Saturday, April 29, 2017

This week at the library; or, All the work behind the scenes

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Everything planned for today was cancelled due to storms and strep (not my own)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Lego Club
  • Friday
    • Closed for staff development
      • I was really, really excited to get a couple teachers over from the school district for an autism presentation. They were kind enough to take a walk through the children's area with me afterwards and give some feedback on ways we could improve and update. We also visited a couple libraries in a nearby county which will hopefully be joining our consortium soon. I took many pictures of the newest building's amazing family bathroom. These are the important things folks!
Projects in progress and completed
  • Interviews for youth services aide positions continue
  • Selected, requested, and processed more collections for the schools - fantasy series, countries, and various small requests this week.
  • Working on putting together new audiobook packs
  • Finished summer reading logs
  • Struggling with the summer staff schedule

Friday, April 28, 2017

Franny K. Stein Mad Scientist: Lunch Walks Among Us by Jim Benton

I know this is an older series, but it still circulates vigorously. I decided to throw it in as a choice for my book club readers but then realized I had never actually read any of the titles...

Franny is a little...different. She likes to dress in lab coats, has a room full of bats, and is fond of....experimenting. Her parents have tried to make her more ordinary, but with no success. When she moves to a new town, she is upset that the kids are scared of her and she has no friends, so she starts a science experiment to fit in and be normal. It works - a little too well! Now her family is worried about her, she has friends but does she really want them? And when the lunch goes critical who will save the day?

Benton's funny illustrations show a menacing little girl, wacky monsters, and ridiculously "normal" classroom. This is a funny story that will make kids snort with laughter - and possibly thing a little about fitting in and being yourself.

Verdict: If I didn't already have this series in the library I wouldn't start from scratch, but I will definitely keep replacing it as needed since it continues to be popular. It's also a higher lexile level, which is useful.

ISBN: 9780689862953; Published 2004 by Simon & Schuster; Purchased for the library (replaced several times)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beastly Brains: Exploring how animals think, talk, and feel by Nancy F. Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo presents another excellent middle grade nonfiction title, this time exploring the emotions and intellect of animals.

There is so much information packed into this book it's hard to know where to start, but Castaldo kicks off the discussion by delving into the workings of brains, both human and animals and then taking the reader on an exploration of the exciting science of animal intelligence. Do animals communicate? How? Do they feel? Do they think? Castaldo explores current and historical science, interviews scientists, adds in quotes, experiments, results, failures, and more.

Readers will learn how bees communicate, how dolphins talk, how dogs feel, and more. They'll also be able to explore the exciting and growing body of science around animal communication. Along the way Castaldo asks poignant questions about animal welfare, rights, and how they intersect with science. The book ends on a humorous note and then jumps into many suggestions for further research. There are suggestions and guidelines for kids to do their own experiments with their pets and other animals, resources for advocating for animals, fiction and nonfiction to read for more information, and online resources. There is also a glossary, notes, bibliography, and index.

For readers who are interested in communicating with their dog or those who want to delve into the science more deeply, this is a perfect book to get them started. It's well-written and, while the author's own feelings on animal cognition are clear she presents a balanced view of the science and research. There are also some side discussions on how women in science, like Jane Goodall, affected the way animal intelligence is researched. I feel that the perfect science books not only convey information but get the reader excited about exploring the subject further and this book definitely accomplishes that goal.

Verdict: Animal communication is a perennially popular subject and this book is a great addition to that field. Pair it with some of the more specific Scientists in the Field titles (Dolphins of Shark Bay or Crow Smarts) for a great class project, book club session, or just to recommend to readers who are interested in animals and science. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544633353; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Whose shoes? A shoe for every job by Stephen R. Swinburne

I have mixed feelings about this quirky board book. It features a number of photographs of people wearing shoes, and then specific shoes, asking kids to guess who wears them.

The shoe questions include pointe shoes for a ballerina, rubber boots for a farmer, boots and protective clothing for a fire fighter, boots and fatigues for an Army National Guard, cleats for a soccer player, work boots for a construction worker, sturdy black shoes for a postal worker, black slip-ons for a chef, and pink, oversize shoes for a clown.

There are a couple darker-skinned legs in the mixed pictures. The ballerina and postal worker are white females, the farmer, construction worker, and chef are white males. The soccer player is a black male. The soldier and fire fighter are, I think females but it's hard to tell. They're both white. The clown is also white, but I can't tell the gender. A final picture at the end of the book shows kids dressed up in their parents (presumably) shoes. A white kid in a cowboy hat, Latino boy in construction gear, white girl with heels and a briefcase, and Asian boy in a medical uniform.

So, I feel like an effort was made at diversity but it was not wholly successful. Some of the pictures are confusing - what about plain black shoes says "chef" as opposed to postal worker? Many of them are identified by their pants or the equipment they're standing on or with, rather than the shoes.

Verdict: A nice idea, but fell short in the execution.

ISBN: 9781629796918; Published September 2016 by Boyds Mills; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I am the mountain mouse: Four Furry Tales, One Crazy Mouse by Gianna Marino

No book of Marino's is ever the same; each offers a new experience, quirky, subversive, and funny. Her latest is a delightful foray into the complexities of friendship, boasting, and a little warning about listening to others.

The book is divided into four stories, each a few pages long. In each, the bigger, white mouse (Mountain Mouse) takes charge - with disastrous results. In "The food story" she takes charge of a piece of cheese, since she's bigger and can climb harder. Unfortunately, the "mountain" she's climbing isn't what she expected! In "The pool story" she leads her friends on an exciting adventure, diving into a pool. Unfortunately, the pool wasn't for them.... For the second time, the Mountain Mouse makes a perfect landing (on her friends). In "The bed story" she finds the perfect bed - but it's already occupied! In "The coconut story" her long-suffering friends, decked out in chic bathing suits and trepidatious expressions, are having a vacation at the beach. "I don't want to see glum faces." says the Mountain Mouse. They're just about to jump in when they see something in the water... Finally, she seems to have learned her lesson and they settle in for a relaxing vacation. Or has she?

There isn't really a moral to this story - it will certainly offer talking points about choosing who you follow, thinking before acting, and not taking unnecessary risk - but it's also just a hilarious story of all the things that can go wrong when you are the Mountain Mouse. The illustrations, created in large panels with speech bubbles, are a good introduction to kids of graphic storytelling and will also offer more scope for examining sequences of action.

Verdict: There's plenty of tie-ins for education in this story, but mostly it's just fun! Recommended.

