Thursday, November 30, 2017

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

Two stories run parallel in this debut graphic novel about making choices and being yourself. Sisters Katia and Victoria are attending boarding school after being homeschooled. Victoria is trying to fit in, hiding her love of sewing and working hard to be part of the activities while ignoring the bullying and snobbishness of the other kids. Her younger sister Katie, while musically talented is a wild child and refuses to go along with Victoria's plans, leading to a big fight between the sisters.

Meanwhile, a friendly ghost boy in the nearby cemetery is worried about his friend Modie. Neither dead nor alive, Modie is kept trapped in between by his father's dark magics, which require the periodic taking of another child's life every thirteen years. Now the most recent thirteen years are up - and Katia is in danger. It will take the combined efforts of the friendly Little Ghost, Victoria, Katia, and even Modie to keep Katia from becoming a victim of the dark wizard and his ghosts.

Terry has a brisk, colorful style that fits in well with what most of my kids like. A strong linear storyline, good coloring, and definite, sure lines. Parallels between Telgemeier and Jameison will of course be drawn, but Terry's creepy ghosts and creatures add a frisson of scary that's all her own. The story is a little overdrawn - it's hard to believe that so many of the other students are nasty and the teachers oblivious, not to mention the lack of interest in the periodic disappearance of children, but it's a fast-paced and action-packed story that will resonate both with devourers of graphic novels and those who feel on the outside of school cliques.

A theme of music runs through the book, which emphasizes the other theme of making choices. Katia has chosen to be who she is and not worry about fitting in or not. Friendly Little Ghost has chosen to retain some of his humanity, separating him from the other ghosts, since he keeps ties to the mortal world. Modie chooses to stop his father and accept his death, rather than continue stealing other children's lives to continue his existence. Victoria makes a choice between trying to pressure her sister to conform or support her for who she is.

Verdict: A good effort for a debut title. The parallel storylines are a little cramped and there are some threads left hanging at the end, but this is a good choice for kids who aren't old enough for Anya's Ghost and need some reassurance in embracing themselves - or for kids who like an action-packed graphic story.

ISBN: 9780545889551; Published October 10, 2017 by Scholastic Graphix; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Small Readers: That's my book and other stories by Salina Yoon

I've reviewed the first Duck, Duck, Porcupine book and the second, My Kite is Stuck, and they just keep getting better. But I feel like they don't get enough recognition!

In this latest collection of stories, clever but silent Little Duck has to put up with the hijinks of Porcupine and Big Duck. In the first story, Big Duck and Porcupine ask to share Little Duck's stash of books when they get bored - but they just don't understand how books work! But maybe they just need Little Duck to show them what's inside the books? In the second chapter, Big Duck decides to have a talent show. Big Duck has lots of talents. Porcupine doesn't have any - or does he? In their third adventure, Big Duck gets worried when Little Duck loses his quack. She is sure he's sick because all he can say is "ARR" but little does she know Little Duck is playing a game...

Yoon's bright, primary colors stand out against a bold green and sky blue background, surrounded by sharp, black borders. The hints of scratchy black showing against the white and yellow spots add a nice touch to the art. Text is solely in dialogue balloons, bold black against white. While the text is not extremely challenging and will work well for a beginning reader, the book does require a higher degree of fluency, since a lot of the humor is shown through the interaction between the dialogue and the subtle changes in the art.

Verdict: My book club kids love these and I hope they become more widespread and popular as more people hear about them. I hate to keep comparing things to Elephant and Piggie, but really they are worthy successors, at least in humor. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781619638914; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Curious Cares of Bears by Douglas Florian, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

I liked the first collaboration between Florian and Sanchez. I was eager to see if they could repeat their poetic, humorous, and sweet collaboration with one of my favorite animals - bears - and they did.

A series of colorful, plump bears fill the pages as they frolic through the spring, summer, and autumn days. It's not all fun and games though - there's climbing trees for honey, collecting bugs and berries for family feasts, biking across the mountains, and exploring the forests. This silly story mixes fact and fiction equally, showing bears diving for salmon in one picture and biking vigorously across rocky hills in the next. The rhyming text will take a little rehearsal to read smoothly as Florian likes to mix up the rhythm. I really like Sanchez' sketchy illustrations, full of humorous expressions, dancing bears, and splashes of color.

Usually I prefer more fact-based books when I'm looking for stories about animals, especially hibernation and bears. I think this would work well in a hibernation or fall storytime though, just because it will get even little kids thinking about how to figure out which things are true and which aren't in a story. Obviously bears don't ride bicycles, but do they eat bugs and berries? How do we know which are things bears can and can't do? This would also mix nicely with a storytime on family get-togethers, since many scenes feature the bears celebrating together as a family.

Verdict: Match this with Sayre's Eat like a bear and Arnosky's Every autumn comes the bear for a great fall storytime.

