Friday, March 23, 2018

Lulu and the duck in the park by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

[This review has been updated]

Long ago, I reviewed two of the Lulu books for Cybils, but never read the first book. In 2015 I was selecting titles for my new book club and was looking for books that would meet the kids' interests as well as feature more diverse characters and this popped into my head immediately.

In Lulu's first story, we learn that she is known all around town for her love of animals. But her animals get her into trouble because her teacher most definitely does not like animals. When Lulu tries to show her how amazing animals are, she almost loses her class their treasured guinea pig! Now her cousin and best friend AND the whole class is mad at her! But there's no time to think about that, because the class is going on their weekly walk through the park and there are ducks to see...but then tragedy strikes. Lulu manages to rescue an egg, but what will happen when it's not an egg anymore? Will her teacher really take their guinea pig away if she discovers it?

Lamont's sweet black and white illustrations show Lulu and her cousin Mellie and their class, noisy, exuberant, and interested in everything around them. There are plenty of cute, fuzzy animals pictured as well. The text is a step up from a very beginning chapter, but still comes in just over 100 pages and at a level a strong 2nd grader or average 3rd grader could easily read.

Lulu isn't quite as idealistic in this first book as she is in the later ones I read; she gets into trouble and has little spats with her cousin. Overall though, this is a feel-good book for any reader who will enjoy Lulu's love of animals and the funny trouble she gets into.

Verdict: This series has been quite popular and I'm sure my book club members who like animal stories will enjoy this, if they haven't already read it. Highly recommended.

Revisited: I still love to recommend these; they haven't been quite as popular with my book club readers as I'd hoped - they are a little too challenging for our lower level readers.

ISBN: 9780807548080; Published 2012 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko

Claire and her older sister Sophie are having an adventure - of sorts. After all the recent fears and worries about Sophie's health, Claire has felt that she and her sister have pulled apart and their relationship is strained. When they visit their deceased great-aunt's house for their parents to pack up and dispose of all the antiques, the two sisters discover a mysterious unicorn statue and a fireplace. Encouraged by adventurous Sophie, the sisters climb up the chimney... and find themselves in a terrifying world with a monster chasing them. They manage to escape and Sophie decides the adventure never happened and tells Claire to forget all about it.

Claire has always followed Sophie's lead and tries to forget, but when Sophie disappears, Claire takes up all her courage and ventures to the magical world again, only to discover that Sophie has vanished there also - and has been visiting the other world for months, making friends and discoveries without her. It's a beautiful, magical world, but also a frightening one. Claire is plunged into a confusing adventure, always one step behind the missing Sophie, and struggling to find out how things work on her own.

She learns that in the land of Arden there are four magical guilds which control four elements; metal, stone, plants, and weaving. Long ago, the guilds worked together and honored the magical unicorns that populated the land. But when war arose, many tragedies occurred, the unicorns were killed, and the guilds were separated. Now they live apart, forbidden to work together. But strange magic is afoot and Sophie's disappearance is just the beginning...

During her journey, Claire discovers strengths she never knew she had even as she struggles to figure out who is friend and who is enemy. She witnesses the terrible cost of war and prejudice, and sees the aftermath in the lives of her new friends as well as how she and her sister are both affected as well. While the story employs many wish-fulfillment tropes, like discovering magic and royal blood, it offers them in a fresh setting with strong, multi-faceted female characters that keep the story interesting and exciting.

Verdict: A strong debut fantasy for middle grade readers, hand this one to fans of E. D. Baker, Merrie Haskell, and Diane Zahler.

ISBN: 9781681192451; Published February 2018 by Bloomsbury; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hair by Leslie Patricelli

Patricelli adds another delightful title to her board book series of silly baby experiences. Patricelli's rosy-cheeked, white baby has a hair. Just one hair on their head! They take good care of their curly hair, decorating it, washing it, and brushing it. And it grows! Soon it's time for Baby's first haircut. It's a little scary, but it ends well - and there's a final spread of all different kinds of hair, from poodles to bald heads, mohawks to unibrows.

Patricelli's bold colors and lines show the cheerful baby and all its hair adventures, set against boldly colored backgrounds. The book is a sturdy square, with rounded corners. Patricelli's thick brushtrokes show marks below the layer of color, so don't think the book is dirty, it just looks like that.

This is a popular series in my library, featuring the same round-faced baby who happily explores all the excitement and little adventures of learning about the world, from going potty to the first time to first haircuts.

Verdict: If you haven't already been purchasing this series, now is a good time to start and don't miss this latest addition!

ISBN: 9780763679316; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bamboo for me, Bamboo for you! By Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Purificacion Hernandez

Manushkin is a prolific author and this latest picture book is a nice addition to her repertoire, along with the delightful illustrations by a new-to-me artist.

Amanda and Miranda are panda sisters and they both, along with their mother, love bamboo! In cheerful rhyme the pandas eat their bamboo, take a look at what their fellow zoo-members eat, and have the normal sibling squabbles and disagreements. Fortunately, at the end of the day, the two make up any arguments and are two best friends - and sisters - again. And there’s plenty of bamboo to eat!

Hernandez’s illustrations are colorful and eye-catching, with fuzzy black and white markings for the pandas, bright purple leaves on blue trees, vibrant green bamboo, colorful birds, and lots of swathes of yellow, blue, green, and and purple backgrounds.

I’m constantly searching for new books that are suitable for toddlers but with recent trends in picture books leaning towards older listeners, this can be challenging. This book meets the bill; it has bouncy rhythms, the text isn’t too long, cute animals and vibrant illustrations, and a simple storyline that toddlers can follow.

Verdict: This might not be an award-winning title, but it’s what I need on my shelves and for my storytime providers and I’d guess that other librarians are also searching for these titles. A great addition to toddler storytime.

ISBN: 9781481450638; Published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, March 19, 2018

Robins! How they grow by Eileen Christelow

I've never really thought of Christelow as a nonfiction author, but her picture book expertise translates well to this narrative nonfiction title.

The first spread introduces a pair of teenage robins who are here to tell us their story. The story is told through panels of art, dialogue between the two immature robins (complete with speech bubbles), and paragraphs of text. It begins with the male robin's migration north, glosses lightly over mating, and jumps into nest-building and eggs. The robins' choice of a nesting spot on top of a hoe is taken from Christelow's own experience (explained later in the back matter). The robins guard and protect their eggs, although one is lost to a hungry squirrel, and later care for their hatchlings. The baby birds grow from hideous, featherless creatures (I am not one of those who likes baby birds. Ugh.) to fledglings ready to fly. Along the way, one of the three falls prey to a hungry hawk. The two remaining birds, teh ones telling the story, continue to explain their growth and development, learning to live with the flock, and beginning to care for themselves as their parents prepare to raise another family. The story ends as the robins migrate south with their flock for the first time.

Christelow writes an author's note about her experience with robins and encourages readers to observe their own backyards for wildlife and seasonal changes. The book also includes a glossary, more facts about robins, and a short list of sources.

