Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found by Jonathan London, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Only a few months ago I reviewed the first Duck and Hippo title and now there's already a sweet sequel!

Duck and Hippo are planning to meet their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig, for a picnic. But when they arrive, Hippo realizes that he forgot to bring something to share! The celebration is put on hold while he goes off on his own to find some berries... and doesn't come back! Soon all the animals are lost in the woods, searching for each other. Will they ever find Hippo? Will Hippo find the berries? Is it too late for their picnic?

This sweet tale of friendship has the repeated phrases that will keep small children interested and make for a fun storytime read. There's enough tension in the story to interest a preschooler but not enough scary moments to really scare them. Most of all, the story is just fun!

This is best seen in the illustrations, which I admit are my favorite part of this series. I love Joyner's bold colors, dark lines, and friendly-looking animals. This book has many evening and night scenes, which Joyner executes delightfully with rich turquoise, dark blue, and black images. The bright pops of color in the animals' clothes, comforting curved lines of their faces and bodies, and the rich greens of the forest are all just right for this old-fashioned tale of friendship and fun.

Verdict: Just as adults may have their comfort reads, children have them too - and this is exactly what I'd look for as a child. A simple, predictable story, humorous and engaging illustrations, and memorable characters. This is a great addition to a storytime on friendship or even bedtime fears and a fun read for any kind of celebration.

ISBN: 9781542045629; Published 2017 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: This book stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn

I've been looking for more books for kids on getting involved with science to make a difference, for my library as well as for a forthcoming article. I had hoped to use this title, but was disappointed in the end.

It's a collection of factoids about garbage, trash, pollution and how it's destroying the planet. It also talks about recycling and how kids can get involved in working toward a world with less trash.

It's a very typical National Geographic book with lots of eye-popping bright colors, short, quick facts, and crazy layouts. It includes quizzes, activities, and short biographies of activists and scientists who are involved in trying to deal with trash and recycling.

So, ultimately it's just fine for something to breeze through for quick ideas, to get kids started on researching trash and pollution, or for browsing. But there were a couple reasons this didn't really click with what I needed. It's very surface - there's no in-depth exploration of the varying types of recycling and the arguments about how they work and which is better. All of the tips and suggestions are heavily tilted towards a suburban, middle class audience. The activities also didn't encourage readers to think below the surface. The section that suggests kids have a clean up day...suggests printing and hanging flyers. There's no mention of picking them up afterwards either! Kind of defeats the purpose there... It assumes every kid lives in a house with a backyard and the ability to start a compost pile - what about all the kids in apartments or urban areas? The book is heavy on suggesting cutting back on paper and using reusable bags, washrags, and napkins but there's no discussion of the environmental impact of washing machines (heavy). The section on upcycling suggests decorating a container with wrapping paper, which is not recyclable.

Is this a bad book? No. It doesn't suggest or do anything very different from any other kids' recycling book. It's a perfectly good surface introduction and kids will enjoy the bite-sized facts. I was just looking for more and this book did not provide it.

Verdict: If you're looking to bulk out your recycling/environmental section this is an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781426327308; Published March 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 19, 2017

This week at the library

What's going on
  • staff meeting (budgets, plans for next year, staffing)
  • Craft-o-rama
  • Open Lego Build
  • The eclipse (I worked Thursday night for extra coverage and then am taking Friday - Monday off, so my assistant is doing the crafty things on Monday...) Suffice it to say, this has occupied a lot of our time and attention.
  • Hamster drama. The hamster ran away last week. We bought another one several days later. He was rediscovered this week. Now we have two hamsters.
  • endless computer problems with both staff and patron computers. gah.
  • Weeding 900s - I've started into the 970s!
  • Revising and planning book clubs for the fall

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hilde cracks the case: Hero Dog by Hilde and Matthew Lysiak, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Branches series have proved to be one of the most popular new series at my library in years. Not all of them have clicked with my readers (and a few I didn't purchase) but enough that they have their own section and plenty of fans!

I'm always excited to see and review a new addition to the series and I was very interested in this one. On the one hand, there are a lot of beginning chapter mysteries. On the other hand, Branches is pretty good at adding something new to their series. This one turned out to be no exception.

Hilde Lysiak is a real-life kid reporter who runs her own newspaper. The stories in this new series are inspired by her real experiences, although they're fictionalized. The first installment introduces us to Hilde and her nose for news. She's sniffed out a mystery - and a story - in the recent spate of mysterious break-ins. But only baked goods are being stolen or destroyed!

With the help of her family and friends and her own mystery-solving skills, Hilde interviews, investigates, and finally discovers the real culprits! The story includes tips on writing, interviewing, and sleuthing as well as vocabulary and a note about Hilde herself.

The finished and earlier sketches in the arc look attractive and fun. The final art will be black and white. This is one of the higher-level Branches titles, similar to Notebook of Doom and Dragon Masters. Readers will be eager to try a new mystery series with the additional nonfiction facts and interactive suggestions.

Verdict: If you don't already have Branches series, you need to get some right away! The most popular for us have been Notebook of Doom, Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, and Boris. I think this one will definitely be added to the list of "must-haves" and I'm looking forward to using it in a book club when there are enough copies available.

ISBN: 9781338141566; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Mia is visiting China with her mother, older brother Jake, and Aunt Lin. Mia feels left out and awkward - she's shy and quiet, prefers to read and dream while her mother and brother are outgoing, ambitious, and successful. Both Mia and Jake are uncomfortable around their unfamiliar relatives and don't really understand their mother's urge to visit her childhood home. Mia feels like the only person who understands her is her historian Aunt Lin.

When Lin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note behind, the rest of the family says it's "just Aunt Lin." But Mia is sure that's not true. Aunt Lin promised her she'd never go away without telling Mia, not after their father left and never came back. Mia is sure there's something going on - and it's all connected to the emperor's treasure that she and her aunt have talked about so often. But they're not the only ones searching for it and danger is getting ever closer...

This is as much a nuanced portrait and a family and the way history and culture affects people as it is an exciting adventure and mystery. Mia is frustrated that Jake seems to fit in better in China - even though she's the one who speaks better Mandarin - because he can blend effortlessly in with the local boys and play sports. The after effects of the Cultural Revolution are referenced in a way that's both relevant and understandable. Mia vaguely knows that this is something that had a huge effect on her family, but she can't really grasp the full concept.

The mystery is equally intriguing, blending clues and history together as Mia and Jake travel to different spots to solve the riddles and clues, explore the map, and eventually discover the treasure - and Aunt Lin.

Verdict: This is an exciting adventure that is sure to grab the attention of mystery fans but it will also resonate with children whose parents immigrated from another country and those readers who want to look into a different experience or culture. Recommend to fans of Thanhha Lai, Blue Balliett, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

ISBN: 9781481478625; Published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Small Readers: Snow Hens by Janet Morgan Stoeke

I was baffled when a new kid joined my Bookaneers book club and declared, firmly, that they ONLY read books about tractors. Nothing else. So I went on a concerted hunt for farm-related books (side note - they changed their mind after I got them interested in some other titles).

I've always loved Janet Morgan Stoeke's simple but funny books and happily added her easy reader series, The Loopy-Coop Hens, back when they first came out. They've now been released in a more traditional easy reader format and I pulled a couple, including Snow Hens, to entice my reluctant farmophile.