ISBN: 9781499804621; Published 2017 by little bee; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hedy's Journey: The true story of a Hungarian girl fleeing the Holocaust by Michelle Bisson, illustrated by El primo Ramon

Hedy doesn't think she's brave - she only knows that she must escape. It's 1941 and Hedy's cousin, Marika, has just been deported from Hungary. They know she will most likely die. Even though they are Hungarian, not Polish, Hedy's family knows this is their last chance to get out, but they will have to split up. Hedy's mother and younger brother Robert travel together and her father makes his way alone. Hedy must travel across Europe on her own. When she finally makes it to Barcelona, she is reunited with her family, but their journey is not yet over. It will be many long weeks and frightening moments before they finally arrive in the United States and are once again free.

The back matter in the book includes a timeline of World War II that is matched with the experiences of Hedy's family. It also includes an author's note. Bisson tells the rest of Hedy's story - which includes her own. When Bisson was in sixth grade she learned about the Holocaust and, horrified, asked her mother if it was true. This is the story her mother told her, of her own flight from the Nazis. Bisson was raised to value justice and freedom for all and speaks about how her mother fought against racial injustice in the United States. She pays tribute to those who died, including her mother's cousin Marika. Photographs of her family, a glossary, and further reading is included.

This is a gentle introduction to younger readers of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Bisson speaks matter-of-factly about the death and persecution endured by the Jews and others, about those who died in concentration camps and on the dangerous journey. There are not graphic descriptions of atrocities and the soft pastel browns, pinks, and grays of the illustrations make the story feel realistic and yet not too frightening.

Verdict: For parents looking for a way to introduce their children to the Holocaust and to teach them about difficult subjects, this is a good choice. It emphasizes the people who helped, the good along with the bad, and while it is a true story and doesn't shy away from the facts it isn't all bleak, leaving space for Hedy and her friends to have brief happy moments and hope for the future. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781515769941; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 25, 2017

This week at the library; or, Holidays

What's happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Department head meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • closed
  • Friday
    • closed
  • Saturday
My associate ran Lego Club for me - only 12 people - so I could work on the calendar and schedule for next year. Of course I got a million interruptions, but I did get January done! I only worked 3 hours on Wednesday and spent most of it painting stuff and placing holds for school requests. My turn to work Saturday, it was busy.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Splash by Kallie George, illustrated by Genevieve Cote

It's been a while since I've reviewed or mentioned George's Tiny Tails series. Only three titles were written for the series and while they were very popular when I used them in book club I took a break before introducing them to a new group of readers. I last reviewed Flare in 2014 and didn't realize that I'd never reviewed - or even read - the last book, Splash! However, I think it's been long enough that I can use them in book club again so I decided to enjoy the last title.

Splash is a little sea serpent with a not-so-little problem; no matter how hard she tries, she just can't keep her tail from, well, splashing! Her wise old grandfather, Grampy, tries to teach her the ways of sea serpent swimming, from looking like a shadow to being still as a log, but no matter how hard Splash tries, her tail just won't cooperate. When a boat comes along and the sea serpents are in danger, will Splash's splash give them away?

This sweet little story teaches a lesson about self-control in a gentle way. When it really matters, Splash's practice in keeping still, even if it didn't work so well earlier, pays off and she is able to stay hidden. But her family is also lovingly supportive of her splashy ways and Grampy shows her a safe place where she can splash to her heart's content.

Cote's illustrations really make this series - this book is done in shades of green and blue, just right for a sweet little sea serpent. Splashy blue watercolors show the foam and droplets tossed up by Splash's eager little tail and she bunches and tumbles across the ocean and the page just like an eager little toddler.

We include these titles in our upper level easy readers; the text is bold and a larger font but more complex and includes more vocabulary than a typical easy reader. I would put these with other beginning chapter/easy reader blends like the Branches titles, Poppy the Pirate Dog, Bramble and Maggie, and King and Kayla.

Verdict: It's too bad George didn't write any more of these sweet tales - it's not often I find fantasy at this low a level and the cute pictures and sweet story are very appealing to many beginning readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781927018774; Published 2015 by Simply Read; Purchased for the library

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Adventurer's Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

I meant to read this earlier and use it as a fantasy pick for my Book Explosion meeting in October, but I didn't get around to it until November. So now it's an adventure pick for November! Which it fits perfectly.

In a medieval fantasy/post-apocalyptic world, Zed Kagari knows his only chance of a different life is to be chosen for a good guild. Being half-elven and with a mother in the servants guild, he's been overlooked and persecuted for most of his life. Even his best friend, Brock Dunderfel, who is assured of a good place in the Merchants Guild with his family, feels a need to constantly protect Zed. After a run-in with a noble's son, Micah, and an encounter with a mysterious fortune-teller, the big day arrives. Along with some shocks for all.