It can sometimes be hard to find solid titles on "ordinary" animals. For my audience in Wisconsin, robins are a common bird that many kids are likely to see about in the spring and summer. This book is an excellent resource for encouraging kids to explore their local wildlife, learn simple facts about bird life cycles, and hone their observation skills. Although the text can be lengthy in parts, the illustration panels tell their own story that younger children can easily follow while older readers and classes will find much to explore.

Verdict: An excellent resource, not to be missed. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780544442894; Published 2017 by Clarion; Purchased for the library

Sunday, March 18, 2018

RA RA READ: Interactive Picture Books

Interactive picture books are extremely popular in my library; at storytime, with the parents, with preschool teachers, and of course with the kids themselves! I've been tagging them in my LibraryThing for a while and now I'd like to share some with you. These are the ones I use most often in storytime and to the greatest effect.

There are many, many more interactive books - and many books you can make interactive just by how you use them in storytime! Please share your favorites in the comments.

  • Silvia Borando
    • This is the main author for Minibombo books, a small, Italian imprint. They have quirky and unique books that are delightful storytime reads. Some of our favorites are Shapes, Reshape! and Open up, please! The newest title, Shake the tree has also been a hit.
  • Nicola Davies
    • What happens next, Who's like me, what will I be
    • These lift the flap books are my top go-to nonfiction titles, especially Who's Like Me which teaches the difference between mammals, amphibians, reptiles, etc. There are enough flaps for a large class to take turns lifting and looking but be prepared to spend a loooooong time discussing these. I usually set aside at least 10 minutes and you can easily spend an entire storytime just one one of these books.
  • Ed Emberley
    • Go away big green monster; If you're a monster and you know it
    • I actually have a puppet that goes with Big Green Monster. I have used it to great effect with special education students - teen age, preschool developmental level. I get them all to make "go away" motions and say with me "go away" as I read the book. The second title is a fun singing book - get everyone standing and clapping their claws!
  • Edward Gibbs
    • I spy series
    • These are very simple - there is a question with a clue and a hole in the page gives you a hint as to the animal. These work best with toddlers and younger preschoolers as they're too easy for the older kids. They are mostly out of print, but sometimes available as board books.
  • Christie Matheson
    • Starting with Tap the magic tree, a marvelous fall-themed take on Press Here, Matheson wrote several titles with nature themes.
  • Nicola O'Byrne
    • Sometimes written with a co-author, O'Byrne has created a series of interactive books that are both funny and clever. Open very carefully, a book with bite started the series and the latest is What's next door?
Individual titles
  • Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
    • This works best with older children (4-5). Have them join you in the actions suggested on each page.
  • Don't push the button by Bill Cotter
    • At first this appears to be a spin-off of Tullet's Press Here but it's actually more akin to The Monster at the end of this book. Be prepared to calm down riotous laughter. Only offers opportunities for a small number of children to participate. It works best if you have two helpers.
  • Jump by Scott Fischer
    • All ages love this book. I get all the kids to crouch down, and once they've got the idea of the book - that there's going to be a JUMP every time I turn the page, they will enthusiastically follow along.
  • Who has this tail? Who has these feet by Laura Hulbert
    • This works nicely with a range of children - simple pictures of different parts of animals. You can expand it for older kids to talk about how the different parts are used (a la Steve Jenkins)
  • It's a tiger! by David LaRochelle
    • This is one of our absolute favorites! Have all the kids stand up and as you read the book, whenever you get to "it's a tiger! run!" have them scream and run in place. They will catch on quickly!
  • Warning: Do not open this book by Adam Lehrhaupt
    • This works best with older kids who can understand the tongue-in-cheek humor, but kids pretty universally like the idea of breaking the rules. There is a sequel, Please open this book.
  • Do you know which ones will grow by Susan Shea
    • This one works best with older kids who understand the point of the story - that you're contrasting living and manufactured things. I use it with a game "Garden vs. Not Garden" and I generally open the flaps myself as I read it.
  • Can you make a scary face by Jan Thomas
    • All ages love this. Stand up! Sit down! Do the chicken dance!
  • Press Here; Mix it up by Herve Tullet
    • These are the books that really touched off the interactive picture book fad. One of the things I like is that they offer opportunities for a class of 20-25 kids to participate, although you have to do a little math to make sure everyone gets a turn. Do leave extra time for participation.
I use these and many other titles in my Get up and move! outreach storytime and my Winter Wigglers: Interactive Storytime

Saturday, March 17, 2018

This week at the library; or Things Happen

What's Happening
This was an exhausting and frustrating week. I did not get much done because of all the incidents and other things going on. Next week will be even busier. Then I can have a break. I need it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Princess Pulverizer: Grilled cheese and dragons by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Ben Balistrieri

Princess Serena is bored in princess school - and she hates her name! Call her Princess Pulverizer, because she's going to be a knight! Her father objects, but Pulverizer knows just how to get her way... at least she thinks she does!

This story starts out as a typical anti-princess tale, with wild Pulverizer wreaking havoc and demanding to be a knight. Things start to shift a little when her father, the king, points out that being a knight isn't all fun and games either. If Princess Pulverizer wants to be a knight, she's going to have to learn just as much as she would if she was going to be a proper lady. She'll also have to learn to be a nicer person, less selfish, demanding, and greedy. In fact, before she can even start learning to be a knight she must do eight Good Deeds!

Doing good deeds isn't as easy as it seems, and Pulverizer is soon in trouble. But with the help of an always-scared knight-in-training, his pet dragon (he's really gassy but he makes great grilled cheese) and Pulverizer's own determination, she just might manage to get started on her good deeds.

Balistrieri's cheerful cartoons show a red-headed wild child with plenty of pep and vim, but also a fair helping of ego. Pulverizer smashes her way through life, landing in puddings, getting trapped by stinky giants, and attacking dragons with little thought for the mayhem that surrounds her. Asides from a couple villagers in the background, all the characters are white. There's lots of gruesome and icky detail, with warty giants, disgusting slop, and plenty of farting and belching jokes.

Verdict: This is a little different from the average "tomboy princess wants to be a knight" beginning chapter. It's clear that Pulverizer doesn't think about anyone but herself, even if she's starting to learn that she might need friends by the end of the book. It's funny, but much more gross than Princess in Black. Hand this one to fans of Dragonslayers Academy or Time Warp Trio.

ISBN: 9780515158328; Published 2018 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Framed by James Ponti

I was a little skeptical of this mystery, despite Ms. Yingling's recommendation. The cover just didn't really grab me and I wasn't sure we needed another art heist book. But it turns out, we do need this one! It's not only a great middle grade read, it's just a great read in general and I enjoyed it myself.

The book starts abruptly with middle schooler Florian's abduction of Romanian gangsters. Fade to black and the real story begins... Florian has moved (again). His parents, both involved in art and security, move frequently. Florian has developed T.O.A.S.T. to pass the time and amuse himself more than anything else. The Theory Of All Small Things has helped Florian figure out an art heist in the past and, to his surprise, garners him a new friend in the form of soccer-playing, African-American Margaret. The two are surprised (and somewhat thrilled) to get swept up in an art heist, as well as the search for Margaret's unknown birth parents.