ISBN: 9780451469557; Published 2016 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortiumI am the mountain mouse: Four Furry Tales, One Crazy Mouse by Gianna Marino

Monday, April 24, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne

This stand-alone nonfiction title not only offers a window into a piece of history but has relevance to today's current issues.

The story opens with sepia snapshots and a poem, written by one of the youngest travelers on the kindertransport. Readers are plunged directly into the narrative as the train travels across Europe, loaded with frightened children. After this dramatic introduction, Berne explains the context and history of the Nazi's persecution of Jews, beginning with discrimination and ending with arrests, attacks, and death. Then the stories of six children are told; Kurt Fuchel, Harry Ebert, Irene Schmied, Hans Schneider, Ursula Rosenfeld, and Jack Hellman. Each of them has a story of fear, desperation, and hope to tell, each of them remembers the traumatic parting from their families and familiar surroundings, as they were transported to Britain and a better chance at survival.

The narrative ends with a chapter talking about the children's lives as adults. Some were reunited with their families, but many lost most or all of their relatives in the Holocaust. They and their parents, if they survived, often continued to face discrimination and suspicion, but they never ceased to be grateful to the people who saved their lives as children. A section focuses on the organizers of the Kindertransport and the children they saved from the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, acknowledgments and sources, questions for critical thinking, bibliography, and index.

The obstacles faced by the Kindertransport, especially of governments refusing to accept refugees and setting multiple strictures on immigration and how and when children could be rescued, will draw immediate parallels to current controversies over refugees today. While it will take a mature reader to reflect and consider the many complex issues as well as the emotional impact of the Kindertransport - it was considered a temporary measure, most people assuming that the children would return to their parents after the war - this would be a powerful text to discuss in the classroom or at a book discussion as well as recommend to students interested in learning more about World War II, the Holocaust, and the human impact of world conflicts, prejudice, and genocide.

Verdict: A strong addition to resources on World War II and the Holocaust, this gripping narrative will make an excellent introduction for readers interested in exploring history as well as current events.

ISBN: 9781515745457; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, April 22, 2017

This week at the library; or, The Big Program

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • department staff meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Community party
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Candy Science
  • Friday
    • youth services aide interviews
  • Saturday
    • information desk
This week's big program was our community party. It's a collaboration between multiple community partners, the school, and the library. About 250 people came, which was manageable. I'm working on updating my program instructions on my other blog, hence the lack of links. This week was exhausting and went on forever, but the weather was nice.

Projects in progress and completed
  • Summer planning, marketing, prizes, and scheduling, etc.
  • Interviewing for new aides
Professional Development
  • SLJ Webinar: New spring nonfiction for the library and classroom
    • Creative Company, Mason Crest, Scholastic

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wellie Wishers: The riddle of the robin by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Thai Thu

Willa and her friends make up the Wellie Wishers. Together they play in Willa's Aunt Miranda's backyard and learn about nature and friendship. I picked one title from the series to try out and I have mixed feelings about it.

So, Willa and her friends are looking for signs of spring. They see a crocus and then a robin. They learn about what robins eat but when "their" robin disappears they go on a hunt to find it and get lost! Fortunately, they solve their problem and return to the playhouse, only to run into another problem when the robin is not happy to see them! Fortunately, they figure out that the robin has a special surprise. Back matter includes simply activities for parents to do with their daughters like making bird feeders and observing birds.

The illustrations are charming and colorful and young readers who are ready for longer chapter books but still want pictures will love these. They showcase strong female friendships and creative problem-solving as well as emphasize playing outside.

So, what's not to like? Well, first of all, and this really annoyed me, but they are looking for signs of spring, right? The first thing they find is a crocus and then a robin. Now, I'm looking out my window and I have crocuses and robins. What I DON'T have is summer flowers and green everywhere. It's also 30 degrees and nobody is wearing summer frocks. Even a mild winter, which would have the robins nesting in March, is not going to have the riot of color shown. This may seem very persnickety, but the book is supposed to be teaching kids about nature and the outdoors and it was very odd. Secondly, the "backyard" is more like a forest. They literally get lost in it and it's HUGE. While it's not wholly unbelievable, the average kid is not going to have access to a yard that appears to encompass at least an acre and includes a pond, playhouse, garden, free-ranging rabbit, theater, woods, and more. Thirdly, and this is a perennial complaint of mine, this features the typical representation of this type of story - one girl of each, white, black, Asian, and brown, but of course the white girl is the one whose aunt has the house, is in charge of the group, and while the stories don't seem to run in sequence this one has a "first" feeling.

Verdict: These will be popular. They do feature a diverse group of girls, they're attractive and interesting and the pictures are sweet. While they bother me in some minor aspects, I will probably overlook those and purchase these to add to my American Girl collection.

ISBN: 9781609587918; Published 2016 by American Girl; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson

The fifth volume of Hilda's adventures revisits both her magical, mysterious adventures as well as her relationships with her mother.

The story begins with a wild chase, as Hilda and her pet, Twig, pursue a runaway bit of land that's taken off with a mini house aboard! When Hilda accidentally ventures outside the wall around town and encounters trolls, her mother has had enough. Desperately worried about Hilda's adventures, which seem to draw her farther and farther away from her mother, home, and safety, she lays down the law and confines Hilda to her room. But Hilda's spirit can't be contained and she tries to make a break for it with the help of their house spirit, Tontu. Hilda and her mother are dragged into a strange world, full of frightening creatures and without light or food. Will they be able to work together to survive and come to an understanding?

Unlike the other Hilda stories, this one ends with a startling cliffhanger, hinting at further adventures with the trolls to come. Pearson's art continues to grow and mature, not only showing a wide range of strange and fantastical creatures, but investing each of them with a personality all its own. Even the roughly-hewn stone trolls show distinct personalities and differences, although they are not anthropomorphic, clearly being alien to human emotions and concerns, they nevertheless have their own thoughts and feelings.

Verdict: Hilda may not have the wide appeal of Bone or Amulet, but it nevertheless has a charm, mystery, and delight all its own. Once you've introduced this to children who like beautiful art and complex stories, they will be eager for the next installment.

ISBN: 9781909263741; Published 2016 by Flying Eye Books; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Small Readers: Urgency Emergency: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Dosh Archer

I looked at a few of these titles before; they've been nominated for Cybils and they pop up periodically. Opinion seems to be divided - some don't care for the blocky, awkward illustrations with their odd perspectives, and they're definitely higher reading levels for easy readers. Others find their nursery rhyme-based humor charming and the quirky hospital adventures silly and delightful.