In this intermediate easy reader, Midge, Pip, and Dot are making a snow hen. Or trying to anyways. When a disagreement arises over who is going to make the beak, Dot takes off to make her own creation while Midge and Pip fight over competing creations of a fox and a snow hen. Which one will Rooster Sam like the best? Meanwhile, Dot has come up with a snow sculpture that they can all appreciate!

The silly squabbles will make readers giggle while perhaps seeing their own sibling quarrels in the hens. Even grown-ups will have a chuckle over Pip's dramatic declarations about art. Stoeke's illustrations are simple but humorous; a quirk of an eyebrow or curve of a beak expresses a world of emotions. The font is bold but a little smaller than a pre-reader, suited to its intermediate level. Most of the text is placed on white backgrounds but a few are against barn walls or other colored backdrops. The one thing an early reader might find confusing is keeping the hens straight during their dialogue.

Verdict: Funny and relatable, this is a strong addition to any easy reader section.

ISBN: 9780448488448; This edition published 2016 by Penguin young readers; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Daddy Honk Honk! by Rosalinde Bonnet

This sweet story shows a community of animals coming together to take care of a gosling. Aput the fox notices that the geese have left behind an egg - and it hatches! He doesn't know anything about being a daddy, but with advice and help from the other animals they soon form a family. It's not long before all the animals are welcoming little Aurora to their midst.

The illustrations are sweet and tender, showing a cheerful variety of blocky animals introducing the little blue gosling to her new home. Some of my favorite illustrations are the scenes in the ocean, teaming with undersea life. This is clearly a fantasy tundra, where Aput's bunny slippers are a silly touch and Aput knows he needs to feed the baby "yummy" and "healthy" food (contents of the jars unspecified!)

The real star of the show is Aput. He's not sure how to care for a baby, but with the help of his friends, he learns all about what babies need and is soon the perfect daddy to his little honk-honk Aurora.

Verdict: A delightful addition to storytime or one-on-one reading, especially sweet for families who have experience with adoption or non-traditional family structures.

ISBN: 978039918679; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seashores by Cathryn and John Sill

It's the tenth anniversary of the About Habitats series by Cathryn and John Sill and they have a new book out to celebrate the occasion.

Most people probably think of sandy beaches when they think of seashores, but they are actually a diverse habitat and the Sills showcase that in their latest nature book.

A flattened globe introduces the concept of seashores "narrow strips of land that border the seas." The book includes one or two sentences for each colored plate. The seashores included show rocky cliffs, icy rocks, sandy beaches, mud flats, and rolling surf.

Each seashore is shown with the different wildlife that inhabits it from seals and seagulls to tide pools, crabs, and worms. The book also includes plants - flowers and trees - and some of the natural phenomena on seashores like tides.

The back matter includes thumbnails of each spread with more in-depth explanations of everything from tidepools to shorebirds to environmental issues with seashores.

Verdict: This series is a staple for my library; I recommend it to teachers and parents all the time and have used them in flannelboards and interactive reading with classes. That being said, this one felt a little, I don't know, forced. The animal series is, I think, better than the habitats although there's a need for these as well. I will absolutely buy and use it, but I think there are so many books on seashores that this one doesn't stand out quite as much as some of their previous titles.

ISBN: 9781561459681; Published 2017 by Peachtree; F&G provided by publisher for review

Sunday, August 13, 2017

RA RA READ: Read it and Weep: A Child Called It Read-Alikes

Misery memoirs. They're a thing. I personally am not a fan and have never read A Child Called It, but I do get a LOT of teens and young adults asking for them and it never goes away. I had someone ask for Living Dead Girl in June, which was how I discovered our copy was long missing and I just saw a link to Abby the Librarian's read-alikes list, which is still relevant! I went back and forth on whether or not to include blurbs and decided not. Because I didn't have time and this isn't really my genre. The common theme in all of these, fiction and nonfiction, is some kind of harrowing event or childhood, mental struggles, and eventual triumph and hope.

Young Adult Nonfiction (basically all memoirs)

  • Three little words; Three more words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  • The dead inside by Cyndy Etler
  • The year we disappeared by Cylin Busby 
  • Deep water by Katherine Nichols (true crime)
  • One Cut by Eve Porinchak (true crime)
  • Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle 
  • Invisible Girl by Mariel Hemingway 
  • Smile for the camera by Kelle James 
  • All better now by Emily Smith 
Adult Nonfiction 
  • Sickened by Julie Gregory 
  • Glass castle by Jeannette Walls 
Young Adult Fiction
  • Ellen Hopkins (novels in verse)
  • Elizabeth Scott
    • Living dead girl
    • Love you, hate you, miss you
    • Grace 
  • Carol Lynch Williams
    • Glimpse (novel in verse)
    • Chosen one
  • Laurie Halse Anderson
    • Speak
    • Wintergirls 
  • By the time you read this, I’ll be dead by Julie Ann Peters
  • Boot camp by Todd Strasser
  • Split by Swati Avasthi
  • Cut by Patricia McCormick 
  • Because I am furniture by Thalia Chaltas (novel in verse)
  • Scars by C. A. Rainfield

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This week at the library; or, Projects continue

  • This week's projects
    • I think we finally worked out our hiring plans. Now I am working on writing/revising a lot of training materials. 
    • As part of this I'm also adding a lot of reader's advisory bookmarks.
    • Finished the teen fiction weeding, including storage.
    • Still cleaning out the basement. I think one more day next week will do it.
    • Started again on weeding the 900s - I stopped at the 960s a couple months ago.
    • Craft-o-Rama and Free Lego Build
  • Professional Development
    • SLJ Teen Live

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson

Class hamster GW and his friends Sunflower and Barry are back! In their latest adventure, they've settled down to become class pets and are peacefully enjoying their quiet nights with puzzles and poetry. GW even has a secret little crush on a girl in his classroom, not that he'd ever admit it though.

GW is thrilled when he hears there's going to be an art competition. Not only will things get a little more exciting, but Carina (the kid in his class) has a special exhibit! But Harriet the evil mouse queen and her minions, not to mention the snake Lucinda, are all waiting for them. Will they make it to the fabled art closet and save the day?

I thought the first title in the series, The Great Pet Escape, was a little stronger and funnier. The animals had more distinct personalities and there were lots of twists and turns. This book was more about GW learning to admit that he has feelings for Carina and giving his friends a chance to show their own strengths. It was still quite funny though, teachers and parents will especially get a kick out of the references to prior Art Incidents.

Jamieson's art continues the cute and colorful theme from her first book. All the rodents have distinct looks, from Harriet's cute pink ears to Sunflower's jaunty flower crown. The art room is a triumph of organization and art supplies and the inventions GW creates are both charming and hilarious.

Verdict: Readers will want to have read the first book before diving into this one; hand the series to kids who like cute and funny and anyone who is nostalgic about Jean Van Leeuwen's Great Cheese Conspiracy series.