Along the way we find out why Florian has been kidnapped, solve several individual mysteries, go along on some exciting adventures, especially when Florian gets picked to be a consultant to the FBI, and even see Florian starting to enjoy typical school-kid life, for the first time.

The mystery is really well done, with lots of clues and twists, but not so many that you spend half the book trying to break codes (not a pastime I personally enjoy). There are unresolved issues left (what will Florian tell Margaret about her parents?) that leave room for a sequel. Florian isn't stuck-up or obnoxious; he makes mistakes, uses his theory incorrectly, does stupid stuff and gets in trouble, but also respects Margaret's intelligence and skills and treats her as a full partner.

Verdict: This is a great mystery series I can't wait to introduce to my middle grade readers. It's definitely going on the list for our mystery month for book club!

ISBN: 9781481436304; Published 2016 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hickory, Dickory, Dock and other favorite nursery rhymes illustrated by Genine Delahaye

This British collection of nursery rhymes has cute illustrations, but doesn't quite make the grade.

The nursery rhymes included are a mixed bag, from "Old MacDonald had a farm", "Five little monkeys", and "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" to rhymes that aren't well-known in the states or have fallen out of use, like "Three blind mice", "Goosey Goosey Gander", and "See-Saw, Margery Daw".

There are slight change to some, but not all, of the rhymes. Only the first verse of "Mary had a little lamb" is included, and in "Goosey Goosey Gander" the narrator leads the old man down the stairs, instead of throwing him. But the blind mice still get their tails cut off, the baby falls from its cradle, and the old man in "It's raining, it's pouring" bumps his head.

Delahaye is a print and clothing designer, and it certainly shows in the gentle pastels used throughout the book. Smiling animals, some anthropomorphic, some not, adorn the pages in soft blues, greens, browns, and grays. The farmer's wife, a grey kitten, appears to have dropped a plastic knife and given up on the idea of cutting off the blind mice's tails, and most of the rhymes show the animals playing together, rather than actually illustrated the actions described.

The book is a tall rectangle, about 9x6 inches. Like most of Tiger Tales' board books it's heavy on the cute illustrations, but light on the sturdy binding. The pages have a good, thick, cardboard feel but the binding doesn't feel like it will stand up to multiple uses.

Verdict: If you are looking to add more nursery rhyme board books this is an acceptable purchase, but it doesn't particularly stand out from the crowd.

ISBN: 9781680105254; Published 9-1-17 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I want that nut! by Madeline Valentine

A fuzzy mouse and chipmunk are best friends. Until an interloper comes along. A nut! After a little negotiating, Chipmunk takes the Nut and soon they are best friends. But…. after all…. Mouse really, really wants that nut. So she comes up with a clever plan to take the Nut. Now Mouse and Nut do everything together and are best friends. But then a mysterious figure shows up to take the Nut…. Chipmunk and Mouse squabble over the Nut until a third player shows up on the scene - a squirrel! And Squirrel has something to say…. It’s actually HER nut! After some quiet reflection Chipmunk and Mouse apologize and are best friends again… along with their new friend, Log!

Valentine’s earth-hued illustrations show a fuzzy mouse and chipmunk that are more alike than they are different, even if they may not realize it. Nut is truly magnificent, a shiny acorn with a firmly attached cap. Listeners will giggle along with the characters’ antics as they get caught up in the excitement of a new (and shiny) friend.

Verdict: A great read-aloud, this story is sure to make your storytime listeners giggle and maybe even think twice about sharing a new toy (or friend). A fun addition to your storytime repertoire.

ISBN: 9781101940372; Published 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, March 12, 2018

They lost their heads! Washington’s teeth, Einstein’s brain, and other famous body parts by Carlyn Beccia

I was super excited when I saw Beccia was doing another wacky foray into history and this book fully met and exceeded my expectations. Also, my colleagues will think twice about asking me what I’m reading during lunch in the future. Mwa ha ha ha.

Beccia focuses on seventeen stories of famous remains, how they came to be saved, and where they are now. Between these sections, she includes lots of ghoulish science and history about vampires, zombies, organ transplants, clones, and more. The main stories range from the legendary (Ines de Castro) to the conspiratorial (John Wilkes Booth) as well as the scientific (Thomas Alva Edison). Readers will learn about how bodies decompose, exactly how many medieval medicines contained human body parts, and the perambulations and final fates and many famous heads, skulls, legs, fingers, hearts, and more!

Want to know the scientific truth behind vampires? The real story of George Washington’s teeth? Whether it’s really possible to clone Elvis from his wart? You’ll find all the answers here.

Told with humor and plenty of ghoulish delight in the stories of rotten flesh and wandering body parts, this is sure to appeal to kids who love weird history and gross-out factors. Humorous footnotes add to the experience. There is a bibliography, source notes, and index (to be included).

I reviewed this from a galley, so I assume the couple typos I saw will be corrected, as well as a couple minor errors (the common mistake of thinking Frankenstein is the name of the monster, for example). I did think there wasn’t a really clear line between some of the legends and actual historical events, but as a jumping off point for further research this is a great start. Plus, it’s an awesome, fun read (as long as you don’t mind a little cannibalism). For the most part, the author sticks with Western history and medicine and, because of the many stereotypes around “primitive” people, cannibalism, and funeral customs, I am actually ok with the chosen scope of this book. Beccia cautiously skirts some of the more inappropriate situations with “you probably know what that means but it’s beyond the scope of this book” type of notes and I think it’s fine for upper elementary and middle school readers. That’s who I’m going to recommend it to, anyways (after all my staff have read it...)

Verdict: I finally have a book for that 5th grade girl who wanted to research cryogenics. Also, this was an awesome read and my colleagues are going to be giving me weird looks for a long time. I love Carlyn Beccia! You MUST have this one in your collection, especially if you serve 5th-6th graders. Really, absolute must.

9780802737458; Published April 2018 by Bloomsbury; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Sunday, March 11, 2018

RA RA Read: I survived...reading all the books!

I first heard about I Survived from the kids years ago when it was added to our school's Battle of the Books list. It's grown in popularity until it's now nearly as popular as Wimpy Kid and other perennial favorites, at least in my library. Thanks to some suggestions from Storytime Underground and my own mental files, I've compiled a list of titles to suggest when kids survive their initial bout of reading and clamor for more.

New I Survived books are published approximately every six months. Fans will also want to check out the accompanying I Survived: True Stories series, the true stories behind the stories, if you know what I mean. I shelve these with the fictional stories.