My book club kids fall into the latter group. I had to do a bit of digging (i.e. ask our inter-library loan librarian to request multiple copies) but the younger and lower-level readers quite happily picked out their favorites of the titles, going either by cover or ones they'd read before.

While the first title, Big Bad Wolf is hilarious, I think this one is my favorite (and apparently other libraries agree as it was the one I was able to get the most copies of). In this story, Doctor Glenda and Nurse Percy handle another emergency; poor Itsy Bitsy spider has hurt her head! The two professionals handle not only Itsy Bitsy's physical hurt, but talk Miss Muppet into overcoming her fears and making a new friend.

Verdict: If you are looking for humorous titles for intermediate readers, especially if you have a large homeschool population or other group likely to be familiar with traditional English nursery rhymes, these will definitely have an audience. A more urban or diverse population is less likely to click with them, but it wouldn't hurt to try one or two and see what the kids think. The female doctor is a nice touch of diversity as well.

ISBN: 9780807583586; Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The magic word by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Elise Parsley

Some days you just want a good, solid, subversive picture book. Of course, the first name that springs to mind in this case is Mac Barnett and his latest book is no exception.

"On Friday night at 8:45, Paxton C. Heymeyer of 23 Larch Street asked for a cookie." Thus the tale of hilarity begins. His babysitter, looking exhausted in a sea of mess and destruction, asks "What's the magic word?" and instead of the culturally-acceptable "please" Paxton says "Alakazoomba". A magic word indeed! Soon, all his wishes come true from cookies and milk to walruses chasing everyone he doesn't like to the North Pole. When his friend Rosie is skeptical of his choices, Paxton chases her off with a walrus too - but then has second thoughts. Apologies all around....except maybe to that mean babysitter!

Parsley's quirky illustrations are just the right match for this silly story. Paxton is mischievous, delighted, and purely naughty by turns while his family and friends' expressions shift from shock to, well, more shock (especially when those galumphing walruses show up).

Verdict: This won't teach kids any lessons and will probably annoy grown-ups no end, especially when kids start shouting "Alakazoomba!" instead of please, but it's so funny you just can't ignore it!

ISBN: 9780062354846; Published 2016 by Balzer + Bray; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Classification: Birds by Erica Donner; My first pet: Chinchillas by Vanessa Black

 My nonfiction selections today are an addition to a series offered by Bullfrog books and a new series.

Birds is part of a new, six-volume series covering animal classification. It covers basic aspects of the animal - for birds it's feathers, flight or non-flight, eggs, and beaks. Back matter includes a diagram of a bird, picture glossary, and a brief index and bibliography.

Chinchillas is an addition to the My First Pet series. It previously included more traditional pets like cats, dogs, gerbils and birds but is now expanding with snakes, lizards, guinea pigs, horses, hermit crabs and chinchillas! They are very furry. Just look at the furriness! This book pictures several kids, including one in a wheelchair, holding and caring for their chinchilla pets. It also lists some basic facts about the animal and their care. It includes a page of chinchilla basic needs, picture glossary, and an index and bibliography.

Both titles have short, simple text. It works well for beginning readers as well as reading aloud to kids with short attention spans who like nonfiction. The animal classification series is superfluous; The About series by the Sills is better quality text and art and less expensive. I would recommend purchasing additional copies if more simple animal classification titles are needed.

However, the My First Pet series is a stand-out. While it doesn't offer enough information to actually teach a small child how to care for a pet (and I would hope that nobody is getting young kids a chinchilla anyways) it does meet kids' need for and interest in different kinds of pets and gets them started on researching different kinds of domestic animals. There aren't a lot of pet care titles, especially ones at this low reading level and this fills a much-needed gap. Plus, you know, furry.

Verdict: Skip Animal Classification, but My First Pet is a good addition to any section, easy reader or picture book, in your library.

Birds
ISBN: 9781620315378; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

Chinchillas
ISBN: 9781620315491; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This week at the library; or, Why am I so tired? I don't know.

dot painting
What's happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach Storytimes: Let's Grow (5 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Dot painting
It's difficult to fully explain the chaos and drama going on. The kids are all super antsy from a combination of spring and our varying level of lockdowns due to an investigation in the next county over. We are all feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We forgot about Easter. I only realized on Monday night that I'd planned a totally different program instead of our traditional egg-painting for Messy Art Club and my associate remembered that we hadn't put any Easter books on display!

Projects
  • Facebook posts - finished the beginning chapter and neighborhood series (they will post through December) and new book Wednesdays (through May).
Professional Development
  • Booklist Webinar: Series nonfiction must-haves for the school library
Real Kids Read Books
  • Book club kids loved Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz. We talked about being average and being "special".
  • Several kids also really loved Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhai Lai. We talked about refugees (they were completely clueless about any refugees other than the Jews in WWII. Or any global conflicts. One kid says "there's a war?" I talked about Hmong refugees, of whom there is a large population in our state and Sudan. We also talked about what it would be like to move to another country and how they treat kids in their classes who don't speak English or are different from them.)
  • We talked about Roller Girl. One reader saw another's copy of Hamster Princess and wanted it next.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel by Charise Mericle Harper

June is a quirky, happy-go-lucky girl who has one big plan - make a new friend who is Fun, Friendly, and will go on Fun Adventures. And believe that she can talk to her dog Sammy. When Mae moves in next door, June has high hopes of a new best friend, especially when June's grandmother sends her the Wonder Wheel with lots of fun activities and suggestions for making friends.

But things don't go quite the way June had expected, especially when it looks like Mae is going to be friends with mean girl April at school. Will the Wonder Wheel come through for June?

Spires' perky illustrations show two exuberant, imaginative girls and their family, friends, and enemies having fun in every day adventures.

This was cute and quirky and will easily join a long line of other female friendship books for this age group. I did have one quibble though - why is the girl with darker skin the friend? Why not the protagonist? While I am seeing more and more kids of color in children's books, it frustrates me that they are always relegated to sidekick status. Hopefully future titles in this series will bring Mae to the forefront - her name comes first after all - and let us hear from her directly, rather than have her feelings and thoughts interpreted to the reader through the lens of her white friend.

Verdict: A cross between Ivy + Bean and Dory Fantasmagory, this is sure to find happy readers in any library looking for more intermediate chapter books.

ISBN: 9780544630635; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon

Sometimes I just need to sit down with a big stack of Ursula Vernon books and forget about the world and the latest Hamster Princess is just what I want.

