by Little, Brown; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bridge to the Wild: Behind the scenes at the zoo by Caitlin O'Connell, including photographs by Timothy Rodwell

Caitlin O'Connell, author of The Elephant Scientist and other nonfiction titles about elephants, branches out into a wider look at a zoo. She introduces the book by talking about her personal experiences, both as a child and adult, with animals and how they shaped her life. The book itself is a journey through the Zoo Atlanta in Georgia, going behind the scenes to talk to the keepers and interact with the animals.

O'Connell meets the pandas and watches an experiment that will hopefully improve their breeding chances. She explains the social interactions of elephants, the parenting behavior of gorillas and orangutans and the family structure of meerkats. Readers "hear" the dawn chorus of bird calls and lion roars at the zoo, experience a trip to the reptile house, and see a keeper train a Komodo dragon. The final chapters follow a vet around the zoo, observe an experiment with gorillas, hear from the zookeepers, and finally see mating behavior in the flamingos. The book ends by revisiting the pandas at endangered species day.

Back matter includes photographs, sources and references, bibliography, a note on endangered animals, acknowledgements, index, and data sheets readers can use for their own observation at the zoo.

At first, I was skeptical about this book. It felt like it skipped around too much and didn't have a strong focus. But as I finished reading and began to reflect on it, I saw that it is, in fact, much more organized than at first it seems. All the observations, stories, and photographs blend together into a trip to the zoo - visiting your favorite animals, spending extra time observing interesting behavior, and sparking interest in future careers and study for kids and teens.

I'm a dedicated zoo-goer myself and my preference is to visit in winter - while there are some animals you won't be able to see, there are some you definitely won't miss - the people. Making inane comments, displaying ignorance of animals and behavior, being noisy in quiet areas, they drive me crazy! I hope that encouraging kids to read this book might make them think twice about the zoo as entertainment and start seeing it as an importance place of conservation and learning about animals.

Verdict: A great title to give to animal-lovers and kids considering careers with animals - pair this with Zoology for Kids for a great look into the many possible job options at a zoo.

ISBN: 9780544277397; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: I'm Grumpy; I'm Sunny by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm

Jennifer and Matthew Holm, sibling creators of the popular Babymouse graphic novel series, have ventured into board book territory with My First Comics.

Grumpy Cloud features, of course, a grumpy cloud. Why is it so grumpy? A series of wordless panels show grumpy cloud getting snagged on a mountain, dropping an ice cream cone, etc. When Grumpy runs into Sunny, it tries to cheer up the cloud without success. In fact, Grumpy gets mad and turns into a thunderstorm! Now he feels bad - but he finds a way to make it up to Sunny.

Sunny Cloud features, of course, Sunny! What makes Sunny happy? It has found a balloon, a bright red one. When Tizzy the Tornado shows up and wants to share the balloon, will Sunny let her take a turn?

Each page has simple comic panels with broad, black borders. Some are full page, some are smaller, and all have simple, bold art. There are a few word bubbles, comic sound effects like "zoom!" and "kaboom!" and different-colored fonts. The art is bold and simple with primary colors and simple comic devices, like a black squiggle to show Tizzy's anger and simple but expressive faces. The books are sturdy squares, well-suited to small children.

Verdict: These are quirky and unique but just right for young children who can pick out the details of animals and flowers and preschoolers who will enjoy the simple storyline. Whether or not kids have the visual development to follow the simple panels, they can enjoy the light-hearted story and art.

I'm Grumpy
ISBN: 9780553533446
I'm Sunny
ISBN: 9780553533460

Published 2016 by Random House; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It came in the mail by Ben Clanton

Nothing like going old-school with a dragon!

Liam loves to get mail, as readers might guess from the endpapers covered with letters. Sadly, he never gets any. Oh well. Liam has an idea; he'll write a letter! He decides to send it to the mailbox itself and the next thing he knows, he gets something, something amazing; a dragon! Liam is so excited he keeps asking for - and getting - more and more and more and more things through the mail. Finally, things get a little out of control and he has idea to help him scale back on the mail.

I've come across Clanton a few times, but this is his first book that thoroughly delighted me. The clever typeface, fantasy flip of the postal service, and the increasing flood of things are both humorous and satisfying. I loved the colored pencil look (yes, I realize it's actually watercolor) and the many clever details. The burnt letters, the air mail puns, you can read this book multiple times and find something new every time.

My one quibble is that the diverse kid, Jamel, is relegated to friend instead of protagonist. I think he would have made a great main character and looked awesome on the cover.