Top Secret Files series by Stephanie Bearce from Prufrock Press is a higher reading level, but will definitely attract kids who like the historical and short story aspect. Each book contains short anecdotes, historical facts, and other information. There are titles ranging from wars to the wild west and gangsters of the 1920s.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are awesome. That being said, you will have to do some booktalking as they're a different format than I Survived. They are graphic novels with dense text and illustrations, highlighting different historical moments. The series starts with One Dead Spy, but my personal favorite is Big Bad Ironclad. There are also more contemporary stories, like Treaties, Trenches, Blood and Muda powerful, but grim retelling of World War I. Get kids hooked, and they'll be fans, but they'll need to be fairly strong readers.

Capstone has a great series that are not only good read-alikes for kids who are into Choose Your Own Adventures-style books, but also will grab the I Survived fan crowd. Can You Survive....? takes different historical events (like the Titanic) and general disasters (like being lost in the jungle or shipwrecked) and walks kids through choices to see if they can survive. They include nonfiction information as well. There are also numerous history-related titles and series in the You Choose... collections from Capstone.

A new series that has kids pretty excited is Lost! by Todd Olson. So far there is a title on Apollo 13 and one on World War II with more to come. These are an excellent read-alike for I survived, with blow-by-blow descriptions of the action and I was really impressed with the first title's inclusion of multiple perspectives, including the teen daughter of one of the astronauts.

For straight-up survival, a new series from Terry Lynn Johnson, Survivor Diaries is awesome. I reviewed the first title, Overboard!, and it flies off the shelf. The mix of real-life settings and survival tips, plus the easier reading level and diverse characters are what will make this series a standby for the genre, in my opinion.

Back to the straight-up adventures with historical aspects, Gordon Korman has several adventure series. There's one about the Titanic, Island, etc. What I love about these is that they're split into 3-4 volumes so kids don't feel intimidated by a huge book or by a lengthy series. Korman is a great writer and kids love his fast-paced adventures.

More series

Saturday, March 10, 2018

This week at the library; or, and NOW it snows?

Dramatic presentation of art
Happening this week:
Monday - I forgot my dentist appointment, rescheduled, was late to work, realized after I got there my shirt had stains on it. Then the internet and the whole system went down for all libraries from mid-morning until 2:30pm. Then we suddenly had a snow storm and the roads were awful - took me almost an hour to get the ten miles home. Fun times.

Tuesday - I overslept (probably due to all the stress from yesterday), then sent a lot of orders (sorry to the Ls in Tech Services, but I needed retail therapy), very productive board meeting - I'm going to take Library on the Go out to OPtions (local charter/home school group affiliated with the public school), then a small group at Messy Art Club but they were very enthusiastic and had a great time.

Wednesday. Three outreach visits, my associate did We're going on a bear hunt yoga, working my way through a to-do list. I've lined up several new outreach venues and made phone calls. Blech. To the phone calls I mean.

Thursday. Ugh. I think too many kids have hugged me. I have the crud. The construction has begun and rerouted all the traffic in front of my apartment building. Yay. I arrived at work with a miserable headache, started cleaning off my desk and trying to catch up on various things. I started Library on the Go outreach at OPtions, one of the things I set up at the board meeting earlier this week, then directly out the other end of town for outreach storytime, then across town for another outreach program. I never did figure out a way to make the schedule take into account that sometimes I need 10-15 minutes to get across town for the different schools! Fortunately, the teachers are very flexible. Full, enthusiastic, and noisy book club. I threatened to breathe on them if they did not calm down. Everyone loved 26 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, one person loved and one person hated Christian Slade's Korgi, and I am still working on getting my two reluctant readers to pick up books. Once they start reading them they're fine, but they are currently banned from comics and very grouchy about it. I left 15 minutes early, to go to Walmart and buy vast quantities of marshmallows for next week's program.

Friday. Emails, to do lists, cleaning off desk. Worked at the ys desk while my associate/intern did anime club (20 kids!). Various emergencies, including one toilet plunging, then I got set up to go out to 4K swim. I left late, having been asked a gazillion last-minute questions! However, there was a smaller group than usual and not much happening until around 7:30. Basically 4K families get to go and swim at the high school pool (which is, apparently, unheated). I only checked about about 20 books. My school colleague said they usually get around 100 people, but I think it was a LOT less than that - I think everyone was at one of the other schools' art night. Anyways, the main reason I went was to meet with my school colleague and the other 4K center directors to plan the big upcoming party in April and we not only got that done, we also ironed out a bunch of other details. Then I hauled everything back to the library (got in and out without meeting - and freaking out - the cleaning guy) and thence home.

And the week is, at last, done!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers; and the Quest for the Magic Porcupine by John Dougherty, illustrated by Sam Ricks

Stinkbomb and his little sister, Ketchup-Face, are in for a prime kerfuffle in this extremely British (and even more extremely silly) new series.

In their first kerfuffle, Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face discover a Horrible Crime: Stinkbomb's twenty-dollar bill has been stolen! They visit King Toothbrush Weasel to find out what's going on and discover that Evil and Wicked badgers are responsible for, well, everything. So they take off on an adventure to stop the evil badgers. Along the way they'll meet a shopping cart, Stinkbomb will sing her new song many, many times, and they will have to deal with the Army of Great Kerfuffle, Malcolm the Cat.

In their second kerfuffle, the two siblings discover that the Bad Badgers have escaped from jail! With the wise guidance of Miss Butterworth, ninja librarian, they go on a quest to find the Magic Porcupine. Along they way they meet some suspicious racoons, Ketchup-Face makes up a new song, and they take a very long (and boring) bus ride. There is also a mysterious rain of black goo, smelling of bananas. Which leads to the question, do hammerhead sharks eat bananas?

The books are illustrated with a plethora of black and white cartoons by the illustrator, Sam Ricks, showing a horde of pointy-nosed badgers, two gangly siblings, the vaguely confused King Toothbrush Weasel, and all the many strange and quirky inhabitants of Great Kerfuffle.

This is extremely silly. It's a genre that really only crops up in British books, or so I've mostly seen. If you like silly, it's very funny; Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face's parents are never present because they prefer to go away when the children are having a book. The ninja librarian is the only one who can handle the future of the story. Malcom the Cat's idiosyncracies will make anyone who's ever met a temperamental kitty giggle. There's also plenty of gross humor, a la Captain Underpants.

Verdict: If you have early chapter readers who enjoy this type of silliness, this is sure to be a popular choice. It's the kind of off-the-wall series that is sure to find a quick, if brief, following. Readers who like silly and sometimes elaborate language, who want a short, fun read, and who can handle a book so far below the Pilkey line that it's basically stealing Captain Underpants' underwear and running away with it, proclaiming how Extremely Naughty and Badgerish it is being, will enjoy this ridiculous romp.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers
ISBN: 9781101996621; This edition published 2017 by G. P. Putnam; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Quest for the Magic Porcupine
ISBN: 9781101996652; This edition published 2018 by G. P. Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Explorers: The door in the alley by Adrienne Kress

Barely have I finished giving up on reading and reviewing all the fantasy picks for my second Book Explosion meeting, when it's time to tackle adventure! Nonfiction I've got covered, no problem. But the fiction... I started with this new title which I've seen promoted in several places.