Harriet has barely arrived home from saving the dancing mouse princesses when she (thankfully) gets a call for help from her friend Prince Wilbur. His dear friend Heady, a hydra, has had her egg stolen! Harriet and Wilbur set out in pursuit and track a wicked witch down to a secret castle where they discover a rat princess with a very, very, very long tale.

Like Vernon's previous titles, this snarky spoof of fairy tales channels Patricia C. Wrede with a verve that's all Vernon's own, unique style. Delightful illustrations, humor and wisdom on every page, and a strong central character who's not afraid to admit when she needs a little help, even if it comes from a ridiculously soppy rat princess!

Verdict: I just love these. They make me laugh and they're just so fun and well-written! If you don't already have fans for this series, and I find it hard to believe you don't, recommend them to fans of Hale's Princess in Black or E. D. Baker.

ISBN: 9780803739857; Published 2016 by Dial; Purchased for my personal library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Small Readers: You Should Meet Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by (respectively) Monique Dong and Elizabet Vukovic

I have a couple book club attendees who are very interested in biographies. I've noticed that it's only the high-level readers who are interested in this genre; lower-level readers and reluctant readers are much less likely to pick up biographies at this age.

This series features both well-known and minority people who made an impact on history. I chose two titles for our book club in March; Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens.

The biography of Mae Jemison talks about her early life, her determination to succeed and try out different things, and her eventual success in multiple careers. It's upbeat and inspirational with lots of short narrative stories that my readers can relate to.

Jesse Owens' biography touches briefly on his disadvantaged early life, where he battled poverty and prejudice, and his eventual triumph at the Olympics in Berlin. However, this did not last long as Owens continued to battle prejudice and poverty for the rest of his life. I felt that this story lacked enough context for younger readers to understand what was going on, although it's an ok introduction to Jesse Owens.

Verdict: My preference is for the National Geographic easy reader biographies - I feel they have more context of the history surrounding the people they profile. However, the You Should Meet... series does a better job of choosing minorities and women to feature. So you should get both series! These are a higher reading level, so they're probably only going to appeal to higher-level readers, but then they are the ones most likely to appreciate biographies anyways.

Mae Jemison
ISBN: 9781481476508; Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Jesse Owens
ISBN: 9781481480963; Published 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fox and the jumping contest by Corey R. Tabor

I liked Tabor's illustrations in previous books and I like this debut picture book even more.

It's the day of the big jumping contest and Fox is getting ready. Naturally, being a fox, he has a scheme! One by one, the animals make their best jump. Finally, it is Fox's turn. Will he win the coveted trophy? Or will his cheating get him in trouble?

The best part of this book is the illustrations. I love the bright, cheerful colors and lines, the humor shown in the animals' expressions and activities, and the general color scheme. The blacked out scene after Fox blasts off, Fox's face when he realizes he forgot his parachute, all are just perfect.

The plot is a little thin in places, but the humor and illustrations outweigh any drawbacks. There's even a mix of genders in the pronouns used for the animals. This is bound to be a favorite for kids and adults alike.

Verdict: I always like a good book just for fun. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062398741; Published 2016 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Who is Sonia Sotomayor? by Megan Stine, illustrated by Dede Putra

Have I ever actually read one of these? Hmm, I think I did skim through one, once upon a time. However, since I got this one sent to me for review and the they are super popular, I thought I'd take a look.

This latest title features Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It covers her early life in the Bronx, her struggles to overcome prejudice due to her race and sex, her personal life, and the many other obstacles she overcame to be named the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

Simple line drawings add interest and a light touch of humor to this informative, upbeat biography. These titles focus on the positive aspects of the various personalities and generally gloss over controversy or negative aspects of their character (although Sotomayor is pretty controversy-free!)

These biographies have endless appeal to kids, usually 3rd to 5th grade, who will devour them in large stacks. While they do include a lot of traditional biographical subjects (i.e. dead white males) they also include more diverse characters as well.

Verdict: These are a must-have for any library and this latest title is a strong addition to the series. I generally purchase them in paperback and our long-suffering processing staff vistafoils them.

ISBN: 9780451533654; Published 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, April 8, 2017

This week at the library; or, And then it rained

I was off work last week, in case you were wondering. I took Spring Break off. I did not do anything exciting other than lots of gardening, writing, and sleeping.

Happening this week
Projects
  • Selecting, requesting, and processing hundreds of books for school requests and book club
  • Working on teen manga - figuring out which series are finished, which need to be continued, etc.
  • Working on the calendar for the rest of 2017 and 2018
Real Kids Talk About Books
  • My book club kids are still very into Dragon Masters by Tracey West
  • Bad Kitty is also a perennial favorite
  • I need more books about the benefits of bees and not squishing bugs for my four year old classes. They got very riled up over Plant the tiny seed by Christie Matheson
  • Plants can't sit still by Rebecca Hirsch was a huge hit
  • I got a reference request (from a child) for books on raising sheep! I am so glad I updated all my books from Storey - Your Sheep, Your Chicken, etc.
Professional Development
  • Booklist Webinar: Middle Grade Matters
    • Simon & Schuster; James Riley
    • Algonquin Young Readers
    • Boyds Mills Press
    • Calkins Creek
    • National Geographic (Kids)
  • Webinar: Spring 2017 Sourcebooks Preview and interview with Jess Keating

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Gumazing Gum Girl! Gum Luck by Rhode Montijo with Luke Reynolds

It seems a long time since I reviewed the first Gumazing Gum Girl title, Chews Your Destiny! and indeed it has been four, nearly five years. This title proved popular with my patrons (much more so than my beloved Gum Girl by Andi Watson. Sigh.) and I waited eagerly for a sequel.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, really and truly, there is going to be a new Gum Girl! All the long, disappointed nights, the sad little "publication cancelled" notices, this one is really happening!

It starts out, appropriately enough, with a quick recap. After all, readers who loved the first title will now be teens! Gabby Gomez loves gum. Unfortunately, it's a forbidden substance in her house, thanks to her dentist father. But when Gabby sneaks gum anyways and has an accident, she discovers her secret power - to turn into the Gumazing Gum Girl!

In this second volume, Gabby is continuing her brave and stretchy deeds, but she has a lot of worries. What will she do about the mean bully at school? Can she keep her secret identity secret? She also has a lot of guilt about not telling her parents about her secret powers, especially since it means she has to keep breaking the rules and chewing gum. Things get even worse when a supervillain lets loose all the animals in the zoo and Gabby is left with no gum but monkey-chewed Galactic Grape! On top of that, she's getting a cavity and has a dentist appointment - with her dad! What will Gabby do?