Verdict: You'll need to set up an activity station for mail when you purchase this, because every kid is going to want to try their hand at writing letters, just in case they might get a dragon!

ISBN: 9781481403603; Published June 2016 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Stunning illustrations and spare, poetic prose tell the story of a coyote's night hunt, searching for children for her pups. While her pups wait in the den, guarded by their older siblings, mother coyote hunts. She tries for a mouse, for eggs, for a rabbit, and finally, just as the sun rises, successfully captures a turkey.

Ibatoulline's rich illustrations show the beauty of the night and the coyote's determined hunt for food for her family. Back matter includes further information on coyotes and a list of further information in books and websites.

This story is simple but beautifully captures an often-maligned animal hunting for her family. Older readers will be able to use the book as a starting point for discussion of urban wildlife while younger children will enjoy the evocative text and art.

Verdict: A must-have for your picture book section, whether or not you include informative picture books. A great book for nonfiction storytimes as well as class discussion and one-on-one reading.

ISBN: 9781626720411; Published 2016 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, December 10, 2016

This week at the library; or, I have so many things to do

What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Staff meeting. I got budget numbers! Always very exciting. Now I can really start planning next year in earnest.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Bookaneers
    • Of course, having requested All The Books, including several older chapter book selections all those extra kids didn't come, only my regulars - and a pair that thought they were too late b/c the door was closed (they weren't too late - we were too noisy) so I gave them books and crackers afterwards. Some of the kids were a little disappointed that we didn't have a book-specific craft, but I was too tired to come up with one.
  • Wednesday
    • No programs. We worked on many things.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lego Club
    • I came in at noon because I was working another person's evening shift. Still working on juvenile fiction, scheduling, and misc. things. It was a small but very....intense group at Lego Club. I owe my aide chocolate for covering the last half hour.
  • Friday
    • Half-day. I went to pick up the cookies for tomorrow and to Walmart for decorations and stuff and set up for the program and hauled lots of stuff up from the basement.
  • Saturday
    • Santa's Kitchen
    • Finally this week is over. I went to buy a new computer and fight with my internet, which didn't start working (for as little reason as it stopped) until Sunday night. We also had a huge snowstorm.
Professional Development
  • Webinar: Media Mentors and Libraries: Family Engagement in the 21st Century (ALSC)
  • Webinar: YSS Powerhouse Presents: All in the family
  • Webinar: Holiday House Spring 2017 New Book Presentation
Reader's Advisory
  • Everyone wants gingerbread man books. I need more copies next year.
  • 9 year old with a high lexile who doesn't like bad guys - this is a recurrent request and a personal favorite as I get to suggest all my favorite books from my own childhood reading! This time I went with Freddy the Pig, the Enormous Egg, and Scott Corbett's Trick books.
  • fan of Wings of Fire needs a new series in the 800/900 lexile level. Dark is Rising and Tunnels.
  • Mesopotamia project. Sigh.
  • leopard geckos - my one book was out
  • superheroes for a little girl - showed her the easy reader tub
Holiday displays and stealth programs (none of which I put together)

gingerbread man decorating station

bulletin board display with lights!

book wreath

winter scene

circ staff's book bundle tree

Friday, December 9, 2016

Small Readers: You should meet women who launched the computer age by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen

I have to admit that until this year I was very skeptical about easy reader biographies. Do the kids who are still learning to read have the context to understand what they're reading? Why would they even be interested in low-level biographies of famous people?

I stand corrected. Two of the kids in my beginning reader's book club, Bookaneers, are absolutely obsessed with biographies - and they are both stellar readers that can easily devour a stack of whatever I hand them but especially love biographies. Do the kids really grasp the context and character of the personalities they're learning about? Eh, probably not - but it introduces them to historical figures they'll later learn more about.

So, naturally, I am finding as many biographies about overlooked people in history as possible! This new biography in the You Should Meet... series profiles six women who were the first computer programmers.

The story begins in World War II, when a group of six women were hired to program (even though nobody used that language yet) the first computer. The story is interspersed with information on the development of computers and computer languages. It ends with the recognition of male scientists and the six women being lost to history until 1985 when Kathy Kleiman discovered their important contributions. The book ends with a brief history of programming, more notes of women in computer technology, and discussion questions. The illustrations are cheerful, but not too cartoonish.

Although this is promoted as a level three easy reader, I would actually call it a beginning chapter book. It is primarily text, sometimes full pages, and paragraphs. While the font is larger than the typical chapter book, the density of the text and more complex sentence structure make this best for intermediate readers who can handle a challenge.