Sebastian lives a life of order, math, and logic. He does precisely the right thing at the right time all the time. Until one day he has an argument with his not-so-logical cousin and finds something unexpected - a pig in a tiny hat. Sebastian's orderly life is disrupted as he's drawn into the weird and unpredictable Explorers Society. Meanwhile, a lonely girl named Evie is going out for her weekly dinner with the boring Andersons. It's the only time she gets out of the orphans home she lives in, but she's not sure it's any better. Until their boring dinner is interrupted by two terrifying men, one with half his face melted off, the other with horrible wires poking through his jaw. The next thing she knows, Evie is fleeing for her life through a secret tunnel, the Anderson's house is on fire, and her only hope is to contact the Explorers Society and find her missing grandfather, the last family she has.

Once they meet up, the two are off on a wild adventure to find the companions of Evie's grandfather and solve the mystery of his disappearance and last letter. Along the way they will get shot at, climb towers, encounter many animals with hats, and break all the rules.

The tone of this book is definitely in the flavor of Lemony Snicket. There are frequent asides from the narrator, rather rambling digressions into the meaning of words and encounters, and lots of tongue-in-cheek descriptions. There's also rather an overkill of quirkiness, from Sebastian's job of disorganizing things to long, prattling conversations with no meaning, to the adorning of small animals with hats. This is in rather odd juxtaposition to the very real danger the children face, including men with guns, and the tragic backstory of Evie's grandfather's disappearance, involving the entire destruction of an island.

Of course, both Sebastian and Evie are white, as almost all the other characters appear to be. The vocabulary is often advanced and, while Sebastian is supposed to be a genius at math and science only his photographic memory is really called upon. Evie has no especial talents, other than her desperate wish to once again have a family and a place to belong and her recklessness.

Verdict: Fans of Lemony Snicket will devour this, moan in anguish over the abrupt cliffhanger at the end, and wait desperately for another installment. However, it offers little new in the way of middle grade adventure and fantasy, neither in plot nor in characters. An additional purchase where Lemony Snicket is popular.

ISBN: 9781101940051; Published 2017 by Delacorte; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Color Wonder: Hooray for spring! by Chieu Anh Urban

Does it make my intelligence suspect that it took me several minutes to figure out how the color wheel on this worked?

Each page has a cute little rhyme and features a cheerful array of color-themed animals and flowers. For example, the blue page says "Hurry, cricket,/Join the romp,/Spring brings BLUE - /hope and stomp." The page features some simple blue flowers, a blue cricket, green leaves, a red ladybug, yellow bee, green grasshopper, and orange caterpillar. As the pages progress, they add a bug. So the first page is red with a red ladybug, then orange with an orange caterpillar and the ladybug, all the way up to the final spread with a sixth bug, a purple butterfly.

At the side of the book are two ridged wheels. As you turn them, the colors (a die cut circle in the center of the flowers) change. When the colors are correctly aligned, they match the flower. So, for the orange flower, one wheel is yellow and one red. There are also little dots on the wheels to line up so they completely cover the circle.

With just six spreads, the book is small and compact, the last page being made in several layers to accomodate the wheels. The wheels themselves are very thin, almost cardstock rather than cardboard, but since they're very protected by the book I think they're probably fine. The only drawback is they're difficult to turn separately, since they're so thin and right on top of each other.

Verdict: A fun way to introduce beginning color blending. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481487207; Published 2016 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Pickwick’s Picnic: A counting adventure by Carol Brendler, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

The story begins in a city where the the Pickwicks, a family of fluffy little cats (or possibly dogs? I’m not sure), load up their Pickwick pickup for a trip to the beach. They’re alone on the road, heading for a box-girder bridge, when other traffic starts showing up and the counting begins. Squeaky jeeps, scooters, motorcycles, and hydraulic haulers proliferate until there’s a veritable traffic jam and they all discover - the bridge is closed! Now there’s really a traffic jam! Everyone is just sitting in the heat and feeling grumpier and grumpier until Pip and Peach, the Pickwick pups (or kittens) come up with a solution - a picnic right there on the bridge. Soon it’s a street party with everyone joining in to enjoy the party. When the bridge finally reopens, the Pickwicks get their picnic on the beach, just a little later than planned.

Kurilla’s art is cute and friendly, with lots of colors, zipping vehicles, and leafy green trees. The author is from Chicago and the illustrator from Boston and I could see echoes of both cities in the illustrations, which show little bays, lighthouses, and bridges as well as brownstones, flashing billboards, and all the parts of a busy city.

Verdict: While not particularly unique, this is the type of story that will be a great standby for storytime, a fun read for summer, and an excellent addition to your counting books. A strong addition to any picture book collection.

ISBN: 9780544839588; Published 2017 by Clarion Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, March 5, 2018

Over and under the pond by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Another gorgeous nature picture book from Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal.

A dark-skinned mother and child float on a pond in a small boat. They look down from above and see turtles, fish, and other creatures from below. Birds fly over the pond, larva build homes under it. Moose eat above the pond, beavers dive deep into the pond. As the day turns to night, the light fades and different creatures come out to float above - and below - the pond.

An author's note addresses the ecosystem of the pond. There is also a picture glossary that adds information about each of the animals pictured. A few resources are included for further reading.

This book has the most dazzling perspectives, showing what the humans' boat might look like from below, the contrast between a turtle swimming through the water and a turtle sunning on a log, the slow changes as the daylight fades to evening and night.

I especially appreciated seeing more diversity in books about nature - too often children with darker skin are shown only in urban settings. I've also successfully used this series with children who are struggling with the concepts of "above" and "below".

Verdict: A worthy addition to the series, strongly recommended for use in storytime and nature programs or just for encouraging children and families to explore their world.

ISBN: 9781452145426; Published 2017 by Chronicle; Purchased for the library

Sunday, March 4, 2018

RA RA Read: Wimpy Kids and Notebook Novels

Love them or hate them, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is still going strong. Interest died down for a while, but several years ago I had to haul all our extra copies out of storage because of a sudden, inexplicable demand and they just keep going. I am, personally, not a fan - as I tell kids, if Greg came into my library I'd probably kick him out. Now Big Nate is different - he's a good kid at heart and I'd give him another chance. Anyways.

Wimpy Kid and similar books are sometimes called "notebook novels". They are often written in diary or journal format and include comic panels and/or illustrations, usually in a style that looks hand-drawn. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is still being published and I regularly replace the titles, since the paper over board format does not stand up to the heavy usage. On the other hand, they're cheaper than a regular hardback so....