The bold, pink cartoon illustrations will presumably switch to purple when Gabby changes her gum. The ARC I previewed was in color only through the first few pages. The layout of this graphic blend is primarily comics with several chunks of explanatory text, similar to Bad Kitty. The story is light and funny, it's great to see Hispanic characters as the main protagonists, and overall this is a delightful return to a fun and silly series.

Verdict: My main concern with this is that the kids who originally read the first book will have long ago moved on. If you're going to add this title (and I hope you do as it's super fun) you'll need to treat it as a new series in promoting it to young readers.

ISBN: 9781423161172; Published June 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher for review

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

Just Zoe. That's what everyone - even Zoe herself - calls her. She's not beautiful and charming and quick to make friends like her older sister Jade or a genius like her little brother Harper. She only has one friend, Quincy (he's NOT a boyfriend) and one interest, her father's rare and exotic plant nursery that surrounds their house, Wonderland.

But nothing ever stays the same. Quincy is facing some major challenges at home, Zoe's parents are worrying about money, and even Wonderland may not be around forever. Will Zoe keep zoning out into her own imagination, or can she make a real difference in her family and her world?

I purchased this for the library based on the popularity of The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond but have only now gotten around to reading it. I can see it appealing to tween girls who are dreamy, worried about not having friends at school, and will like the wish-fulfillment ending. I didn't find Zoe as annoying as some people did - although I do think her "zoning out" moments are maybe something that her parents should have checked... The ending was fast and unrealistic; a devastating fire destroys their entire home and livelihood but there's not really any mention of the practical logistics around a tragedy like this, although Zoe does stress a little about her part in the event.

Verdict: Overall this was well-written and engaging and will appeal to girls who like this type of bildungsroman. The touches of diversity and science were a nice addition. If Woods' other titles are popular, this will be a good addition to your library. Also, I love the cover.

ISBN: 9780399170973; Published August 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Small Readers: Guiness World Records: Daring Dogs by Cari Meister

Guinness World Records started expanding into chapter books and easy readers a few years ago. I naturally bought a couple of the easy readers but didn't get around to reading any of them until I used this title in our book club selections in March.

Each spread features a different fact or record about dogs. The subtitle, Daring Dogs, is a little misleading. Just as many of the records are about the largest, smallest, etc. dog as they are about their feats. The pages are illustrated with photographs of the famous dogs in question.

The text is intermediate, with facts and measurements interspersed with brief narrative sections. This is the type of easy reader that's a good filler for your easy nonfiction section. It doesn't particularly stand out, in text or illustrations, but it will be popular and check out regularly until it disintegrates.

Verdict: This is a great series to fill in your easy reader section, with lots of popular appeal and at a good level for intermediate readers. It was quickly snatched up by my book club readers.

ISBN: 9780062341839; Published 2016 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mapping my day by Julie Dillemuth, illustrated by Laura Wood

I get requests for map books for young kids several times a year. So far I've only had one book to hand them - Follow that map! by Scot Ritchie - but now I have a second, excellent title.

Flora, a perky biracial girl, loves to draw and illustrates the activities of her day with maps and other spatial activities. From figuring out the direction of the sun rising in the morning, to a treasure map finding her secret stash in the yard, to creating an obstacle course, kids will learn along with Flora's fun day.

The illustrations are simple and sweet, with clear graphs and maps that do a good job illustrating the different concepts as well as fun drawings of curly-headed Flora, her fluffy sheepdog, and her family.

Back matter includes a note to adults with activities and suggestions for interacting with the story and kids. It also explains some of the vocabulary used, although it's also explained in the story. There are several activities with links to download and print them online.

I usually purchase Magination Press titles for my parenting section, as they are usually issue books. They're good issue books, but not the kind of thing I'd read in a storytime. This title, and some others they've done recently, are shifting more towards narratives with a purpose. This title still wouldn't work as a storytime selection, unless you have an older group, but it's perfect for a lesson or activity on mapping.

Verdict: A unique title that fills a niche; I also appreciated the diverse family pictured. With simple text and cheerful pictures, plus all the activities, this book is all you need for a science activity, lesson, or program on mapping.

ISBN: 9781433823336; Published 2017 by Magination Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to library

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: The Poop Sleuth by Gina Shaw; Curious about Worms by Kate Waters

 Yes, there are poop stickers.

Ok, having gotten that out of the way, these two new titles from the Smithsonian imprint are excellent introductions to their subjects.

Poop Sleuth introduces a female scientist, Sarah Putnam, who studies poop! Readers will learn how and why poop is studied and the many things scientists can learn about animals, their diet and habitats. And, of course, there are plenty of pictures of different kinds of poop, including animals.... in action, as it were. There is a glossary, but no other back matter.

Curious about worms introduces readers to many different types of worms, from the familiar earthworm to parasitic worms and more. It includes bristle worms, deep in the ocean, similarities and differences between different worms, and their function in their various habitats. The glossary is the only back matter.

Both titles are a trim, 7x7 square. They are primarily available as paperbacks, but can also be purchased prebound. Text is limited to short paragraphs interspersed with copious photos, additional facts, and a varied layout. These will make a good addition to a nonfiction section to meet the needs of grade school students eager for science and nonfiction on a variety of topics at their reading level.

Verdict: Not a first purchase, but if you are building up a nonfiction collection and need more titles, these are a good option for intermediate readers. I'm currently short on nonfiction titles to meet the needs of my school district's new curriculum and these are just right for filling in the gaps.

Poop Sleuth
ISBN: 9780451533708; Published 2017 by Smithsonian/Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher; Prebound edition purchased for the library

Curious about worms
ISBN: 9780451533692; Published 2017 by Smithsonian/Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher; Prebound edition purchased for the library

Friday, March 31, 2017

Princess Posey and the first grade play by Stephanie Greene, illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Princess Posey is back in another sweet adventure. From her first days of first grade, faces the challenges and fears of a new school and new routines, Posey has progressed through the small triumphs and travails of school and is ready to tackle a new adventure.

Posey and her class are studying bees, which she loves. She also loves her classmate's special bee eraser. She doesn't love not being picked to be the queen bee and doesn't see why Caitlyn should have everything. In a moment of weakness, she takes the special bee eraser. What will she do now?

Sisson's gentle charcoal illustrations capture the small joys and sorrows that loom so large in Posey's life. Posey's struggle to be content with what she has, her mom's firm but kind lessons on not getting everything Posey wants. There's small dramas, emotions, and humor in this sweet, cheerful story.