Verdict: If you are looking for more beginning chapter nonfiction and high level easy readers, this is a good series to consider. I am eager to introduce more diversity to my nonfiction, especially now that I am getting a lot of school requests for nonfiction for a new curriculum, so this one is definitely going on my list.

ISBN: 9781481470476; Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight: Borrowed from another library in my consortium


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 disaster in Dayton, Ohio by Lois Miner Huey

Beginning with the doomsday warnings of Andrew Fox, known as "High Water" Fox, the story of the 1913 floods of Dayton, Ohio begins on a note of impending danger. Huey follows the progress of the devastating floods through the experiences of several people. Mary Althoff, librarian, who was trapped with several others in the Dayton Public Library and chronicled her experiences. Clarence Mauch, a store clerk who escaped over the rooftops. John Bell, an employee of the telephone company who managed to call for help. Famous inventor Wilbur Wright and his wife Katharine who escaped from their home and John H. Patterson, founder of the National Cash Register Company on the outskirts of town who headed rescue and recovery efforts. Finally, and of most interest to me, is African American Bill Sloan who rescued hundreds of people in the poor West Dayton area.

Huey includes original newspaper accounts and personal reminiscences of the people involved to create a realistic picture of the tragedy and its aftermath. This is more than just the account of a natural disaster though. She concludes the historical account with the results of the flood, including how it was largely forgotten and its role in the creation of FEMA and the American Red Cross. She also discusses the continued influence of similar floods, such as Hurricane Katrina.

In the author's note, Lois Huey talks about the research process and the difficulty of finding original sources and information on how poorer families were affected by the flood and African-American involvement like Bill Sloan. A timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further information, and index are also included.

Verdict: Although there are a few drawbacks to the structure of the book; the picture book layout and extremely small print of the back matter, overall the strong writing and research of the book will make this a popular choice for readers interested in history and natural disasters. I especially appreciated Huey's effort to include those often ignored in these historical accounts. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781467794329; Published 2016 by Millbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

When I initially saw this title I was not impressed. I don't care for board books that are really written for parents or purport to "teach" very young children who should be playing, not memorizing facts or learning to read.

But then I actually read the book and it's awesome! So, never judge a book by its title! The first spread shows a child greeting a small blue bird. Using the bird, Spiro explains flight in simple, child-friendly phrases. "The engines help the plane go fast, fast, fast...then the wings lift the plane into the air." The book progresses from how the bird flies, to how the plane flies, to how a rocket flies, all in simple language and demonstrations that a toddler can understand.

Chan's illustrations show a brown-skinned, gender-neutral child, smiling as they greet and watch the bird, plane and rocket. The pictures are colorful with small details but bold and simple enough for a baby or toddler's developing eyesight.

Verdict: Perfect for parents who want "educational" books for their babies or just delightful for every day reading. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580895415; Published 2016 by Charlesbridge; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Hungry Lion; or, a dwindling assortment of animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

I've been waiting eagerly to get my hands on this book - I'm always up for some eating animals action (-:).

"Once upon a time there was a hungry lion" the book begins, and then lists all the other adorable animals surrounding him. Oh wait, that's not quite right. Let's try listing those animals again. And again. And... where did everybody go? Surprise! Of course the lion didn't eat them all! It's a party! Um....they're going to eat the cake, right? Well....maybe not....

Call it my warped sense of humor, but I thought this book was hilarious. There are quite a few "a hungry animal is going to eat you no wait it's just a party" books and it's refreshing to see this one with it's triple-twist and giggle-worthy ending. The popularity of Klassen's Hat trilogy shows that kids will enjoy this kind of dry, slightly gruesome humor and hilarity is sure to ensue in your storytimes. Cummins' bright, colorful illustrations features an adorable assortment of animals - and a stoic lion with a glare that fits his naughty personality perfectly.

Verdict: Kindergarten and first grade will laugh hysterically over this book, as well as request multiple readings so they can catch all the details. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481448895; Published 2016 by Atheneum; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The story begins with mysterious tentacles slowly slithering up the page as the book muses over the mystery of the creatures we call Giant Squid. The book reads like a story, strong narrative text telling the story of a hungry squid searching for prey, of its strange and fearsome anatomy. There are many questions - how does it breed? Why does it change color? In a cloud of ink and a swirl of tentatacles on a folded out spread, we see the squid one more time and then...it is gone.