ISBN: 9781627791182; Published 2017 by Henry Holt; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

I was skeptical going into this book; I've been struggling to get back into reading middle grade and the multiple perspectives and quirky characters didn't really grab me. But once I got into it, I couldn't put it down.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of four kids. Virgil Salinas is shy, bullied, and wishes he could get up the courage to talk to the girl he admires, tell the bully to leave him alone, or even just ask his family to stop calling him "Turtle." His only friend is quirky Kaori Tanaka and his grandmother who tells him stories of kids lost and eaten.

Valencia Somerset has no friends either, not after her "friends" decided it was too much trouble to deal with her deafness and dumped her. Now she just has her overbearing mother and her secret dog friend in the woods.

Chet Bullens doesn't think of himself as a bully, he's just living up to his dad's expectations and being the strong kid. Kaori knows what she knows, even if her parents and little sister Gen don't believe she has second sight or psychic abilities.


The four come together one afternoon in the woods when Chet throws Virgil's backpack into an old well. Unknown to Chet, Virgil's guinea pig Gulliver is in the backpack and he goes down after it and gets trapped. Valencia is the next participant in the drama, as she puts the cover back on the well so protect her animals in the woods, unable to hear Virgil's cries for help. The four are brought together by Kaori's efforts to help her friends; she's trying to find Virgil, who she was going to help get the confidence to speak to Valencia and Valencia is a new client trying to get rid of the nightmare that continually plagues her.

There are no final answers for the participants in this story. Chet doesn't have any kind of epiphany and although readers may sympathize with his behavior because of his home life, he ends up backing off from Virgil when Virgil is able to stand up to him. Valencia doesn't solve her problem of her overbearing mother, but she does find a more sympathetic and congenial friend in Kaori and, hopefully, a new friend in Virgil as well, who admires her smart, stubborn, and confident personality. Virgil is the one most changed by the story as his time trapped in the well gives him the courage to start standing up and having a voice. He's still shy and quiet, but he's able to speak up for himself in the way that he most desperately wants to, changing the way his parents and friends see him.

Ultimately, this is a story about inner change, about kids making a difference in their own lives and the lives around them by small, everyday choices. Kelly's lovely writing brings out the thoughts and inner reflections of this group of quirky, quiet kids who are pushed into the background of their family and schools but shine in their own ways.

Verdict: Recommend this to fans of Wonder (it's much, much better in my opinion), Michele Hurwitz, Laurel Snyder, and other quiet but powerful stories of finding yourself. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062414151; Published 2017 by Greenwillow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Jane Foster's Brown Bear Color Book

Misleadingly, this large-format board book is marked as a "hardcover" on Baker & Taylor, but it is, in fact, a board book.

Each spread features a color and text on one side and a selection of different objects on the other. Each selection of text ends with asking where Brown Bear is (spoiler alert - the bear is revealed by a die cut in the center of the page). Sample text reads "Golden lion, buzzing bee. What other yellow things do you see?" This spread shows a yellow rubber ducky on a polka-dot yellow background, orange pineapple with white stalk/leaves, stylized flower or sun (not quite sure), yellow boots, and a sunflower. The final page reveals brown bear and his favorite colors, shown in colorful round flowers, one of which shows a rim of each color from a previous page in the die cut circle.

The board book is large, about 10x10, with flexible cardboard pages and a paper over board binding.

Verdict: I like the unique art style, but I'm not sure it's clear enough for little ones to figure out what all the items are (I couldn't figure out some of them!). I will probably pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781499803303; Published 2016 by little bee; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Garcia & Colette go exploring by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

I'm really getting into the new picture books I've been seeing with Andrew Joyner's illustrations.

In this story, Garcia the rabbit and Colette the fox are having a disagreement. Garcia wants to explore the vastness of outer space, but Colette wants to dive deep into the ocean! The two friends solve their difficulty by building their own spaceship and submarine, respectively, and take off to explore their chosen destination.

Colette and Garcia love the sand and stars that they see and observe many wonderful things, but in the end they both realize space is missing something - a friend. Can the two find a perfect place to explore that has everything they both want?

In addition to the sweet friendship story, this book draws interesting parallels between different landscapes - space and deep ocean. The text lyrically describes the beauty, similarities and contrasts of the different landscapes. Joyner's illustrations are lovely, both sweet and funny. The rich, turquoise swathes of color show both the emptiness of space, and the quiet of the deep sea. Perky Garcia is a sweet little gray rabbit with a pink nose while Colette delves into her explorations with a cheerful yellow dress, and neatly tipped ears and swooping foxy nose. Strange creatures populate both the dark blue of space and the deep green of the sea.

Verdict: A little long for a toddler storytime, this is perfect for a preschool storytime or a program on exploration, scientific observation, or just learning how to compromise with a friend. Joyner's cheerful illustrations are sure to make this sweet story a hit with readers and listeners alike.

ISBN: 9780399176753; Published 2017 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 7, 2017

The quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

Percy Fawcett has always attracted a wide circle of interest, but the general public had mostly forgotten him until the publication a few years ago of the adult title The lost city of Z by David Grann and then a movie in 2016 based on the story.

Basically, Percy Fawcett was the last of the great white British explorers. As the world changed around him, he refused to adapt to the modern age and continued to insist on the existence of a fabled lost city in the Amazon jungle. He made multiple expeditions to the jungle in search of the "lost city" but never found it. Finally, in 1925, he made one last expedition, funded by newspapers, accompanied by his son and best friend and a skeleton crew. This catapulted Fawcett and his quest to fame as people eagerly followed his adventures. After only one month, Fawcett, his son Jack and son's friend Raleigh Rimell, disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Over the years, many people from serious researchers to celebrities attempted to discover the fate of Fawcett and his fabled lost city but neither were ever found. Eventually, archeaologists discovered that there were in fact large, ancient civilizations in the jungle, although they did not resemble Fawcett's dream city. But no one ever discovered the fate of Fawcett, Jack and Raleigh.

Pizzoli translates this real-life adventure tale with his trademark minimalist illustrations and skill into a riveting epic for young readers. Blocky, graphic-like art shows the cost of Fawcett's expeditions, the loss of life, and his constant quest. Readers who like survival stories and adventures will find themselves caught by the dream and excitement of Fawcett's helpless quest.

Personally, I have a lot of problems with the continuation of the "great white explorer" narrative. Although Pizzoli makes an effort to include native reactions and participation, the focus of the story is always Fawcett. There are very few narratives that address the reactions and even existence of the people already living in the Amazonian jungles (or other places explorers "discovered"). Even more so does this narrative ignore the fate of the families left behind, like Fawcett's abandoned wife, who not only had to support their families but drum up support for the explorer.

Verdict: This will circulate, but personally I'd like to see more narratives of female explorers or native perspectives. I'm tired of dead white explorers and I don't feel that abandoning your family in pursuit of some fabled ideal is particularly noteworthy.

ISBN: 9780670016532; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 5, 2017

This week at the library; or, Summer is over. Deep breath. New stuff happening.

Most of my time and energy this week has gone towards the interview and hiring process for a new associate. I've also been scrambling to clean out the basement and get projects and so on organized for the month. We also had about 80 people at Craft-o-Rama and 50 at Free Lego Build. Plus I supervised the bi-annual knit-in Friday night.

I had my last Library on the Go visit and wrote up an evaluation of the program launch. I'll need to write a more complete report for the grant later.