The most popular read-alikes for Wimpy Kid at my library are:
  • Dork Diaries by Renee Russell
    • The main character is a girl, but both girls and boys read this series avidly
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
    • Includes both comic strip collections and notebook novels. Parents who dislike the attitudes in Wimpy Kid will usually prefer Big Nate.
Notebook novel series (middle grade)
  • Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • Qwikpick papers by Tom Angleberger
  • Kate the Great by Suzy Becker
  • Charlie Joe Jackson by Tommy Greenwald
  • Clueless McGee by Jeff Mack
  • Middle School by James Patterson
  • Classroom by Robin Mellom
  • Timmy Failure by Stephen Pastis
  • Doodlebug by Karen Young
Notebook novel series (younger middle grade)
  • Ellie McDoodle by Ruth Barshaw
  • Stick Dog by Tom Watson
  • Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler
  • Bea Garcia by Deborah Zemke
Graphic novels
  • Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley
  • Middle School is worse than meatloaf by Jennifer Holm
  • Babymouse by Jennifer Holm
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  • Smile (and sequels) by Raina Telgemeier
Novels with a wimpy sense of humor and minimal or no illustrations
  • Pickle by Kimberley Baker
  • Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton
  • Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader
  • Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper
  • Max Quigley, technically not a bully by James Roy
  • Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
  • Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance
  • Nerd Camp (and sequel) by Elissa Weissman
More titles not owned by my library
  • Galactic hot dogs by Max Brallier
  • Terrible two by Mac Barnett
  • Always Abigail by Nancy Cavanaugh

Saturday, March 3, 2018

This week at the library; or, and then Tumtum ran away

Happening this week at the library
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
    • Worked 10-6
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Block Party (2 sessions)
    • Worked 12-7:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday
I worked a late shift on Wednesday, planning to do childcare for our Friends meeting. No kids came (which was just as well, b/c we forgot to book the room!) but I got a lot of work done in the quiet evening.
On Thursday Tumtum, the more active and alpha of our two hamsters, chewed through the wire netting and took off. We barely caught Nutmeg as he followed his friend to freedom. After about 8 hours of intensive activity (including multiple children searching the library repeatedly), he was discovered by a staff member making a break for the lobby and ultimate freedom (and death) and recaptured. Tumtum and Nutmeg are now sulking in "prison", i.e. their old cage, until the new lid comes for their aquarium.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn, illustrated by Nick Price

[Originally published 2009. This review has been updated.]

In the first story, two little mice named Tumtum and Nutmeg become helpful fairies for two neglected children. With the help of General Marchmouse, they defeat a Dahlesqe and horrific mouse-hater, Aunt Ivy.

In the second story, General Marchmouse ignores their wise warnings and is captured and taken to the school, where he is imprisoned with wild gerbils. But Nutmeg - and a group of pogo-ing ballerina mice - save the day.

In the third story, the General's impulsive adventuring once again lands him in trouble, when he and Tumtum and Nutmeg are captured by rat pirates. But with the help of the two children, who believe Nutmeg to be a good fairy, they manage to escape.

These little stories are a mixture of Borrowers and Redwall for the younger crowd. They tend a little towards the cute, an unavoidable trap when you're dealing with anthropomorphic mice, but will be quite enjoyable for younger children, especially those who may have enjoyed Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge and aren't quite ready for Borrowers or Redwall.

This collection was previously purchased at my library and, since the individual books weren't available I didn't see a lot of kids going for this thick volume. For a long time it sat on our shelf, with occasional interest but no real fans. However, this past year I have had several strong, younger readers who actually want longer books that have this level of gentle humor and mild adventure. Several homeschooling families have fallen in love with these and I purchased the rest of the collected volumes. We even named our library gerbils after them!

Verdict: The length of the collected stories will discourage a lot of young readers and the separate volumes aren't available in the US. I wouldn't recommend this for every library, but if you have an audience that really loves this type of cozy mouse story they will be a strong purchase for your library.

ISBN: 978-0316027038; Published April 2009 by Little, Brown; Borrowed from the library

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Avani isn't happy about being the new girl in town. She's even more disappointed in the Flower Scouts troop. Unlike her Pine Scouts troop at home they don't do anything fun, just talk about boys and makeup. But what Avani doesn't know is that, quite a ways away, another girl is having a hard time fitting into her scout troop...and only has a few minutes to pick up her specimen for her badge!

Turns out, she picked Avani. At first she's shocked, but Avani figures out pretty fast that she'd much rather be a member of the Star Scouts, even if her troop has some.... issues... than the Flower Scouts back home. But it's not long before things start getting dangerous, with a rivalry with the methane-breathers and a challenge to Avani belonging in the Star Scouts. After all, Earth isn't a member of the Galactic Union!

Will Avani be able to stay in the Star Scouts - and will she figure out how to be a good friend (not to mention survive?)

There's an easy sense of diversity throughout this graphic novel. Avani doesn't automatically team up with the only other non-white girl in her earth troop. Although it turns out they have some interests in common, she has to get past her dislike of anyone with different tastes and how easily she dismisses the other girls. The aliens themselves have a huge variety of tentacles, colors, and personalities but there's still prejudice against differences and some rough competition. Avani learns that there's still a lot she needs to know about teamwork and friendship before she can truly fit into the galactic universe.

Lawrence has a crisp style that will attract fans of Telgemeier and Hatke along with a sense of humor that will appeal to Captain Underpants readers. This isn't quite the book for readers who want a more sophisticated story of interpersonal emotions - there's too many fart jokes - but it's just the right book for kids who like adventures and funny stories and are navigating the shift to upper grades in school, different rates of maturity, and changing interests among their friends.

Verdict: A funny and exciting story, it might need a little booktalking to get it to the exact right audience, but once you've found them it's sure to be a hit! Also, accidental alien abduction is never not funny. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781626722804; Published 2017 by First Second; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Small Readers: Please, no more nuts! By Jonathan Fenske

The sequel to the hilarious and manic We need more nuts! does not disappoint. The nut fanatic has changed. In her first book, she was going nuts for nuts! She stuffed them in her brothers cheeks! She counted them exuberantly! But no more. Now they are sick of nuts. Sick, sick, sick! But how can they get rid of them? They’ve already eaten so many that they’re looking a bit green! would like some nuts? PLEASE TAKE THE NUTS!

The manic tone continues, but this time flips the plot on its head as the squirrels illustrate just what happens when you have too much of a good thing. Readers will giggle hysterically as they bounce through the rhymes of the sick-of-nuts narrator and her brother and their pleas for someone, anyone, to take those nuts away!

This book is a guided reading level H, which is an intermediate level for readers who have grasped the basics and can tackle more complex sentences and words. The sentences are still short and easy, but include words like “queasy”, “chubby”, and “storage.” Readers who have reached this point will be able to divide their attention between the words and pictures, and follow along on the visual jokes as well.

The wacky cartoons vary from full-page art to comic panels. The backgrounds and speech bubbles have contrasting colors, mint green, pale yellow and blue, and white. Fenske employs speech bubbles, thought bubbles, flash backs, and of course lots of exaggeration and hyperbole.

Verdict: Fenske’s easy readers have been hits both for my patrons and in book club and this is a worthy sequel to Cybils finalist We need more nuts! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780515159660; Published 2018 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

I’m always fascinated by authors who are able to span a wide range of styles and subjects. Cori Doerrfeld is the author many cute and popular picture books, as well as the graphic novel series Cici: A Fairy’s Tale. She turns to a more serious subject in this simple but profound picture book.