Now Zed, Brock, Liza (Micah's noble sister) and Jett (Zed's friend and a dwarf) are apprentices in the most notorious and potentially deadly guild in the city. They'll be venturing outside the walls, going up against the monstrous Dangers, and working for the strange and crude guild leader, Frond. But first they'll have to survive their initiation and a deadly conspiracy that could destroy not only the Adventurers Guild and the small group of friends, but the whole city.

This is definitely the first book in a series as it ends on a major cliffhanger; after Zed and his friends defeat a horrible and traitorous enemy, they're clearly not going to have much time before they're plunged into the next conflict. The world building is fast and furious, slapping together a picture of a medieval, feudalistic society with horrendous monsters and a lot of class and race prejudice that's based both on history as well as culture. The viewpoint jumps back and forth from Zed and Brock, although Brock is more clearly fleshed out, along with some input from Liza. Zed is clumsy, shy, and a little naive. He desperately wants to be accepted and safe, to have meaning in his life and do something important. Ultimately, he wants a family to accept him. Brock is a more complex character. He's accepted his privilege while recognizing that not everyone has the same life he does. He's often patronizing in his care of Zed and torn between his need to take care of Zed and his other friends and the demands made on him by his family and the Merchants Guild. Brock has a lot of pride and uses his words like a weapon - it's hard for him to accept that his guild might be lying to him and that he may have made the wrong choices.

Liza is a fascinating, although somewhat stereotyped character and I hope she will be given a more central role in later books. Unlike the others, she chose to join the Adventurers Guild, looking for a life outside her stifled existence as a noble's daughter and knowing the knights guild refuses to let women fight. She's a natural leader and, even more important, is able to be flexible and examine her own motives and beliefs, recognizing when she's made a mistake or is prejudiced against others.

The plot moves at a rapid pace, leaving readers little time to get acquainted with the more subtle emotions and characters in the book and frankly that's why I like middle grade rather than young adult literature! While the book could have dwelt on Jett's injury and the feelings and impact of various tragedies, there isn't time - there's another crisis, another monster, another conspiracy awaiting readers. In some ways, it reminded me of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series with the main characters having to deal with their lives not going the way they expect and discovering secrets and political intrigue as well as magic. It's a darker story, certainly, with some terrifying monsters (Dangers) and no promise of a happy ending any time soon, but readers who want an absorbing fantasy are sure to fall for this one.

Verdict: Readers who like fast-paced adventure and fantasy will gobble this story up; the only drawback is the major cliff-hanger at the end of the story and how long they'll have to wait for a sequel. I also hope to see more attention given to the female characters like Liza and Frond.  Recommended.

ISBN: 9781484798546; Published October 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Small Readers: I see a cat by Paul Meisel

An exuberant dog sees lots of exciting things out the window. A cat. A bird. A fly. The dog cannot go outside. It waits patiently. Mostly. Squirrels have to be barked at no matter what.

When the dog's owner, a stocky, dark-skinned little boy returns home, the dog is overjoyed and soon it is outside. Now it can chase the squirrel!

Meisel's humorous art is a nice match for the simple, level A text. Emergent readers will enjoy the humor as they practice their reading skills and may even recognize some familiar dog behavior.

Verdict: Meisel does an excellent emergent reader and this is a good addition to his series of dog-themed easy readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823436804; Published 2017 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Peep and Egg: I'm NOT taking a bath by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joyce Wan

Sisters Peep and Egg are back and Egg is just as determined to stay away from new experiences as Peep is to make her enjoy them!

In their latest adventure, Egg has been playing with the pigs - with the result that she needs a bath! At least, that's what Peep thinks. Egg absolutely does not agree. Too wet, too bubbly, too splashy, there's something wrong with everything Peep suggests! Finally Peep gives up and takes off with her friends. But what are they up to? Maybe, just maybe, Egg will take a bath after all!

Joyce Wan is the queen of adorable and this latest book is no exception. The two plump little chicks, worried Egg and sweet Peep coming up with suggestions for Egg's bath are just adorable. Reluctant bathers and siblings will giggle at the silly story and parents will sigh over the cute toys and cuddly animals.

Verdict: Adorable fun for a bath-themed storytime and just the thing for a "never want to take a bath" toddler!

ISBN: 9780374303273; Published 2017 by Farrar Straus Giroux; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 20, 2017

Where the Buffalo Roam: Bison in America by Kate Waters

I don't usually purchase level 4 readers and when I do they go into juvenile, not into easy readers. However, I was interested to see this title on the history of buffalo and sometimes these titles, especially nonfiction, find an audience in my intermediate readers.

Brisk paragraphs, not full-page, but several sentences each, are alternated with photographs and primary source pictures like cave paintings. The book explains the habitat and behavior of bison, their predators and food, their family units and interesting behaviors like wallowing. There is a chapter devoted to the bison's role in history, including their use by Native American tribes. These are not delineated specifically, just referenced as "American Indians". Brief mention is made of the white settler's and US governments destruction of the bison herds in order to take the Native American tribe's lands. The final chapter addresses how conservation groups restored the bison and mentions that some American Indian Nation tribes manage bison herds on their land. A glossary is included but no sources are listed. The reading information at the front includes comprehension questions useful in a classroom or learning situation.

Verdict: This is a nice, basic resource for fluent, intermediate readers to learn both about the bison as an animal and a little basic US history. A good additional resource if you are expanding this area of your collection.

ISBN: 9780515159004; Published 2017 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This week at the library; or, Meetings and more meetings

What's happening
Another crazy week! Our last visit from Pearl - she takes the winter off, so we'll see her sweet fluffiness back in the spring. Our big holiday craft extravaganza was a huge hit - but there were some unexpected snags. Some we couldn't do anything about (mix-ups with the room booking, staff getting sick) and others I plan to alleviate next year - better marketing and signage, more staff, especially for the transition. Everything was covered in glitter. I spent most of Wednesday working on stuff for life-size candyland. My Thursday book club readers are a small but enthusiastic group. 5 is actually a perfect number, as they all fit around the table. They want to help make an unboxing video and I have promised we will do so as soon as I get new books next year. I interviewed some potential interns (for working with the teens) and attended a community meeting set up by the adult services staff to discuss our plans for a new service/program venture, a sort of social/activities group for older teens and adults in group homes and with developmental disabilities. I think it's going to be a pretty cool thing.

Book Explosion Picks (adventure)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

This book features a corgi and a guinea pig. It was clearly written FOR ME. Pause for dying over the cuteness.

So. The book is told in two voices. The first is Gizmo, the evil-genius guinea pig whose loyal human servant, Elliot, has abandoned him to a terrifying creature - the human girl Jasmine! Who dresses him up and carries him in her pocket! The second narrator is Wedgie, superhero corgi and all-around nice guy whose most exciting thing to do is find things to eat, go on walks, and play with his humans. Wedgie is thrilled that there are new humans to play with! Gizmo is Not Pleased. Neither is Elliot, who wanted it to stay just him, his dad, and Gizmo. Instead, he's gotten a new little sister and brother, a stepmother, annoying dog, lost his pet guinea pig (Jasmine is taking care of Gizmo while they get him a new cage) and Jasmine's Abuela is from Peru - will she, possibly, EAT GIZMO??!!

Gizmo's humorous and villainous voice is matched by Wedgie's raucous enthusiasm and both are interspersed with dialogue between the family members. By the end of the story, readers will have laughed themselves silly and also gotten to grow alongside Jasmine and Elliot who both learn to compromise a little as they blend their families. Not Gizmo though. Gizmo never compromises! Well, maybe for a few new Loyal Human Servants, as long as The Elderly One is not planning to cook him!

The glimpses of the family, seen both in humorous black and white art and through the eyes of their pets, show a mixed-race family with a variety of skin tones as well as their own unique personalities. The parents are loving but a little distracted and kids will thoroughly enjoy being the ones "in the know" as they follow along with the silly story.

Verdict: Be prepared for kids to threaten each other with "the dreaded Biju Ting Ting Scalp Massager", laugh hilariously at the "pool of a thousand pees" and name all future guinea pigs furry potatoes. Also, beware the sequel when Gizmo returns with a new, villainous plan!

ISBN: 9780062447630; Published 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pickle: The (formerly) anonymous prank club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker

I read this for my new book club, Book Explosion. I'd never read it and only booktalked it rarely, but it popped up on my radar when I was looking for funny books and my teen aides said they'd seen a lot of kids reading it back in grade school and middle school. So, I thought I'd try it out!

Ben thinks it's amazing when he acquires a whole room's worth of ballpit balls. His parents aren't so pleased and he has to get rid of them - fast. In a sudden burst of inspiration, he fills his homeroom with them and The League of Pickle Makers is born. He teams up with some other kids to have some fun and play pranks (and make pickles, since they do need a good cover). But of course things just can't be that easy. Sometimes it feels like aggressive Bean and new girl Sienna are trying to take over his club. He feels guilty for leaving out his former best friend Hector, but Hector tattled to his grandmother, the principal, one too many times - and about something Ben didn't even do! Then there all the hours Ben's parents are making him put in at their restaurant and you just know something is going to go wrong.

And it does, at the worst possible moment. Ben has just successfully gotten the principal to pass his club's dish of escabeche as authentic pioneer fare (and a pickling entry) pointing out that even though all the textbooks and history books only show white people, people like him and a lot of his classmates were there too. Then Sienna, angry that her father has fallen through on his promise to come visit, ruins everything with a mean prank that backfires spectacularly. Next thing they know, Ben throws up on their fair entry, the principal has canceled ALL extracurricular activities, including sports, and everyone is angry at, well, everyone. Can Ben fix things? Is The League of Pickle Makers gone forever? And can he ever trust Hector again?

I have to admit I'm really not a fan of pranks in general. This comes from growing up cleaning things - while the students are laughing about a ketchup battle, I'm thinking about how long it's going to take me to scrub all the ketchup off the dining hall floor and tables and refill the bottles. However, this book wasn't so bad. While it's never blatantly in your face about it, there are several pointed remarks about how much work the club's hijinks make for the janitor and Ben is constantly anxious that all the pranks be funny, not mean or hurt anyone. Diversity is also a theme that runs through the book, pitting the out-of-touch principal against her more diverse students who don't see a reflection of themselves in the school's beloved Pioneer Fair. And it was quite funny.

Verdict: I can see why this has been a popular book for many years in our library; I recently weeded it due to condition and definitely will be replacing it with a new copy. I didn't get any of my book club kids to check it out, but they weren't quite the right audience for it - it definitely has kid appeal and some talking points too that make it a good choice.

ISBN: 9781596437654; Published 2012 by Roaring Brook Press; Purchased (a long time ago) for the library; Replacement copy to be ordered

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Small Readers: What is chasing duck? and There's a pest in the garden by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas' silly picture books have been staples of storytime and recommendations for beginning readers for a long time; now she's branching out to write specific easy readers in a new series called "The Giggle Gang." I approve. My readers approve.

The hapless duck reappears in There's a pest in the gardenSomething is eating everything in the garden! There go the beans, what will he eat next? Corn! Poor sheep. The pest has eaten all the corn, her favorite! What will he eat next? Peas! Luckily, donkey does not like peas. What's this? Duck has an idea? But why is duck diving into the ground and what is his plan? Uh-oh. Maybe there's more than one pest in this garden!

Duck is up for more adventures in What is chasing duck? All Duck can say is "quack!" but his friends know it means something big, hairy, and with giant teeth is after them! Will they all run or will Dog convince them to stand and face up to what's after them? Phew, luckily it's just a squirrel - and he's brought a turnip that Duck dropped! Uh-oh. Squirrel has dropped her acorn. Now, what's chasing squirrel??

The text is bold and simple, but would fit for a beginning, rather than emergent, reader as they will need to decode various punctuation and some more complex words. However, all ages can enjoy this ridiculous stories that are good for lots of giggles. Thomas' trademark illustrations offer plenty of humor to accompany the deadpan text and fans are sure to snap these off the shelf along with Elephant and Piggie and Salina Yoon's Duck, Duck, Porcupine.

Verdict: I'm buying these as fast as they come out and they're flying off the shelves. A great addition to the popular toon genre for easy readers and sure to delight young fans of Jan Thomas.

What is chasing duck?
ISBN: 9780544939073

There's a pest in the garden!
ISBN: 9780544941656

Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pick a pine tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis

I rarely review holiday books - they circulate only once a year and for Christmas books especially I have a superfluity. However, I will make an exception for an illustrator I really like - like Jarvis!

The cover has splashes of pine tree green against the white snow, and a sparkling red ribbon making the book look like a gift. The end papers are decorated with sparkling white snowflakes against a blue background. Simple, brisk rhymes tell the story of a biracial family choosing and decorating a pine tree. After a joyful meeting of friends and family and an explosion of decor, the tree shines forth in all its glory as a Christmas tree.

Jarvis' bright splashes of color really make this festive book. One page shows the glowing yellow light of an open door and lights against the cold blue of a winter night. Purple and silver tinsel sparks against the warm yellow walls, glowing against many different skin colors as the children and their friends happily deck the tree. A final spread is flipped vertically to make room for the glory of the decorated tree and the admiring decorates, including a dog and cat, sitting around it.

Verdict: The text is short and brisk enough to appeal to small children and Jarvis' bright, cheerful illustrations will make this a cozy book for the whole family to enjoy while preparing for decorating a Christmas tree. Sure to be a hit in my Christmas-themed town!

ISBN: 9780763695712; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the the library

Monday, November 13, 2017

Girls who code: Learn to code and change the world by Reshma Saujani, Sarah Hutt, and Jeff Stern; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Coding is a big buzzword in library circles right now. Week of code, coding programs for kids, etc. I've not much interest in the subject personally - I enjoyed logic courses long ago in my own high school studies and I'm willing to fiddle around with software until it does what it wants, but my general attitude towards technology is that I ignore it until I actually need something. Which is why I have a very, very old-style phone and two e-readers. Priorities!

I have a similar attitude towards my library programming. I've never been in favor of simply doing programs because they're the "in" thing. I look at our community, what's already offered by the schools, what resources people have and what they lack, and what the kids are interested in. In this case, I don't do much with coding or technology, especially not anything "educational." Our schools have extensive technology and maker lab equipment, far superior to anything I can put together, and with more qualified educators. Our middle school and high school also have robotics clubs, coding clubs, and there are nearby Girls Who Code clubs as well. A large number of members of the clubs, especially in middle school, are girls. So, I don't feel a need to recreate what another group is already doing well. What I DO want to do, is support the schools and their students in their interests. Which is why I bought this book!