I revised and updated Read and Grow: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. (I still need to link the reading bookmarks I added)

Projects for the rest of the month
  • Completely redo Reading Explorer
  • Update and plan book clubs
  • Update and plan after school clubs
  • Revise staff training materials
  • Clean out the basement and organize materials
  • Newsletter and publicity
  • A couple grants
  • Finish weeding YA fiction, picture books, and Juvenile fiction 900s
  • Survey for parents of our special needs kids
  • Spring programming (because I won't have time to do it later!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Daisy Dreamer and the totally true imaginary friend by Holly Anna, illustrated by Genevieve Santos

Daisy loves to dream, imagine, and create. She has a cat, Sir Pounce, who is good at solving mysteries and a grandmother, Upsy, who understands her love of spinning stories and daydreaming.

She loves her quirky teacher Mr. Roberts and her best friends Jasmine and Lily. She does not like snooty Gabby, who she has to sit with at school and who rips a page out of her special journal! But then the imaginary friend she drew becomes ALIVE. What adventures await Daisy and her friends?

This is very much a set up for a series and a typical beginning chapter series at that, although it is quite cute. Personally, my sympathies are with Gabby - not everyone enjoys answering roll call by barking like a seal and Daisy and her friends are quite snooty on their own, hiding in their special place so the other girls can't see what they're doing. Jasmine has dark skin and curly hair, but is only a supporting character.

The really strong feature of this series are the cute illustrations; thick black lines show the quirky friends, enthusiastic teacher, and pudgy imaginary friend becoming real.

Verdict: Nothing particularly outstanding, although the illustrations do shine. Add if you have a lot of Junie B. fans and are running out of books for them. Will also be popular where some of the more girly Branches titles circulate a lot, as this is about the same level with lots of illustrations.

ISBN: 9781481486316; Published 2017 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oakwing: A fairy's tale by E. J. Clarke

What if you became a fairy - but you didn't want to be one? This happens to Rowan and her subsequent adventures make for delightful and exciting reading.

Seven years after her mother's disappearance, Rowan returns to the tree in Hyde Park, where she spent her last happy hours with her mother and sister, Willow. Overwhelmed by caring for her father and sister, longing for her mother, she falls asleep crying...and wakes up a fairy. She meets another fairy, Aiken (shown as a dark-skinned boy on the cover) and a friendly robin, Harold, who tell her that she is now, and forever, a fairy. She can never leave the safety of the park, never return to her family. Rowan refuses to accept this; even though she fell asleep feeling unloved, misses her mother dreadfully, and isn't sure her family really loves her, she knows for sure that she loves them and they need her.

Rowan sets out on a journey that will take her across London, to a network of parks, and into contact with powerful fairies, magical animals, and evil villains. Along the way she discovers inner strength and magic and finds out the truth of what happened to her mother many years ago. The story ends with Rowan managing to change back to human, but it's a bittersweet victory; her mother is still trapped in the fairy world and there are still dangers from the evil foxes, and the obsessive river fairies. A war is brewing in the fairy's world and Rowan has left her mother behind in its midst.

This is a shorter fantasy, coming in at 180 pages, it's a good choice for readers who are past the beginning chapter phase but not ready for doorstoppers yet. It's rather British - the different parks, references to the queen, Peter Pan, etc. although I found it refreshing that Rowan didn't know everything either - she didn't know who Queen Victoria was, since they "hadn't done that yet" in school! I was personally a little annoyed that the foxes were evil, since I like foxes, but it does work with the story.

Verdict: Not earth-shattering, but a sweet story with lots of miniature details and magical elements that will attract Rainbow Magic readers ready for a longer chapter book. The cliffhanger at the end promises sequels and while the story is sad at the beginning and takes a little while to get moving, once the fairies make an appearance it's all action.

ISBN: 9781481481915; This edition published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the ladybug? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

As I refresh the board book section, I am trying to strike a reasonable balance between adding all the touchy-feely/movable books that parents and babies love and adding books that will last more than a few checkouts.

I like Arrhenius' simple, poster-like artwork and when I saw that this book involved felt I decided I just had to have it. It's also the first book with our new "Busy Books" sticker, denoting a board book with some kind of toy aspect.

The book is the classic game of peekaboo. Colorful pages ask where a creature is and little readers pull back a flap of felt to reveal the little bug. A green felt leaf with a bite out of it peels back to show a caterpillar, a hot pink tulip reveals a bee, a neon orange rock shows a snail, two white daisy petals hide a ladybug, and the final selection, a turquoise bush, hides a mirror for children to peer into and see themselves.

The flaps are created by a slit in the double pages of thin cardboard, into which is glued the felt. It feels very sturdy, although I don't know how long it will stand up to little hands tugging and pulling. It also may spark ideas in parents for creating their own felt-flap books!

Verdict: Sure to be popular and sturdy enough to hold together at least for a few circulations, I am looking forward to purchasing more titles in this delightful new series.

ISBN: 9780763693350; Published 2017 by Nosy Crow; Purchased for the libraryRead, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the ladybug? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

I'm usually not a fan of "celebrations of libraries" picture books. I feel that if you already like the library they're superfluous (and a bit self-indulgent) and if you don't you're not going to encounter them anyways. But I do have a little bit of a weakness for cute animals discovering the joy of books and libraries, like Kohara's Midnight Library or Pauli's Fox in the Library.

This new title hit my adorable button right away. Bunny has been introduced to the wonder of books by listening to outdoor storytimes by the old library. But when summer ends and storytime moves back inside, he becomes desperate to get access to his beloved books. Finally, he figures out how to sneak in through the book drop and happily carries piles of books, a few at a time, back to his den. When his friends show up, one by one, he introduces them to the wonders of books (Bear is a little tricky to get through the book drop) and one by one they become equally enthralled.

But then the librarian discovers them! Will they be separated from their beloved books forever? Spoiler - of course not! The librarian gives them library cards and Bunny happily starts a book club for all his forest friends.

Soft, pastel colors show a sweet variety of large and small pictures, including delicate details in the woods and a diverse group of children and staff. My favorite is the little girl whose buoyant pigtails mimic Bunny's ears! The library is a little sentimentalized - the quiet group of listening children all look to be around 5 or 6 and the library has unnaturally tall shelves and an odd color scheme - but it's a dream library, not a real one, meant to show the importance and love of books for a small child (or a bunny).

Verdict: Not a necessary purchase, but I just loved it so much. The sweet pictures, delicate outdoor details, joy in books, and diverse library patrons and staff made me fall in love and I can't wait to introduce this on a school tour next year.

ISBN: 9780553537581; Published 2017 by Doubleday; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, July 31, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Harpy Eagle by Ellen Lawrence

This new series features "Apex Predators," from giant otters to jaguars. I received the Harpy Eagle for review.

Harpy eagles are really cool. I didn't really learn anything new in this book, but I enjoyed revisiting these cool creatures. This rain forest eagle is one of the largest birds of prey, nesting in tall rainforest trees and preying on monkeys, sloths, coatis, and other medium-sized creatures.

My favorite part of the harpy eagle is the way they can pop up a circle of feathers around their face. This has a practical use - directing sound to their small ears - but it also looks simply adorable. It's this big fluffy circle (with, you know, a razor-sharp beak in the center).

In addition to the facts about the harpy eagle, its habitat, prey, and life cycle, there are also inset facts about the eagle and the rainforest, questions to get readers thinking about the text, a science experiment, glossary, and index.

Verdict: If you're looking to diversify and add to your animal books, this series is a good choice to fill out some more unusual predators.

ISBN: 9781684020294; Published 2017 by Bearport; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Alice's Birthday Pig by Tim Kennemore

I first discovered this funny beginning chapter book trilogy almost 10 years ago. Not only was it hilarious and spot-on, it was not overwhelmingly British and it has a guinea pig!

Alice, in addition to her wacky little sister Rosie and her supercilious older brother Oliver, has a problem - she can't pronounce "animal". When her teacher announces that the class topic will be farm animals, Alice gloomily looks forward to a semester of teasing. And when her class takes a field trip to a farm and Alice finds an unexpectedly adorable little pig, she knows that more disappointments are in store. However, in a surprise ending, Alice gets her a pet, Oliver is vanquished, and even Rosie is temporarily dismayed.

This is a classic "in the middle" story; Alice's trials and triumphs as a middle child and her longing for a pet of her own will resonate with children no matter their birth order! The illustrations are sweet and just a little zany, just like Alice's family.

Who will read this? Beginning chapter readers who are fluent but not ready for longer books; kids who enjoy funny family stories, and any kids who have sibling woes.

Bring it back? Well....I'd love it to be available, but I have to admit it has not circulated in my library as I'd hoped, even when I used it for a book club. It's a little challenging for the reading level of most kids who are reading beginning chapters and there are a lot of beginning chapter series out there. It's a great read-aloud but there are plenty of copies still floating around.

Availability? The trilogy is out of print, but it's available as a digital audio (which I personally own). My library still owns the hardcovers, which are in good condition.

ISBN: 978-0802853356; Published March 2008 by Eerdmans

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This week at the library; or, Summer week 8

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Garden Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Read with Pearl
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Kidsplay
  • Wednesday
    • We Explore Favorite Artist Leo Lionni
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Lego Club
  • Saturday
    • The Big Splash aka Mud Mania
The last week of summer reading is finally here. Things have slowed down a lot, but I am dealing with a lot of extra stuff. More interesting things to come later.

Friday, July 28, 2017

BlastBack: Vikings by Nancy Ohlin, illustrated by Adam Larkum

I was really excited about the first book in this series, Ancient Egypt, but when I tried another I was a little disappointed.

This book follows the format of the other titles. It starts with a brief history of the Vikings, then explains their history in different countries, culture, politics, and family structures. There's also a chapter on the Icelandic sagas and the legacy the Vikings left. Larkum's line drawings decorate the pages, illustrating ships, clothing, and battles.

Somehow, even though this is a favorite topic of mine, I found it really...dull. It just didn't have the pizzaz and humor of the first title I read. It felt more like a textbook than narrative nonfiction. I can't really say why; maybe it's because I have more familiarity with the topic, maybe I just wasn't in the mood.

Regardless, I'm still recommending this series. Even if one entry is a bit more blah than the others, it's still a great choice for beginning readers who like Magic Tree House and history. I'm going to see if I can get some feedback from readers and find out if they felt the same about this title or if I was just having a bad day.

Verdict: A strong purchase for your beginning chapter sections.

ISBN: 9781499803853; Published 2017 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Azalea, Unschooled by Liza Kleinman, illustrated by Gideon Brook

I'm in two minds of this title. I really wanted to read it; there are very few books featuring homeschooled kids and even fewer featuring non-ex-hippy homeschoolers. On the other hand, no library in my consortium or the entire interlibrary loan system had it and it's from a small press so is a little more expensive. I ended up purchasing an ebook on sale and settled down to read it with an open mind.

Azalea is used to picking up and moving every year or even every few months. She mostly enjoys being homeschooled and she likes the relationship she has with her parents. She's not so sure about her increasingly grouchy teen sister though. When the family moves up to Portland, Maine, for her father to start a new business driving a tour bus, Azalea at first things it's business as usual. But this move is a little different. For one thing, instead of joining up with the local homeschooling community her mom has gotten them into a different group; unschoolers. Azalea isn't sure about this whole unschooling thing. She's also starting to have some doubts about her father's life choices and his business acumen. Finally, for the first time in her life she's making friends and when her sister starts talking about their inevitable move, Azalea realizes that she doesn't want to move, yet again. On top of everything else, someone seems to be sabotaging her father's new business. Is it her new friend's old friend? Azalea is determined to find out.

There's a lot going on in this book - a mystery, familial struggles, changes for both the girls as they become older and start seeing their parents in a different light, and at times the unschooling part of the plot seems plopped on top of everything else. Some of the explanations of it are an info dump (and it's not a new movement - it dates back to John Holt's writings from the 60s and 70s - which is reflected in the unschooling group's leader's hippy persona). I did appreciate the positive spin given to Azalea's family's school choices and the way the family chooses to blend different methods in the end. One thing I am always firmly against in homeschooling is thinking that there's only one way to school children correctly - different methods and choices work for different people.

Verdict: It's not a bad story, if a little heavily packed with plot trails, and Azalea is a fun and interesting character. I'm not sure it's so riveting that it would grab the average reader though. A good choice if you have unschooling families in your area.

ISBN: 9781939017581; Published 2015 by Islandport Press; Ebook purchased for review by myself

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Bears are big by Douglas Florian, illustrated by Barbara Bakos

I first saw this series advertised at BEA and fell in love with the bright, busy colors. I've been waiting eagerly to buy them for the library and, while they're not a typical board book, I think they're a great addition to the collection.

A simple sentence on each page describes opposite attributes of various animals. "Sloths are slow./Cheetahs are quick./Eels are slippery./Tree frogs stick." The real star of these little books are the illustrations. A rotund purple hippo perches on flattened leaves and flowers, surrounded by apple cores and munching contentedly on an apple. A blue rhino grins mischievously while proudly displaying her tall horns and perky blue ears. A brilliant yellow snail sports a stripped orange shell and a natty mustache, not to mention a couple little eyebrows floating above its eyes. Each creature is surrounded by colorful flowers, leaves, and branches.

Verdict: The cheerful colors, simple text, and attractive illustrations make this a delightful new addition to any board book collection.

ISBN: 9781499803662; Published 2017 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Charlie's Boat by Kit Chase

I really love Kit Chase's "Playtime with Friends" series. Sometimes you just need that sweet, gentle picture book for a cozy read.

In this latest installment, Charlie, Oliver, and Lulu are all fishing. Oliver is big enough to wade and fish with his trunk, Lulu can flutter and fish with her claws, but all Charlie can catch from the river bank are sticks! He's feeling very down about his pile of sticks, until he comes up with a solution - building little boats! But when Lulu and Oliver come to join him, they're much better at building boats. Will Charlie ever get to fish - or be good at anything?

Chase's delicate watercolors show a landscape reminiscent of Ernest Shepard's famous illustrations for Winnie-the-Pooh, complete with little stick boats, a friendly rushing river, and cozy small animals with rosy cheeks.

This sweet and gentle story of friendship and helping each other out is the perfect choice for a cozy storytime or a quiet bedtime story - perhaps to be followed by creating your own stick boats to float or thinking about how different friends can work together.

Verdict: Not an absolutely necessary choice, but a strong addition to any picture book collection on friendship, working together, and thinking outside the box.

ISBN: 9780399257025; Published 2017 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 24, 2017

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

Well, that took long enough. I've long noticed that Sports Illustrated Kids books seem to mostly forget the existence of contemporary female athletes and that's been extremely obvious in their Rookie series. I've added review copies and purchased the ones I needed, but I have been extremely annoyed at the lack of women in the previous three titles on Hockey, Football, and Baseball. I hope that publisher will revise those previous titles to include women more equally (or at all).

The narrators are a confused (white) boy, who doesn't quite get the rules of soccer (or that most of the world calls it football) and a sparky, enthusiastic, dark-skinned girl. The book follows the format of the previous titles, explaining how the game works, the rules, functions of the players, scoring system, and a few traditions of the game. It's illustrated with pictures of real athletes, captioned with humorous dialogue, against a background of colorful pages. The big difference in this book is that a good half of the athletes pictured are women.

Verdict: These books are very popular and check out constantly, but this is the first one I'm actually happy to put on the shelf. Now, if the publisher just does the same thing with Basketball and goes back and fixes the previous books, I'll be buying extra copies asap.

ISBN: 9781683300021; Published by Sports Illustrated Kids/Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Read 'n' Play: Woodworks: Old MacDonald Had a Farm; The Wheels on the Bus

I don't normally review books with additional stuff as it were, but I'm always refreshing and updating my library's circulating toy collection so I've started including a few more things that I use in that area on my blog. I do have a full blog that's all of these items, Read 'n' Play, but I don't review them, more just list them.

These two kits from Silver Dolphin sounded like a good addition to a storytime kit or Read 'n' Play bag, so I agreed to take a look at them. Each one includes a sturdy cardboard carrying case, a wooden vehicle, small board book, and vinyl road map.

The board books are small and chunky, about 3x4 inches. The include the text of the song, which can be a bit crowded on the pages, along with bright, colorful digital illustrations.

The wheels on the bus includes a variety of races and genders, although the driver is a white male. It changes the song slightly to be a school bus. The wheels go around, the wipers go "swish", the horn goes "beep", the children say hi to their friends, and the doors open and shut, leaving out the parents and crying babies.

The wooden vehicles are a small green tractor and a yellow school bus. They look pretty much the same in the picture - they seem to be well-made and the wheels appear to be on a solid bar through the toy, which is good for little fingers that tug.

The play mats are interesting. Both are made out of a thin vinyl materials - a little thicker than a plastic bag, but not very sturdy. I tested a corner and it twisted and started to rip easily. They have multiple fold lines from being tucked into the boxes. The mat that accompanies the school bus shows a road through a typical town with police station, school, stores, and houses and the farmer's mat shows a gravel road through a farm yard.

The carrying boxes are a very sturdy cardboard - the front opens and the side clicks shut with a hidden magnet, I would guess. They have a nice little woven ribbon handle to carry them by. There's just one problem. The initial packaging has a plastic form inside that holds everything in place. However, once you open the item and remove the packaging, the clear window at the top to see the vehicle through is empty - and the toy falls right out. You can pack everything into the bottom, but it takes a little maneuvering.

Verdict: I'd like to circulate these on their own, but the open window in the top makes that problematic. I don't think the play mat will last long, but it's an easy item to replace with a print-out or felt mat. The vehicle and board book should be sturdy enough for many uses. I think they will make a good addition to a kit on nursery rhymes for use in daycares and at home.

Old MacDonald had a farm; ISBN: 9781626869554

The wheels on the bus; ISBN: 9781626869561

Published 2017 by Silver Dolphin; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, July 22, 2017

This week at the library; or Summer Week 7

What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Bubble Guy
  • Wednesday
    • Explore Elkhorn field trip
    • STEM learning lab: Coding with Legos
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • We Explore Favorite Artist Michael Hall (3 sessions) (offsite)
    • Library on the Go
    • Mad Scientists Club: What Floats? What Flies?
  • Friday
    • Maker Workshop: Brushbots
It has been a week. I will update the program blog later. One more week to go.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Magic Animal Rescue: Maggie and the flying horse

I've been going through a whole slew of beginning chapter books and was interested to take a look at this new series from E. D. Baker, especially since her Frog Princess series has recently enjoyed a revival at my library after we read it in book club.

Maggie lives in the Enchanted Forest and loves the magical creatures she sees there. But her woodcutter father is working far away and she's stuck with her mean stepmother, Zelia, and rotten stepbrother, Peter, neither of whom believe she can see the magical creatures. When she accidentally injures a tiny flying horse, Maggie is determined to take it to Bob the Stableman, who she's heard takes care of magical creatures.

After a long and dangerous journey, Maggie finally arrives and her life immediately takes a turn for the better. For the first time she has someone on her side, someone who can also see magical creatures. Bob not only promises to take care of the little horse, he's impressed by Maggie's resourcefulness and how she risked the dangers of the forest. Now Maggie has plenty of excitement and magic to look forward to in the future as she observes and helps magical creatures with Bob.

This is definitely a beginning chapter book, with a large font, short, choppy sentences, and simple black and white digital illustrations. I can't really say why it didn't appeal to me. It has Baker's trademark blend of contemporary and fairy tale life, and the magical creatures were interesting, but it just didn't have that spark. Maggie is rather a dull character when all is said and done and the "mean stepmother" trope is so worn out.

Verdict: An acceptable addition, especially if you have E. D. Baker fans, but I think I'll go with Paula Harrison's new series instead, which had more memorable characters.

ISBN: 9781681193120; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

Until the end of fourth grade, Winnie was just an ordinary kid, along with her friends. Then her parents got divorced and decided to share her. Equally. This means that she spends three days with her mom, three days with her dad, and one day in the treehouse between their homes. At first, she's fine with this arrangement. The treehouse is especially cool and lots of kids' parents are divorced. But when her parents' competitive nature gets out of control, she finds herself not only miserable but failing fifth grade as well.


With the help of her uncle's advice, Winnie comes up with a solution - live in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses. To her surprise, she's quickly joined by her friends, who have their own grievances with their parents from annoying younger siblings and cousins to not enough phone time. Soon they are the Treehouse Ten and it's a media circus. Then lines are drawn within the treehouse and Winnie finds herself stuck in the middle - AGAIN. It will take some more advice from her uncle and some thought on her own part before she discovers her true strength and solves the difficulties she and her friends face.

This isn't a new plot device; I was reminded vividly of Felice Holman's Blackmail Machine, which involves a group of children trying to save a swamp. Like Winnie's friends, they have to compromise in the end, learning that growing up entails not getting exactly what you want. Graff handles the plot with a deft hand though and the various characters all have strong personalities that shine through, although we don't get to know any of them as well as Winnie.

Although Winnie's situation is over the top - she can't get her homework done because her parents are insistent on celebrating random wacky holidays to prove that they're "more fun" than the other parent - the real root of the problem is that no one is listening to her and her parents are trying to force her to choose sides. The concerns of Winnie and the other children are definitely of a suburban, middle class nature. They are trying to be more independent, to be listened to by their parents, to learn how to negotiate familial and community relationships. There are no concerns about money, none of the children particularly struggle in school, and Winnie's parents are both successful enough that they can afford to purchase a new house to put their wacky plan into motion. The group includes a range of racial diversity but the kids all have roughly the same stable, suburban life.

This may not necessarily resonate with kids whose home life is less stable and who have more immediate concerns and struggles than annoying siblings or obsessed parents. However, it will definitely strike a chord with kids who have the same longing to be more independent and are making that difficult transition into middle school. It's wish-fulfillment with a gentle dose of practical instruction on thinking about what you really want and need, just like Winnie helps her friends realize that, for example, they really want more independence not unlimited time on their phone. The format of the book, short chapters, transcripts, and notes from the different characters, keep the story moving briskly and will attract readers who don't want to tackle a hefty chapter book

Verdict: While not particularly unique in plot, Graff's writing ability and deft touch at characterization as well as the humor and understanding she introduces throughout the book are sure to make this a popular addition to any library. Kids will devour this book with enjoyment and perhaps think a little about their own relationships with their parents afterwards. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780399175008; Published 2017 by Philomel; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Look & Learn: Big Cats by Ruth A. Musgrave

I have a soft spot for National Geographic's children's books in any form, but I love their bright and colorful photographs in board book format. This might or might not be good.

Each spread in this book shows a different big cat performing an action, then invites the reader to mimic or perform a similar action. When we see a fluffy snow leopard in the snow, we learn that "Thick, soft fur keeps the snow leopard warm." Readers are invited to touch the snow leopard (a disappointing exercise since this isn't a touchy-feely book) and then rub their own hair. A tiger licking itself gets a suggestion to find the tiger's tongue, then your own.

The spreads show photographs that pop out from the page, set against bold blocks of color and simple text. The board book is a slightly smaller format, about 5x5 inches.

Verdict: I do love the photographs, but the heavier text and smaller format of the books doesn't click well with the toddlers I've tested this on. Sadly, I will probably strike these off my series to purchase for the board books.

ISBN: 9781426327018; Published 2017 by National Geographic; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

I don't usually go for cute, but I've hit a couple of books that just are so adorable they can't be resisted. One is the unicorn/narwhal book you didn't know you were missing, but once you've seen it you must have it.

Kelp, an adorable little unicorn with a pink nose and a diving helmet (there's a hole for his horn of course) lives deep under the ocean. He knows he's not quite like the other narwhals, but they all accept and love him so he decides he doesn't care. But one day, he's swept away by a current and ends up on land, where he discovers...land narwhals! He learns all about unicorns and the special things he never knew he could do. Does Kelp belong on the land with the unicorns or in the sea with the narwhals? It turns out...he belongs in both places!

The message of acceptance and family is woven into the story with a light touch. Both the narwhals and unicorns accept Kelp's unique attributes (and his diver's helmet). The story is humorous, touching, and best of all has lots and lots of gorgeous narwhals and unicorns! Kids who want pretty unicorns (not the humorous ones that have been popping up recently) will adore the snowy white creatures with their colored legs and rainbow-shooting horns.

Verdict: Sima's debut picture book sparkles with love and delight and will charm both children and parents in storytimes and on their own. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781481469098; Published 2017 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Received a free signed copy at ALA which I donated to the library

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: The book of chocolate by HP Newquist

I always enjoy Newquist's narrative nonfiction titles and this was no exception.

Newquist takes readers through the early use of chocolate in South America, its discovery by Europeans, and its evolution to the sweet treat we know of today. Along the way he expands the stories of the people who tasted, created, innovated, and sometimes fought over and stole chocolate!

Readers will learn about the massive corporations that grew up around chocolate, the creation of favorite treats like Hershey Kisses and Reece's Pieces, and the actual scientific process of creating chocolate. Newquist even includes a comparison of American and European chocolate and its differing tastes.

Throughout the book primary sources are included like photographs, advertisements, and more. There are also maps, additional facts, and other information about chocolate and its role in history. Back matter includes a glossary, sources, index, and acknowledgements.

Middle grade readers who like narrative nonfiction will get sucked into this fascinating history. Even readers who are reluctant to tackle nonfiction will be interested by a book on a tasty treat like chocolate. Newquist doesn't shy away from some of the darker sides of chocolate production, like the environmental and human costs, but offers a great survey of an interesting treat - plus recipes!

Verdict: Chocoholics will delight in this yummy book and even those who have other sweet preferences will find themselves craving a chocolate treat after reading this book. I certainly did!

ISBN: 9780670015740; Published 2016 by Viking; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library (and, in case you're wondering, the reason I didn't donate it is that I spilled a cup of milk on it. Fortunately after I'd read it and then went and got chocolate to satisfy the chocolate cravings it inspired. And I'm not usually a chocolate-eater!)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Classic Rereads: Look Through My Window by Jean Little, Illustrated by Joan Sandin

One of the first reviews I ever wrote was of Jean Little's Look Through My Window - also one of the first novels by Jean Little I read. I can still remember exactly where I was and how I felt as I read this story of friends, change, and growth. This was written when I was about fourteen!

Emily's life is predictable and normal. The most exciting thing that ever happens to her is being home along for a few hours. But then her aunt becomes ill and she and her parents move to the country, to a big, old house to care for her four young nieces and nephews. She's attending a new school for the first time and is determined to be someone different, someone new. She's spurred on by the discovery of a mysterious box and hopes to make a real friend.

But the first person she meets is prickly Kate Bloomfield. Kate has one adult sister, so is virtually an only child. She sticks our in the suburban/rural area like a sore thumb; her father is Jewish, but doesn't practice, her parents are both very "modern" and run a bookstore. Kate is confused and often bitter and feels like she is unwanted by her family and doesn't fit in anywhere.

Between Emily's mother's struggles to adjust to life with four rambunctious children, and all the emergencies and catastrophes that ensue, both Kate and Emily slowly change and grow, discussing who they are, writing poetry, finding what they have in common as well as what's different about their lives. Kate especially questions her parents' religious choices and her own identity, while Emily is more sure of herself even when she makes missteps. The girls work their way through their own family issues as well as their religious differences, figuring out how to be more than casual friends and learning that they both still have a lot of changes to expect in their life.

Who will read this? Fans of Tara Altebrando's middle grade books and other quiet, reflective stories of girls coming of age.

Bring it back? Absolutely. The book addresses questions like religion and identity not often touched on in middle grade titles and sketches in a dreamy summer with a slowly growing friendship with an expert hand. The story is timeless, needing no updating. The only thing I would change is, much though I love her classic illustrations, Joan Sandin's art should probably be swapped out for something a little more contemporary, at least on the cover.