Taylor, a child with a riot of dark curls and rosy cheeks against tan skin, puts everything she has into building an amazing block tower. Then, out of nowhere, a flock of frantic blackbirds swoops through the creation is gone. Taylor is devastated. One by one, animals approach to try and make her feel better. Does she want to talk-talk-talk about it with the chicken? Roar with the bear? Knock down someone else’s creation with the snake? Taylor just wants to be left alone. So all the animals leave. But then the rabbit comes. The rabbit doesn’t roar or talk or get mad. The rabbit just sits by Taylor and waits. And when Taylor is ready to talk, the rabbit is ready to listen. And when Taylor is ready to build again, the rabbit is still there, ready to help.

Doerrfeld’s illustrations are soft and spare, but beautifully capture Taylor’s emotions and the animals’ well-meant but misplaced attempts to help. Against a stark white background, Taylor is a hunched little figure in her striped blue and white pajamas. The animals are indignant when Taylor doesn’t immediately join in with their plans, but when the soft, brown rabbit comes, its gentle smile and quiet presence are just what Taylor needs.

Verdict: A perfect choice to help children express their feelings as well as how to help a friend. Whether they are experiencing frustration, anger, and grief over something big or small, everyone wants someone to just listen. This would make a thoughtful gift for even an adult going through a rough time as well.

ISBN: 9780735229358; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, February 26, 2018

History's mysteries by Kitson Jazynka

From cryptozoology to UFOs, there's something here for everyone. In National Geographic's History's Mysteries, there's an exciting variety of odd occurrences, including the latest findings and tantalizing hints at future evidence to come.

Seven chapters include vanished civilizations, deaths and disappearances, cryptids, strange phenomena, ancient monuments, codes and dead languages, and hidden treasure. Some of the featured mysteries are familiar and some are more esoteric. Stonehenge, Amelia Earhart, Anastasia, yetis, and flying saucers are all included. There are also older mysteries less well-known these days like the Mary Celeste and the lost colony of Roanoke. Then there are newer mysteries - a giant structure under the Sea of Galilee, modern codes, and the most recent discoveries at the "white city" in the Honduras.

Each spread is full of photographs, clips from original documents, and historical notes and interesting facts. There is a final interview with Chris Fisher, an archeologist involved in the discoveries in Honduras surrounding the "white city", and index, and credits.

While sometimes a little overly dramatic, this is a good variety of mysteries and secrets, including not just Western civilizations. In some cases (like the Kongamato), there is a bias towards Western "explorers" experience, rather than local knowledge. There are gaps in some cases where only white perspectives are discussed or mentioned.

Verdict: Good browsing material for kids who enjoy National Geographic's fact books and a start for kids who want to dig deeper into the subject. This is going to be a series, so I'll be interested in seeing what future titles cover.

ISBN: 9781426328718; Published November 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, February 25, 2018

RA RA READ: Warriors Read-Alikes

Popular animal fantasy series have come and gone, but Warriors remains forever. The key elements of this fantasy series seems to be animals, a complicated story with endless characters and groupings, and lots of adventure and drama. There's not a lot of requests for read-alikes, since you can pretty much read the Warriors until the end of time, but occasionally a really voracious reader will actually manage to make it through all of them and want something else similar.

The Warriors
Erin Hunter is actually a group of several writers, which explains why they are able to turn out so many books. I love blowing kids' minds with this information. There are multiple series within the Warriors series and they generally have six books in each arc. The series include:
  • The Warriors
  • New Prophecy
  • Omen of the Stars
  • Power of Three
  • Dawn of the clans
  • Vision of shadows
There are also a number of stand-alone super editions, a slew of graphic novels (most of these are stand-alones or trilogies) and various companion volumes.

Additional animal series by Erin Hunter

  • Seekers (bears)
  • Survivors (dogs)
  • Bravelands (African animals)

The second big author who's really into the "epic quests with animals" is Kathryn Lasky. Being only one person, she's not as prolific as the six authors that comprise Erin Hunter. Her series start with Guardians of Ga'Hoole, which features owls. There are 15 books, a prequel, and a movie, which had really poor reviews and passed rapidly into obscurity. More popular than the Guardians series is her Wolves of the Beyond which is complete with six books. Her newest series is Horses of the Dawn.

For readers looking for more fantasy in their epic animal quests, Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire features a complex fantasy world where all the protagonists are dragons. This appeals to a wide range of kids, not just Warriors fans. The series has also branched out into a secondary series, Wings of Fire: Legends, and as of 2018 at least one graphic novel. Sutherland also has a more traditional fantasy series, The Menagerie, which features magical creatures although humans are the main protagonists. (as an interesting side note, Sutherland is one of the Erin Hunter writers)

Readers who are really voracious and can handle longer and heftier books will enjoy the classic animal adventure series Redwall by Brian Jacques. These are shelved in the teen area, due mainly to length not content. They are challenging reads because every animal has a different (British) accent or dialect and they are, to put it mildly, wordy. They feature a wide cast of different animals and their adventures all over their medieval-like fantasy world. They do make awesome audiobooks, for kids who can't handle that difficulty of reading level. They were originally written as radio broadcasts for a school for the blind, which is why they're so heavy on description.

Other titles that may appeal to Warriors fans:
  • Shark Wars series by E. J. Altbacker (I bill this as Warriors...but with BLOOD)
  • Poppy and Friends series by Avi (more cozy)
  • Tygrine Cat by Inbali Iserles (we only have the first title in this series. another interesting note is that Iserles is another Erin Hunter author)
  • Highway Cats by Janet Lisle
  • Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (features bats, but is longer and more YA and not really popular)
  • Varjak Paw by SF Said
  • Nurk by Ursula Vernon (more quirky and humorous)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

This week at the library; or,

New cage set-up - inside a giant aquarium
Happening this week
I had a small but very, very, energetic group for Mad Scientists Club. We split the program room and brought in a teen parents group, so those kids plus kids of teachers, plus attendees. There was paper everywhere and lots of adorable small children laboring up the ladder to launch their gliding animals (or pieces of paper). We rehomed the gerbils. This was very exciting.

I did a bunch of different outreach this week. On Wednesday I visited the county special education school. Awesome kids, very big group, and this time I had the sense to schedule in some off time - my throat gets very sore b/c it's so loud! Then I visited a kindergarten class I haven't seen for quite a while. Instant gratification, since a lot of them showed up at the library after school the same day! Thursday I visited the three kindergarten classes at a school I almost never visit - they're quite close, but it just... doesn't happen? Anyways, the classes had subs and the kids were thrilled to see me for the first time since 4K and I tried out Library on the Go with the third class and it went really well! I brought a tub of Library on the Go books and bookmarks explaining how it worked and each kid picked an easy reader and a bookmark, I wrote down the barcodes (last 4 numbers of them), and they put them in their cubbies. I still had time to read a couple books!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Heartwood Hotel: Better Together by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Mona Mouse has been through a lot in the first two titles of the Heartwood Hotel series. She's found a new home and friends, helped save the hotel from disaster, and solved exciting mysteries. But now she and the entire hotel are facing a brand-new challenge: Mr. Heartwood is taking a vacation! The staff are anxious to keep the hotel running smoothly in Mr. Heartwood's absence, but more and more obstacles keep falling in their path. Meanwhile, Mona is fighting her own battles as she starts to feel left out by her friend Tilly the squirrel, whose attention is all on her newly-found brother Henry. In fact, Mona starts to feel that everyone's attention is on Henry. Does anyone even need her anymore? She'll have to find all her courage, kindness, and heart when disaster strikes the hotel.