While I would like to see more diversity pictured than just the make up of Posey's classroom, in general this is a pretty typical picture of the average classroom in our area and girls do relate to Posey's life and stories very strongly.

Verdict: I'm still regularly recommending this series to families who want the slice of life introduction to school but don't like the attitude or bad grammar of Junie B. Jones. I have no personal feelings either way myself, except for a private feeling that class clowns like Junie B. are annoying, but this series continues to offer a nice expansion of our collection.

ISBN: 9780399175688; Published 2017 by Putnam; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I'm an alien and I want to go home! by Jo Franklin, illustrated by Marty Kelley

This was an odd story. 6th grader Daniel Kendal doesn't fit anywhere. He stands out - literally - in his family, has no friends at school except weirdo Eddie and Gordon the geek, and his nasty older sister just told him he's an alien! With the help of his friends, he decides to go home to Kepler-B, the planet he's sure he came from.

With his friends' help, he tries to prepare for space travel and contact his true family. However, after a series of misadventures and a truly catastrophic Halloween, Daniel is starting to suspect he may have made a mistake.

The book comes in under 200 pages, which is great - there aren't many books for older elementary readers that aren't massive tomes - but it's very uneven writing and the black and white pencils illustrations feel too young for the intended audience. While the characters wildly swinging from maturity to naive innocence is, perhaps, realistic, I found it hard to believe that a 5th grader could actually believe they were an actual alien. One minute they're discussing whether or not Daniel is an alien and the next they're flipping each other off and doing complicated technology on computers. I would have found it more believable if Daniel's horrible sister had told him he was adopted and he and his friends had investigated that.

Daniel's family is kind of horrible. I can see why he'd hope to be adopted - his parents are oddly cavalier about his health and welfare and his sister is a really unpleasant person who never suffers any consequences. The book was funny in parts, but overall I just didn't care for it and I can't think of an audience for it at my library.

Verdict: Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780544442955; Published 2015 by Clarion; Purchased for my personal libraryI'm an alien and I want to go home! by Jo Franklin, illustrated by Marty Kelley

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Shhh! I'm sleeping by Dorothee de Monfreid

I've been longing to see this book ever since it came out. I love de Monfreid's illustrations in various quirky picture books, especially I'd really like to eat a child and I was interested to see how she handled a board book format.

The book is formatted into a tall rectangle, and on each side of the spreads are metal bunk beds, as seen on the cover. The first spread shows a darkened room. Only one dog is awake and her frustrated eyes are clearly the result of the interesting noises emanating from the 2nd bed on the left (that's the white and brown dog on the cover if you're interested). The lights pop on and one by one the dogs switch beds, chat, and join a friend on the other side for a story. Finally, the night is over, Popov (the noisy dog) awakes, and wonders why everyone else is sleeping on one bed!

Monfreid's illustrations, washed in the blue light of night-time, are sweet and funny at the same time. Each dog has a distinct personality and drawing and there are little details like reading lights and stuffed animals to add interest.

Verdict: The plot of this is a bit complex for a baby or toddler, and the odd, tall shape may be difficult to fit on a shelf, but there will definitely be a small but appreciative audience and I recommend adding it if you are looking to diversify your board book collection.

ISBN: 9781927271957; Published 2016 by Gecko Press; Review copy provided by the publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant

I think I shall make a collection of picture books featuring knitting.

Wide-eyed Cat loves his new friend, Yarn. Together they play games and have wonderful adventures. But then Girl takes Yarn away and when he returns, he's different. Will Cat and Yarn ever be friends again?

The story itself is funny and clever, but the real genius lies in the melding of art and story, especially in Cat's expression. Cat's innocent enjoyment, sulking when his friend is gone, and outrage when Yarn returns in a different form will make readers and listeners giggle from beginning to end.

The simple, bold text could also double as an easy reader and this is a good choice for storytimes or reading alone.

Verdict: Hilarious, even if you don't knit or like cats. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250051509; Published 2016 by Feiwel and Friends; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: When the sky breaks by Simon Winchester and Warning: Wild Weather Ahead by Theo Baker

In 2016, while weeding the juvenile nonfiction, I hit our majorly outdated weather section. "Nobody ever wants juvenile weather books" I thought. "I will get rid of the detritus and add new materials at my leisure".

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Guess what? The school has a new curriculum. They want lots and lots and lots and lots of weather books at all levels. I am getting new weather books now.

Fortunately, various review sources came through for me with lots of possibilities. I'm look at two very different titles, at different levels, from Penguin imprints today.

When the sky breaks, by journalist and adult author Simon Winchester, is aimed at strong middle grade readers. It explores storms, especially tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather, the science behind how they are formed, effects of climate change, and more. Extensive back matter supplements the already impressive amount of knowledge packed into the book. This book feels like a backyard enthusiast wandering through an interesting collection of facts and knowledge - which it largely is. Winchester talks about everything from his personal collection of barometers to weather phenomena in the Pacific ocean, including the economic and personal effects of weather along the way.

For younger readers, Penguin Core Concepts has a simpler but more organized approach. Warning: Wild Weather Ahead covers a lot of the same concepts but in simpler, more abbreviated form. Each spread covers a different phenomena; the water cycle, tornadoes, rainbows, etc. with a few extra facts on each page. There are no sources for these titles and they are illustrated with standard photography and have a simple, square layout. Beginning to intermediate readers will be able to tackle these "nonfiction storybooks."

Verdict: I would say these are both supplemental texts. When the sky breaks will appeal to strong readers who are interested in science and weather and want something that will spark off ideas for further research and exploration. Warning: Wild Weather Ahead is a good starter text for younger readers; the main drawback is that it is available only in paperback. If, like me, you are trying to rapidly expand a subject area I recommend both, although I am waiting to see if Warning: Wild Weather Ahead is available in prebind.

When the sky breaks
ISBN: 9780451476357; Published 2017 by Viking; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher

Warning: Wild weather ahead
ISBN: 9780448488738; Published 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, March 25, 2017

This week at the library

There were unicorns at Battle
of the Books. There is hope
yet in the world
The Happenings
I have a sinus infection and big-program-hangover. People continue to put things on my desk. I don't know why.

Projects
  • 2018 budget requests
  • Continuing young adult graphics collection development - now working on manga
  • Picture book collection development
  • Being sick and still functioning

Friday, March 24, 2017

Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Cece Bell

This is one of the new series I added to our beginning chapter series this year. Angleberger teams up with Bell to present a ridiculous mystery series full of wacky problems and even sillier solutions.