Availability? Sadly, this has been out of print since the 70s and it's unlikely to ever see the light of day in the US again. Periodically, I check to see if Canada has brought out any new or reissued Jean Little titles, so that's a faint possibility some day!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

This week at the library; or Summer Week 6

A maker kit I put together
A typical summer week, moment by moment (except when it isn't). I've been doing lots of work on our various storytime kits and toys and you can catch up with those on my Read 'n' Play blog.
  • Monday
    • 8:30 am - K (aide) arrives and supervises summer reading
    • 9am - Jess (associate) arrives and takes over
    • 10am - garden playgroup (Jess & Pattie)
    • 11:30ish - I arrive. Start sorting through stuff on desk, discuss associate applications, look at hold records and VideoETA for av orders.
    • 12:30 - still working on AV orders and July book order. Also going out for summer reading when I hear the bell.
    • 1:20 - AV order sent. Now to finish book order.
    • 1:30 - break to investigate mysterious knocking in Storyroom and broken light fixture. back to book order
    • 2 - break to deal with some patron questions, pull books for weeding, pull books for a science program next week.
    • 3 - finished order list!! took a break to eat something, pull more books for weeding, and straighten displays
    • 4 - Pearl arrives for Read with Pearl (it's been a very quiet day but a few fans showed up. And I gave her lots of pets b/c I needed some furry dog therapy). Put together materials for next week's activity bag, fight with the blasted printer, work some more on tidying up the storyroom, clean stuff off my desk, look at what I need for this week's programs. Paperwork. Summer reading.
    • 5-8 - information desk. first hour was very busy, lots of holds, summer reading, and other questions. also worked on catching up on summer reading paperwork
      • 6 - putting together Dinosaur storytime kit, ordering materials for replacing and adding new maker kits.
      • 6:30 Tiny Tots storytime (Pattie - small group)
      • still working on kits until closing
  • Tuesday
    • 8:30am - circ staff supervise summer reading
    • 9am - I arrive and take over. Refill all the displays again, set up summer reading. Sort through LotG books and stacks of paperwork on my desk. Repairs, new books that need to be cataloged, etc. Chatting with kids about the hamster.
    • 10am - Pattie does Toddlers 'n' Books. I greet people, answer questions, and keep working on my stacks of stuff. Updating programs and statistics and planning last bits for this week's programs.
    • 10:30 - break to pull magic trick books for the daycare that's coming today and accept a donation of quilts for summer reading prizes. back to paperwork, sorting donations.
    • 11am - 2nd session of Toddlers 'n' Books with Pattie. I'm still sorting donations.
    • 11:30 - got through pretty much all the donations, did a little weeding for the last half hour while helping people.
    • 12 - Kelly (adult reference associate) took over the youth desk. I grabbed some lunch, set up projects for my three volunteers and aide, weeded a few more books.
    • 1ish to 3 - Storywagon: Snake Discovery. This was a new performer for me and the presenter was excellent. I worked crowd control, wrangled snakes, and helped our big daycare group.
    • 3 - 5 back to the children's desk. checked on the queen of summer reading competition and posted on Facebook. Back to weeding, checking in new books. Still sorting donations. And of course I am on the desk throughout all of this, so reader's advisory, answering questions, helping with printers, computers, supervising kids, etc.
  • Wednesday
    • Well, we had extensive flooding in our area so this is no longer a typical week! Lots of emails back and forth, tour and storytime cancelled, Jess and I finally made it in about 9:30. The basement is flooded a few inches but only a couple boxes of stuff got wet. The roof and windows didn't leak, but we got some water in the lobby, all tile so it's ok.
    • 10:30 - catching up on audio bags, cleaning out storyroom, still some donations to go through, and weeding.
    • Our circulation supervisor went to go pick up a shop vac for the basement and she kindly picked me up more tubs for the storyroom. I'm also going over all the stuff I need before my associate leaves next week. *sob*
    • 1ish - lunch break
    • 1:30ish My gaggle of tween girls showed up to volunteer. I let them shelve, sort beads, and help me clean out the storyroom. They ran out of steam around 4:30 and started running around the library. Sigh. I finished up. Still a lot of random stuff on my desk, but the storage room looks good! I want it to be more usable for kids and families.
  • Thursday
    • 9 - Jess arrives at work. Baby storytime was cancelled this week, but Jess put out toys for people at 10am.
    • 10:30ish - after various adventures, I got to the local pool where I talked to the manager about allowed me to have Library on the Go there in August.
    • 11ish - I arrive at the middle school (where summer school is held) for Library on the Go. My aide, M, meets me there. We had a few kids for the first hour, one that was waiting for us! but we mostly talked over upcoming stuff and how tired we are. We are very tired.
    • 12 - we moved everything down to the cafeteria and things really take off. checking out books, kids decorating wooden tongue depressor bracelets, very noisy!
    • 1ish we got back to the library. M collected her personal volunteer, L, and went to get lunch, Jess went to get lunch, I had lunch. 
    • 1:30ish I met with both Ms (outgoing aides) to discuss final days and projects and supervised shifting the ya, bringing up the huge stash of cardboard cutouts from the basement, and sending down other stuff in their place. It's not exactly dry down there, but most of the puddles on the floor are gone...
    • I sorted through some of the last bits of stuff from the storage closet (mostly boxes of paper goods - which do I need and which can be stored elsewhere?), sorted some of the Library on the Go stuff I had brought back, and stared at the schedule in despair. 
    • 3ish my faithful volunteer D showed up, but I had forgotten to tell her that the program was outdoors and super messy. So the Ms and L set up the outdoor program and mostly ran it (pools, stringing lines for paintings, putting out frozen paint and platters of paint, etc.) while D worked through the shelving tasks that she is familiar with. Messy Art Club paint-sicles and sponge painting was on.
    • 3:30-5:30 I went in and out, keeping an eye on the program, cursing the hot weather (I really, really, really don't like heat) and around 4:30 came back inside. I talked with Jess and D about what we were doing with the cut-outs and belatedly caught up on all the stuff I'd brought back from Library on the Go (the computer hadn't worked so I'd written a lot of it down, plus I had to enter all the barcodes manually, update names I had guessed at the spelling, etc.). 
    • 5:30 the Ms cleaned up, and I cleaned out my email, uploaded photos to Facebook, and tried to figure out how the heck I had ended up ordering multiple copies of random dvds.
    • I left around 6. A long, hot, icky day.
  • Friday
    • Ah, nice and cool. Well, not inside, but at least I know it's cool outside.
    • 10ish - got to work, packed up and organized all the paper products sitting in the storage room, tidied up displays, working on finishing new maker kits and storytime kits. Also ya weeding and cleaning off my desk. Various enquiries at the desk, not too busy.
    • 12 - aide came in, got her started on various projects. Finished 2 maker kits and some more weeding.
    • 1ish - ate lunch in between wandering in and out, dealing with patron incident, and staff setting up the chromecast for the maker workshop (apparently all technology breaks when i get near it).
    • 2:30 - all the maker kits and toy bags are finished and caught up! Now to finish some ya weeding before the maker workshop...
    • 3:30-5:30 Maker Workshop: Crochet. This was a new one I was trying. One attendee I think was a little too young - I showed her how to finger knit. One struggled valiantly despite being left-handed and did a really good job for me being such a poor teacher! A couple caught on right away, others took longer and then happily chained away!
    • 5:30-6 ran through applications, posted photos, and went through a bunch of bills plus a few other things before leaving for the week.
And there is my week. Programs on In Short, I am Busy and maker kits and stuff on Read 'n' Play