Saujani beings by some of her own story, about how she got interested in coding, and some statistics about the barriers faced by girls going into coding. She explains why she wanted to found Girls Who Code and some of the cool things members have done. Then the book moves into the actual coding. The interesting thing is that this is not, per say, a "how to" book, although it does include activities and projects. It's more an explanation of how coding works, the logic and reasoning behind it, and how to get your mind into the right mindset to not be scared or unwilling to try coding. Saujani also talks a lot about working through problems and figuring out how to deal with bugs and roadblocks when coding as well as working with friends and choosing projects.

The book includes lots of interviews with real-life girls talking about the projects they've coded and brief biographies of famous women involved with coding and computers. There are also comic sections sprinkled throughout the book. Back matter includes a glossary and index. The book itself includes extensive references to websites and resources for young students to explore.

Verdict: This is a great introduction to coding as well as an encouragement to girls who feel daunted or scared of trying something new. It's explanations are simple and the narrative aspect of it will attract readers who think they "don't like math" or science. I've purchased one copy and it's checked out quite regularly, both to my girls who already code and those interested in starting, and I strongly recommend that all libraries have a copy for reference, whether or not you offer coding programs.

ISBN: 9780425287538; Published 2017 by Viking; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This week at the library; or I am busy

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Manager's meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
    • 5th grade field trips (2 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Friday
    • Middle School Madness
Busy. Took Friday off to catch up on reviews and such. Busy.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Adventures of Caveboy by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Eric Wight

This is another series in Bloomsbury's Read and Bloom imprint, similar to Scholastic's Branches. This title is humorous with colorful pictures by Eric Wight (creator of Frankie Pickle) and simple language (with lots of ooga booga!s). But the casual dismissal of the female characters just annoyed me so much I won't consider adding this one.

Caveboy is the main protagonist. His skin isn't white per say, but one strongly suspects it is dirt and not natural pigment that makes him a little darker, especially since his younger sister is a redhead. He finds his little sister annoying. This is meant to make him relatable, I suspect, but it's a tired trope and doesn't fit in to the rest of the story. Caveboy loves to play baseskull, but he does not love to practice, even though his family keeps reminding him that it's important. Finally, when playing with his little sister (who he neither thanks for playing with him nor acknowledges her pitching skill) he breaks his club.

Caveboy then sets out to find a new club. His parents' clubs are too big. His sister's club is too pretty. Heavens forbid he should have a club with a bow on it! When he sees the perfect club, even though it belongs to Mags, a dark-skinned cavegirl, he takes it. After some argument, he gives back the stolen club and Mags helps him search for a new club that is right for him. When he finds one with flowers on it, he thinks it's "too fancy" but it's just right for Mags, who willingly trades her club to him.

The two friends decide to race. Mags puts her club down on the ground so she can go faster, but Caveboy refuses to relinquish his club. When Mags gets lost during one of their races, and cries for help, Caveboy makes a difficult decision to go help his friend. He gets a hug for scaring away the scary spider and is embarrassed, but "because Mags is his friend, he hugs back."

Verdict: It's a cute story. The illustrations are fun. Kids will probably enjoy it. But it in no way stands out from the crowd of beginning chapter book series and the continued emphasis and subtle enforcement of gender stereotypes - girls like pretty/fancy things, boys don't, girls are scared of spiders and boys aren't, girls are more emotional, giving hugs, while boys only tolerate affection, etc. takes this off my list. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9781619639867; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Slacker by Gordon Korman

It took me a while to get around to reading this one, but I've been recommending it since it came out as hilarious, knowing I could trust Gordon Korman. SPOILERS.

Cameron Boxer is a slacker. He's proud of it; he's worked hard to get where he is. Completely uninvolved in anything except video games, the height of his ambition is to win big $$ at an upcoming video game competition. But when he accidentally almost gets the house burned down, his parents give him an ultimatum: Get involved in something or his gaming will be cut off. Cameron panics - he doesn't have time in his busy schedule to actually DO stuff! Fortunately, one of his friends can hack into the school website and set up a fake club for them. The Positive Action Group, that sounds good. Now Cameron can get back to gaming and his life will go on as usual.

There's just one problem - kids want to get involved with the PAG. And Cameron is supposed to be the president! Wild hijinks ensue as fellow students, teachers, and even his own friends decide they want to do good deeds. Before Cam knows it, things are out of control, he's being threatened by the high school Fuzzies (a competing good deeds club) and then there's the whole Elvis-the-beaver thing... Will Cam be forced to give up his gamer lifestyle and actually, you know, get involved?

Korman's trademark humor abounds, from the football player who refers to himself in the third person to the extracurricular-obsessed high school Fuzzy president. Cam himself is a typical Korman anti-hero - he just doesn't want to get involved and can't understand why people won't leave him alone. The events are a little over the top, but along with a big dose of humor there's a subtle suggestion that maybe making a difference isn't as hard as you think - and kids can definitely make that difference.

Plus Cam's younger sister turns out to be his gaming arch-nemesis (and much better than him) which was hilarious also.

Verdict: A must-have in your collection - give it to your slacker gamers, kids who want to get involved, beaver fans, and anyone who likes a funny book.

ISBN: 9780545823159; Published April 2016 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Floppers & Loppers by Stan Tekiela

Adventure Publications is a new publisher I looked at when I was at ALA in summer 2017. I've been looking at a few different books from them and I found one of their board books to review today.

Although it's not quite clear from the title, this is a book about animal ears. Each spread shows a photograph of an animal. There is a small white caption that labels the animal, an inset photograph showing a close up of their ear with a pop-out quote, and an additional fact about them in a brightly colored inset. So for a cricket there's a photograph of a cricket, an inset of their ear on their leg, and the text reads "This white spot on my leg is my ear!" and "Crickets' ears are on their front legs, below their knees."

The photo of an owl doesn't show its ears, which are hidden by feathers, but its feather tufts which are not ears (the text explains this). The book is a traditional square, sturdy cardboard, and the layout is fairly simple and uncluttered.

I like photographs for board books and simple illustrations. The concept of different creatures having different ears is probably best for at least a toddler age but even younger babies will enjoy looking at the animals. This is a good example of nonfiction in board books, as opposed to some other things which I will not mention here.

Verdict: A good addition to your board book collection.

ISBN: 9781591934240; Published 2013 by Adventure Publications; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Philomena's new glasses by Brenna Maloney


Ahem. I admit it, I am as vulnerable to cute as the next person, especially if guinea pigs are involved.

This is a story of three sisters. Philomena, Audrey, and Nora Jane are very similar and yet a little different. But, as sisters, they like to do everything together. So when Philomena gets some snazzy purple glasses, Audrey and Nora Jane get glasses too.

Then Philomena gets a handbag for her glasses. Audrey thinks that would be useful - a place to keep snacks! Nora Jane is a little worried about all the things she's having to haul around though.

Finally, the sisters have a discussion and realize they don't always have to be exactly the same - they only need the things they're really using. Maybe...

The real draw of this is guinea pigs. In glasses. With handbags of snacks! Adorable. It would go well with a storytime on clothes or on things not having to be "fair" all the time.

Verdict: Fans of Nancy Rose's squirrel photography and guinea pig lovers will delight in this silly story. Guinea pigs!

ISBN: 9780425288146; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins by Sandra Markle

Kids are always interested in saving animals, especially if said animals are cute or fluffy. Sandra Markle continues playing on this popular theme in her latest science title.

Markle sets the scene with the plight of African penguins. Threatened by climate change, human incursion into their nesting sites, and overfishing, the rapid decline of colonies threatened the species survival. How could they be saved? Markle follows the careful scientific investigation and resulting attempts to save the penguin nesting sites along with the results.

Readers will not only get to follow a story of wildlife conservation (with lots of cute penguin photos) but also learn about the penguins themselves and the scientific methods used to investigate and stop the decline of their populations.

Markle's titles are always a quick pick for me when looking for book club nonfiction or recommending nonfiction to kids and teachers. They're well-written and researched, include excellent sources and back matter, and of course have a great layout and lots of cool photographs. I really like her two main series - wildlife conservation and scientific mysteries - and they circulate well in my library.

Verdict: Worth the extra $$ to purchase these library bound editions, they are sure to circulate regularly on any library shelf for years to come.

ISBN: 9781512413151; Published 2017 by Milbrook/Lerner; Purchased for the library

Saturday, November 4, 2017

This week at the library; or, November begins

What's Happening
I am tired. No school Monday or Tuesday. Huge crowds on Tuesday. 150 four year olds, teachers, and a class from the special education school came to Kohls Wild Theater on Wednesday. Still hadn't finished cleaning up the mess by Thursday. Good group for book club though. I didn't do much for the science fest - I was working on Candyland prep and a gazillion other things. I did spend a while carrying an ozobot going in circles around though. We had ozobots, spheros, a 3D printer, perler beads, and shrinky dinks. We also had some game developers and an astronomer from UW-Madison. I left at 5:30 to go join dinosaur fest at a local school. I was the reading corner. Got home around 9pm. Tired. Feet hurt.

Bookaneers Book Choices

Friday, November 3, 2017

Blastback: Ancient Greece by Nancy Ohlin, illustrated by Adam Larkum

This is the third of the Blastback! series I've read. I loved Ancient Egypt, felt meh about Vikings, and now I'm back to mostly loving Ancient Greece.