Inspector Flytrap of the Flytrap Detective Agency only takes on really BIG problems. Fortunately, there's no shortage, from a mysterious art clue to a giant stinky shoe. Along the way Inspector Flytrap has to deal with his assistant, Nina, eating the clues (she's a goat), clients who don't appreciate his genius, and all manner of craziness.

The illustrations are in black, green, and gray with photographs in collage format. The text is a good match for intermediate chapter book readers, not quite as challenging as Magic Tree House, but harder than an easy reader or Branches title.

The mysteries are, at best, peripheral to the silly jokes and hijinks that fill the story. Nina eats evidence, Inspector Flytrap muses on his need for movement and excitement. A giant peg-legged pirate appears, Flytrap and Nina eat lunch from the garbage. The story ends with the last case, involving a missing rose, which turns out to be the perfect partner for Inspector Flytrap!

Verdict: I thought kids would enjoy the wacky humor of this series and it had ok circulation. When I used it in book club several kids were interested and liked the idea of the silly story. I don't think it will be a super popular title, but if you have a large beginning chapter collection it's a good addition.

ISBN: 9781419709654; Published 2016 by Abrams; Purchased for the library

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti and Tony Cliff

This dramatic story, based on true characters and events, grabs the reader immediately and promises great things for a new series.

This is the story of Mary Bowser, ostensibly an illiterate servant in the house of Jefferson Davis, in reality a clever and determined spy. She braved incredible danger, living every moment in suspense, to pass information to the Union forces. This book takes the few facts known about her life and expands them into a fast-paced spy story with graphics, historical context, and a pulse-pounding conclusion.

The book includes biographical information about the characters of the story, an historical note, and a bibliography. There is also an answer key to the multiple mysteries included throughout the text.

I reviewed this as an ARC; it's apparently going to include multiple code-breaking pieces, similar to Candlewick's -ology books, as well as graphics in color.

This book contains some things I have been looking for and some I have not. I'm thrilled to see more historical fiction and narrative nonfiction (this book is a crossover of both) that features diverse characters, the people often passed over in major historical narratives. As a librarian, I'm a little nervous about books that include Things though. How long will they last? Will we have to count them every time they come back?

I postponed this review until I could borrow a copy of the finished book from another library. The finished copy has more art, both in color and black and white. The only loose pieces are in an envelope at the beginning of the book. They involve a couple code-breaking items and a little pamphlet. The story is still good without them and I wouldn't worry too much about them disappearing.

Verdict: Despite my reservations, I foresee this series being very popular and it definitely fills a niche. Hand it to fans of I Survived, Magic Tree House, and the -ology books and watch kids become immersed in history.

ISBN: 9780761187394; Published February 2017 by Workman; ARC provided by publisher at BEA; Final copy borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: All Aboard! National Parks by Kevin and Haily Meyers

This is part of a new series I haven't previously looked at - All Aboard! Each previous title takes the reader to a different state or large city. This one is a bit of a departure as it takes readers through various national parks.

Each spread is labeled with a different activity in a different park. One spread shows the train passing by a geyser, with a row of observers and a few bison in the background. This is labeled as Yellowstone. Against a vivid pink and yellow sky, a mountain goat stands on a ridge and an orca leaps in the ocean of Olympic. Each spread has one animal identified with a label, the name of the park, and the train somewhere in the illustration.

There is enough detail in the illustrations to catch the interest of older children and larger items for younger listeners to focus on. There are people pictured in a few spreads and a few have darker skin but most are white. The illustrations are a little rough around the edges; they sometimes look as though they are collages that weren't put together exactly right.

Verdict: Although this isn't perfect, it's a delightfully unique title and manages to incorporate older concepts (wildlife, national parks, geography) in a manner that is suitable for its audience of young listeners.

ISBN: 9781423642367; Published 2016 by Gibbs Smith; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery

A little boy watches his sister read and write and then imitates her by making squiggles and doodles. She gently encourages him to turn these into a story - an I begins it, then a circle becomes a soccer ball, dots become sand on the beach, and v's are the waves. The story continues until he gets stuck and takes it to school, where he lots of ideas for continuing his story!

This was shortlisted for the CLEL awards and it absolutely drips with early literacy ideas! I loved the emphasis on early writing skills, how the little boy wasn't pushed to do "real letters" but gently encouraged to use his imagination with his (developmentally appropriate!) current skills. In fact, if you wanted a manual for including the writing aspect of early literacy in storytimes and art programs, this is it! Lowery's cheerful images show a biracial family and a supportive, diverse classroom as well as supporting the text that brings the little boy's doodles to life.

Verdict: A great choice to support writing and imagination in preschool storytimes and in classrooms. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781771380164 ; Published 2016 by Kids Can Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: How is it made? Syrup by R. J. Bailey; Disaster Zone: Heat Waves by Vanessa Black

 Pogo is Jump!'s imprint for older readers. As I'm looking for more weather books, I welcome additions to the Disaster Zone series. These serviceable titles cover both being prepared for disasters as well as the science and causes of disasters. Heat Waves talks about what causes a heat wave and possible consequences, including fire and dehydration. It also covers ways to protect yourself and family during a heat wave. For some reason it's really hard to find current books on droughts, so I'll definitely need this one for some current units in our school district.

How is is Made? is a new series, similar to Lerner's Start to Finish series. This one includes chocolate, crayons, ice cream, paper, peanut butter, and syrup. Syrup starts with the maple trees and describes the tapping, processing and preparation of syrup. It includes a diagram of the process, activity, index and brief bibliography. I have a lot of young kids (think kindergarten) who are suddenly obsessed with processes and I think this series might appeal to them.

Verdict: These are serviceable series, the acquisition of which will depend on your library's needs. If you are looking for additional titles on weather and "how things work" both are good choices to add, as long as you already have more core titles like Lerner's Start to Finish or Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon weather titles.


Heat Wave
ISBN: 9781620315644; Published 2016 by Jump!; Review copy provided by publisher

Syrup
ISBN: 9781620315712; Published 2016 by Jump!; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, March 18, 2017

This week at the library; or, Still planning all the things

Playing "snake ball" at the Pig Party
What's happening
Projects
  • Planning summer reading
  • YA graphic novels - risking insanity by trying to organize and fill in Marvel and DC
Kids talking about books: Book club edition
  • One girl mentioned she was reading Princess in Black and everyone chimed in with enthusiasm on their love for the series.
  • Red's Planet had several fans. One thought the little blue aliens were funny. I pointed out that they're trying to eat Red, but they still thought it was funny!
  • Guys Read True Stories - favorite story was the Sahara survival one
  • A couple readers are still working on Palace Beautiful.
  • I finally got a reader for Melonhead! She thought it was funny, which of course it is!