Graegin's art is as cozy and adorable as ever, with delicate drawings of anxious robin parents and their egg, arguing frog and raccoon bands, and the squabbling fireflies and bees. Mona is still her own sweet self, but her bad case of the grumps, brought on by her worries over her place in Heartwood Hotel, are shown in her anxious face and miserable arguments with Tilly.

There aren't many of this type of cozy story anymore, but I have a ready audience for them at my library. There are no flashy magic spells, exciting acts of courage, or sudden revelations, but Mona's quiet little world is very appealing to readers who like cozy, comforting stories. Her daily trials and tribulations as she struggles to fit into her small world, as well as the adorable miniature art pieces that fill the book, are relatable to many of my small patrons. They are a little challenging for beginning chapter readers who aren't yet fluent, but dearly loved by younger readers with a high degree of fluency and vocabulary who aren't yet ready for more mature middle grade titles.

Verdict: I have several readers eagerly awaiting the latest in this series and I strongly recommend it as an addition to any library collection that is trying to meet the needs of this community of readers.

ISBN: 9781484746400; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The epic crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

I read a teen book! Yes! Me! It was pretty awesome.

Genie has a lot of anger inside. She's angry about her unambitious father and his failing business, about her parents' separation, about her mother's pressure to succeed, about how she's going to make it into a decent college and get out of town. But nothing makes her angrier than seeing another kid getting beat up by a bunch of grown men and the next thing she knows the most annoying, weird teen ever is following her around.

The last thing Genie expected is for Quentin to claim to be Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from Chinese mythology. She also didn't expect him to claim her as his ancient and powerful weapon. Now Genie's REALLY angry. Fortunately, there's a whole horde of demons in her way and she's got friends to defend - and Harvard admissions committees to impress.

Genie made me think immediately of Buffy, but, in my opinion at least, she's a whole lot better. No angsty mooning over boys or uncertainty with how to deal with annoying goddesses and mythical heroes hitting on her - Genie's got a solution for that and it involves her fists and some heavenly beat-downs. She does have a softer side, and her worry and confusion over being just a weapon and not a human being are beautifully written without detracting from the adventure and action of the story. Genie's snarky personality hides some inner vulnerability and her musings on her Chinese-American culture, both the parts she loves and the parts she hates, and her struggles to find a way to protect her friends and family and fulfill her "destiny" while still finding her own independence will immediately appeal to readers who have the same dilemma, but on a less world-ending scale!

Verdict: This is sure to appeal to any Buffy fans amongst your teenage readers, but I personally haven't met any in years. I'd hand this to middle school students who love Harry Potter, especially Hermione fans. There's some romance and mild language, but nothing too graphic for younger readers. It's empowering wish-fulfillment at its best and one of the most enjoyable fantasies I've read in quite a while.

ISBN: 9781419725487; Published August 2017 by Amulet/ABRAMS; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light

Light steps away from his familiar, intricate style to produce a bold new board book. A sharply defined black bird stands against bold backgrounds of splashy color; a yellow sun, purple grapes, green grass, and pink flowers. Each background is sponge-painted, with thick, luscious texture. Hidden in each spread is a little orange worm, accompany Black Bird as she discovers the many colors that can be seen throughout the day, from the blazing yellow of the newly risen sun to the quiet blue of the moon against a darker blue sky.

The bold, brief text names the bird and the color in each page and nothing more, but the pictures open up older readers to speculation on a possible story. Why is the bird accompanied by the worm? Is she not hungry? Are they friends? Babies can also appreciate the bold contrasting colors and practice pointing and turning pages as they view each new color and shape.

The book itself is a medium-sized square, about 7x7 inches. It's a thinner cardboard than some board books, but without any additional moving parts should be sturdy enough for many small hands (and mouths) to enjoy it.

Verdict: This departure from Light's usual artistic style will be a welcome addition to board book collections, especially for the youngest of listeners. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763690670; Published March 2018 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lola Dutch by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

An exuberant and imaginative character springs to life in this debut picture book from a husband and wife team. Lola Dutch is, as her animal friends often say, “a little bit much.” She begins the day sliding down the banister of her Parisian-style apartment house, then creating a magnificent (and messy) breakfast. The next project for the day is a trip to the library, resulting in towers of books about inventors and artists which, of course, leads to some great art. After all this fun, Lola still has ideas but Bear is firm. It’s time for bed! But first there have to be bubble baths, bedtime stories, and a majestic bed fort. But maybe sometimes simpler is better? Finally, Lola is tucked into her own gilt bed, in her pink room, with Bear to tuck her in and say goodnight.

The story is illustrated in soft pastels and watercolors with many homages to famous artists and authors. In her imagination Lola travels through a papercut landscape of Matisse, crosses a bridge over a Monet lily pond, and she and her friends create magnificent portraits in the style of Klimt, van Gogh, and Picasso, among others. The book itself is a creative adventure, with a dollhouse printed on the back of the jacket and paper dolls to cut out and play with.

This was fun and exuberant. Fancy Nancy fans are sure to enjoy it, as well as Eloise aficionados. The things is, it’s awfully similar to Eloise. Lola lives in a mansion, accompanied only by Bear, Gator, Crane, and Pig. They are too subservient to her whims to be family, and Bear especially seems to act much like a combined butler and nanny. All of the books they see at the library are older classics, scientists, and artists, nearly all male. Some of the names include Da Vinci, Bell, Edison, Morse, Dickens, Bronte, and Austen, and the main artists are Matisse and Monet.

It’s a cute book. But do we really need another book about a privileged white girl who gets to explore her dreams and artistic interests with no curbs or barriers? I’d argue that we don’t. Fancy Nancy is, I think, popular precisely because it features an everyday little girl making the most of what she has - Fancy Nancy can make even a motel visit into something special. Crafty Chloe makes things with her own two hands - she doesn’t need an artists’ studio, professional tools, and a mansion setting to let her creativity free.

Verdict: Is this cute? Yes. The pictures are adorable, the additional activities fun, and the cheerful text attractive. Will kids check it out? Sure. Will it be memorable? I doubt it. It’s time we saw more girls of different races exploring their creativity - and took it out of the city mansion setting. An additional purchase at most.

ISBN: 9781681195513; Published 2018 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by publisher