Ohlin explains the geographic makeup of ancient Greece, which was not a single landmass as most people think of countries in the modern world. City-states are defined as well as the climate and general economy. Various aspects of daily life are included; there are chapters on democracy, religion, philosophy, and other elements that continue to influence people today. Ohlin also covers the less-palatable aspects of Greek life, like slavery, the position women had (or didn't have), and the battles between the city states that eventually made them vulnerable to outside attack. Final chapters talk about archaeological and other research, including how people are still discovering new things about ancient Greece today. There is a page on Greek discoveries that are still used today and a brief bibliography.

I liked the cartoons better in this title. They seem to have more spirit and life than in Vikings and there are some rather pointed ones showing women looking indignant at their exclusion from public life. The book neatly skirts (heh) more adult aspects of Greek life, clothing statues and Olympian participants and making no mention of the some of the more risque aspects of the lives of the gods and philosophers. One interesting story was a retelling of Pandora's box that had her husband, Epimetheus, opening her box to release ills upon the world. I did a little research of my own and there are versions of the myth from that angle, but they're not commonly retold. It would make an interesting discussion point though. My other complaint is there's no pronunciation guide for the many Greek names and turns that are used.

Overall, this is a nice, simple introduction to ancient Greek life and culture for beginning readers. I would recommend it as a beginning to discussion, not to be read on its own though as it is very simplistic. Which is why I chose it for a book club discussion!

Verdict: Although I've found the quality of this series to be a little uneven, I still strongly recommend them as a unique addition to your beginning chapter series collection. Magic Tree House readers will enjoy them, as will those who like history and nonfiction. They're also great for sparking discussion about what to look for in nonfiction and encouraging kids to read and learn more about history.

ISBN: 9781499801187; Published 2016 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The night fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett

I'm a little ashamed to admit I've never read this - I did buy it but was doubtful about the appeal. My readers are into fairy books, but more the Rainbow Magic type and this just sounded too...literary I guess. Anyways, I was thinking about choices for my 3rd-5th book club and somehow this one came up and I thought, hey, why not try it?

So, this is basically a lovely, lovely book from the physical format to the text to the art. It's the story of a night fairy, Flory, who at a very young age has her wings crunched by a bat and finds herself alone and helpless in a strange garden. Each chapter of her adventures is like a separate jewel, carefully polished and linked together until the end of the story, when she reconciles with the bat. Throughout each episode, Flory grows not only in her survival skills and knowledge, but also emotionally as she learns about friendship, selfishness, and that there are more important things than herself.

Miniature enthusiasts will adore the delicate paintings of Flory's flower-petal dresses, her squirrel companion, the hummingbird, and the description of her woodscraft. The book itself is on thick paper with lightly sparkling endpapers and covers and glossy art. An added dimension is the full-color images that show Flory with tanned skin and crinkly, dark hair.

The literary quality of this is cannot be denied and it will surely have appeal to readers who love reflective, descriptive stories. At only a little over 100 pages it's a very manageable length, although the smaller font and dense vocabulary may discourage some readers. After trying this in book club, as I expected, some kids didn't like it and didn't finish it - one really loved it though.

Verdict: I think this will be a good choice for my book club but it's not what I'd call a wildly popular book, even among fairy-fans. It's directed more at readers who like a quiet, fantastical read with lovely language. I wouldn't choose it if I did one book for all readers, but as a choice among other titles, it's a good addition.

ISBN: 9780763636746; Published 2010 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Small Readers: Turtles by Laura Marsh

National Geographic easy readers are pretty standard buys for me; I have a lot of beginning readers who like nonfiction and I also find them a good choice for adult readers who need something that's a lower level but not too "kiddish." I usually only read them when I'm using them in a program though. I selected a couple titles we hadn't used yet for my upcoming September book club meeting and so I needed to read them first!

This is a pretty typical National Geographic easy reader, full of simple facts and colorful photos. It starts by explaining how turtles are categorized as reptiles, the difference between turtles and tortoises, and the general makeup of their bodies. Turtles' diets, habitat, and reproduction are all covered. There are also sections of interesting facts about turtles, a section on sea turtles, and descriptions of various unusual turtles. The final spread lists some of the challenges facing turtles and how kids can get involved from not keeping them as pets to collecting garbage. The back matter includes close-up pictures to solve and a simple picture glossary of four terms.

While there is an image of a turtles' skeleton, I would have liked to see a more clear statement that a turtle can NOT come out of its shell without dying. Kids see that way too often on cartoons and turtles are killed or injured often as a result. Other than this quibble, this is an excellent introduction to turtles. Although it's labeled a level 1 though, it's more suitable for more advanced/older readers. The vocabulary is generally simple but it does have more complex sentences, especially in the facts sections - those have smaller font as well. It would also be a good book for partner reading with the child reading the big, simpler sentences and the partner filling in the other text.

Verdict: The colorful photographs and interesting text make this a good addition to your nonfiction easy readers. I expect it to be a pick for many kids in my upcoming book club as well. Plus, who doesn't like turtle pictures?

ISBN: 9781426322945; Published 2016 by National Geographic Kids; Purchased for the library