Friday, March 17, 2017

BMX Bully and Speedway Switch by Jake Maddox, illustrated by Sean Tiffany

The Jake Maddox imprint (no, he's not a real person) is not exactly well-written, but I have gotten the most reluctant of readers to read them, so they're awesome in my book!

In BMX Bully, Matt is struggling with his feelings about his father being overseas and a new guy running the BMX course. This gets even worse when a cheating bully shows up - and turns out to be the son of the new owner! Matt works hard to keep his cool and play fair, even when the other kid breaks the rules and he and his dad try to rile him up. Eventually, he wins despite the obstacles and finds another track where the owner remembers his father and doesn't allow cheating.

Speedway Switch features twins, Michael and Mark. One drives on the midget-car circuit and one is the mechanic. An unsafe driver causes an accident, making Michael have to sit out a whole season and Mark takes his place, although he's not a good driver. When Michael gets a chance to go up against his nemesis, what will he do? Will his dad let him race? Will he get hurt again?

The Jake Maddox series covers not just mainstream sports and both male and female players, it also covers more obscure sports. I had no idea kids raced cars. I guess you have to be more of a sports and/or Nascar fan to know this! The writing is fast and choppy, although it has a mid-range lexile (blech) any kid who's ready to tackle a beginning chapter can usually make it through these. The endings are simplistic and the characters one-dimensional. But, they offer what many reluctant readers want. Exciting, blow-by-blow descriptions of sports, dramatic clashes of personality (bullies, cheating) and a happy ending.

Verdict: You can pretty much buy these without ending. There are multiple different series, some at a higher level, featuring both boys and girls, and many also feature diverse characters. They come in inexpensive paperbacks or more expensive library binding. Your library should have at least a small selection of these titles for reluctant readers, sports fans, and kids who want a quick, fun read. I chose these two titles for my recent book club and all the copies were pounced on with glee. I've also gotten several extremely reluctant readers, those who resolutely refused to pick up any book, willing to read these.

BMX Bully
ISBN: 9781598892369; PB edition published 2006 by Stone Arch/Capstone; Purchased for the library

Speedway Switch
ISBN: 9781598894165; PB edition published 2007 by Stone Arch/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

Nate has tried to run away from his abusive uncle and cousin before, but this time he's going to make it. He has a plan and even though his supplies got left behind he has high hopes. Until he gets lost in the woods, in the snow, and the coyotes start howling...

When he arrives at the doorstep of Evil Wizard Books and meets the proprietor, the brusque Zachariah Smallbone, he thinks it's a place to stay for one night before he moves on. Then he discovers he can't move on. He's trapped in the creepy shop as Smallbone's apprentice. Magic is real - and Smallbone is not going to share any of it with him. Nobody in the mysterious Smallbone Cove will help him and Fidelou and his coyotes are closing in...

This slow-paced fantasy builds slowly to a not-too-surprising conclusion that still has some fun twists in it. Readers will relish Nate's slow acceptance of his new life and discovery of his own inner strengths, not only magical but of character. The setting is richly descriptive, bringing to life the solitary life of the cove and its inhabitants and the magic that always dwells just around the corner.

Verdict: A powerful story about magic and inner strength. Readers looking for fast-paced action won't get into this, but a more mature and reflective audience will revel in Sherman's skill with words and the slow revelation of character that the story holds.

ISBN: 9780763688059; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Follow the yarn: A book of colors by Emily Sper

This deceptively simple title has a lot to offer for babies and toddlers.

The book opens with a simple white background, the black silhouette of a cat, and a scribble of RED. One by one, colors are added and the yarn begins to twist across the page. On the final page, the background changes to black, the cat is highlighted with a softly glowing light, and the colors are joined by white and fairly flash on the page.

The only text is the single word denoting the added color. The font is bold and the text is in the appropriate color.

Sometimes as adults, we can look at board books and think they are too simple, not enough text, not enough detail in the art, not enough stimulation for the child. But there's a real need for board books that are actually appropriate for babies and toddlers, not preschoolers or kindergarteners (or their caregivers). This fits that need perfectly. The simple, bold colors, added interactive element of colored lines to follow, both are just right for a baby or toddler to enjoy. Those who need a little more plot can easily inject some imaginative play into the cat's behavior and the appearance of the yarn.

Verdict: This is a new author and publisher to me and I will look forward to seeing more books from them in future. Strongly recommended.

ISBN: 9780975490280; Published 2016 by Jump Press; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I love my grandma by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd

This is part of a series of family stories by Andreae and Dodd, previously published in the UK and now being published in the US in picture book and board book format.

A gender neutral child with spiky blonde hair accompanies a brisk, grey-haired grandmother on adventures to the museum and on the train, baking cookies and cuddling up to watch a movie, and other fun activities. The story ends when the grandmother happily hands the child back to its mother; having enjoyed their time together, they're now ready for a break! The text is written in brisk couplets with no missteps in the cheerful rhyme.

Dodd's cozy illustrations show a warm, happy relationship. The grandmother has some darker-skinned friends in one picture but otherwise there is no diversity pictured.

Verdict: There are plenty of "I love my family" picture books on the market. This is sweet and cute, but does not particularly stand out among the vast number available. However, if you are looking to refresh your section and replace old titles, this would make a good addition.

ISBN: 9781484734070; Published 2016 by Disney Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You've Never Heard Of by Martin Brown

Martin Brown, the author of this delightful and hilarious collection of animals, is apparently the illustrator of the "Horrible Histories" series. I think these is more popular in the UK though - nobody around here reads them. Anyways, I didn't need to know his previous work to love this book.

As the introduction explains, this book is all about the less popular, or less well-known mammals of the world. They might be endangered, rare, or just not a popular creature but each one gets a full spread with funny pictures, basic facts and status, and interesting tidbits of knowledge.

Once you've browsed through this book, you'll know about the Lesser Fairy Armadillo, Silvery Gibbon, Russian Desman, Banded Linsang (featured on the cover), Hirola, and many more.

The only back matter is a glossary and explanation of endangered status terms (least concern, extinct, etc.) so I certainly wouldn't recommend using this for research. However, it's just right for browsing. The reading level is middle grade but the text is not so dense that interested younger children won't be able to sit still for some listening.

Verdict: A fun and unique addition to your animal book section. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781338089349; US edition published 2017 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library