Rohmann's dark and mysterious pictures are a marvelous complement to Fleming's poetic text and both introduce readers to the few things known about the giant squid as well as its many mysterious aspects.

Back matter includes a detailed diagram of a squid, an author's note with more information, and an extensive bibliography.

Verdict: A stunning and eye-catching book about a mysterious creature, this title is sure to be a hit in storytimes and on the shelf. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781596435995; Published 2016 by Roaring Brook; Purchased for the library

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This week at the library; or, Madness Resumes

This is Stuart. He hasn't bitten anyone. Yet.
What's Happening (with bonus overview of December!)
  This year I'm not offering our winter reading program - after we got Reading Explorer off the ground, interest in a specific winter reading program, never high, dwindled to almost nothing. I'll revive it someday at a different time perhaps (it's not season-specific). I added a Scholastic Book Fair, hoping to take advantage of all the community holiday programming that takes place this week (most of it happens in the library's community room or right outside our building). My book prize cart has gotten a bit sad and I wanted some new titles to spruce it up.
  Nobody leaves holiday decorating to me, because I'd just put facts about how snakes hibernate everywhere (and hedgehogs! Hedgehogs are super festive!) but Jess put lots of stuff up, mostly snow-themed. We haul all the Christmas books and movies out from the back of the stacks (every year I try to weed some of the older stuff - who needs that many Christmas books???) and add books on hibernation and snow into the display.
  Our circulation staff, who do most of the general library decorations, put up a tree in the open area in front of the children's desk and wrap bundles of books. Generally not Christmas books specifically, but picture books and easy readers. Patrons can check out a whole bundle and unwrap it at home (although some kids can't wait). We usually circulate about 300+ books with this gimmick (and I'm very grateful the circulation staff does all the wrapping!)
  Our programs are mostly over by the second week of the month and then we take a break from programming. Patrons do ask for programs later in the month, but I've found through trial and error that they won't actually attend anything after about the 15th. Our schools are only off for about 10 days.
  I always think of all these cool things I'd LIKE to do in December - like hafuboti's cool Decemberley decorating scheme, or outdoor stuff like snowman building and bird feeding stations. Realistically, when it comes to this point in the year I'm crazy with Cybils, planning next year, writing end-of-year reports, trying to finish all the projects, etc. This year I am not doing ANY outreach in December and it's a great relief.
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • It was cold and rainy. A good day for staying home in bed. Alas, we had to go to work. Humphrey II suddenly expired in the early afternoon and was hastily replaced by Stuart. Then a window started leaking. It was a typical Monday.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Board meeting for OPtions. Sorting picture books in preparation for shelving. Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling. I left at 3 since my hours are weird this week.
  • Wednesday
    • EAYC Outreach (Jess)
    • The book fair arrived in the morning. Sadly, our volunteer couldn't come in to help as she had a sick kiddo on her hands, but Jess got the basics up. When I came in at 1 (I was working a half day) I finished setting it up. Although I hesitate to call it a book fair, considering the lack of actual books. I am feeling a bit annoyed right now about that to be honest. It was a very annoying afternoon.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Holiday Ornaments
    • Teen Give a Gift (2 sessions) (Jess)
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • Phew, what a day! I decided at the last minute I really did need to come in and get things started, so I came in about 8:30 and got the book fair running and made sure our volunteer was set up. I went back home around 9, ate breakfast, and then back to work at noon, when I have a short desk shift, then misc. things to do, including huge hold stacks for book club and teacher requests, then vast amounts of glitter for the holiday ornaments - fortunately only 60 people came, I don't think we could have handled the 100+ people who came last year! We also had the high school choir singing in the lobby by the book fair and although last year nobody was interested this year tons of people came to that too! Jess had continuous middle schoolers and teens at her two Give a Gift sessions upstairs (note to self - next year make it clearer where the program is - several teens came to Messy Art Club instead by mistake) and then we did clean up and other things until closing at 8. The girls (my aides) played with the new hamster. He does not bite!
  • Friday
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • I came in at noon and got misc. things done as it wasn't busy until near closing time at 6pm. Kids came out and got me to answer reader's advisory questions which warmed my heart. I also realized that I am a horrible salesperson, b/c when my patrons ask if this is a book they should buy 3/4 of the time I say no, I have a better one in the library you can check out...there was a parrot.
    • We closed at 6 and I buckled down and got most of my monthly report written until a staff member attending the Santa reception used her key to get into the library and tell me the people were here now! I did brisk business until things started winding down at 8, but stayed open for some of the people running the reception who wanted to buy things and then helping shift furniture and stuff back into place. Finally left about 8:40. My feet hurt.
  • Saturday
    • Scholastic Book Fair
    • I came in to run the book fair. We had more stuff to put back from last night and I did some reader's advisory and help with the kids. It wasn't very busy, so I got some reports written and other work while I went back and forth. Finished the financials and was done at 3! It's been a long week.
Reader's Advisory
  • nonfiction author studies - Seymour Simon, Gail Gibbons, and Jean Fritz were requested, but many of those are out of print (or outdated). I suggested Steve Jenkins, Nic Bishop, Nicola Davies, and Jim Arnosky
  • Wimpy Kid
  • Peep and the big wide world
  • Pokemon gotta-catch-em-all handbook (checked out)
  • Stella Batts - checked out and had read them all, recommended Clementine
  • Dragon chapter books - Dragon Masters
  • Who Was series
  • penguin picture books
  • read-alike for Pip's Guide to Magical Creatures - Suzanne Selfors' Imaginary Veterinary
  • Josh Lacey's Island of Thieves for fan of Patterson's Treasure Hunters
  • Wimpy Kid
  • Pete the Cat multiple requests (kids saw it in the book fair)
  • Book fair titles we need - more Pokemon handbooks, Disney comic books - Finding Dory
  • I have been informed that Lego Ninjago is still popular and the kids don't really care about Nexo Knights - yet.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Squirrel in the house by Vivian Vande Velde, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman

I reviewed the first book in this "series" quite a few years ago. At the time, I wasn't particularly impressed, however the kids liked it and I purchased it. Now, 4 years later, another book has been added this one featuring only the squirrel Twitch and I liked it much better! (also, I'm not currently on decongestants, but that could change at any time).

Twitch knows that he is much more interesting than the dog. After all, if the dog (Cuddles) was really the man's best friend, why is he tied up to a tree? (convenient for dropping walnuts on his head, but still...) Twitch is delighted when he notices a custom-made door to the Inside just for him - a chimney! Once Inside, things get even more exciting with crashing lamps, screaming people, and frantic Cuddles. Naturally, this is nothing to do with Twitch - he is a valued guest after all!

After a while, Twitch finds the Inside, although fun, is a bit too exciting for him and goes back home. But then he sees a young human in trouble. Can he get Cuddles to understand and help him save the human?

This wacky, nonsensical story has a much smoother flow than the previous title and kids who like fast-paced, silly stories will enjoy whipping through it. Bjorkman's pen illustrations are an added bonus with frantic chase scenes and wild destruction.

Verdict: This is best suited to children who are ready for slightly higher level beginning chapter books but the humor is easily picked up and it's a light, funny story. Recommended to add to your beginning chapter book offerings.

ISBN: 9780823436330; Published 2016 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

I don't know why it took me a while to read this - Hatke is the kind of graphic novelist I love. He creates the fantasy/adventure stories the kids love but with rounded, diverse characters, especially girls.

Jack and his family are going through some tough times. He wants to help his mom, who is exhausted and stressed from working multiple jobs, but all she wants him to do is watch his autistic sister, Maddy, who never talks. When Jack gets into trouble at the county fair, selling the family car for a chest of magic seeds, it seems like the family is at their lowest point ever. But then Maddy plants some seeds and magic happens. The two are joined by homeschooled Lilly, who's lonely now that her brothers are gone and has a lot of useful skills (and weapons). The magical garden seems like the best thing that's ever happened. Jack finally has a friend, Maddy is more involved and happy than ever before, and they can do magical things with the plants and seeds. But maybe the garden isn't the perfect world it seems - and Jack has to make some difficult decisions with serious consequences.

Hatke's art is fresh and cinematic, balancing the excitement, danger, and adventure of the strange creatures and the garden with the character development of three complex personalities. It's a mark of his genius that he keeps this fairytale spin-off from being just another male-dominated fantasy adventure. While Jack is the central character, both Lilly and Maddy are strong characters in their own right and the three share equal time and equally complex emotions and feelings. Maddy, despite her silence, is no less a character than the other two and readers will feel both Jack's frustration at trying to read her moods and Maddy's frustration at trying to communicate in her own way. Lilly at first seems like the predictable tomboyish girl, but quickly grows into a character in her own right, anxious to experience the world and with emotions and struggles no less real than Jack's.

Verdict: This is a complex and powerful story with enough fantasy and adventure to capture the most reluctant reader. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781626722651; Published 2016 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium