Monday, December 31, 2018

Baby animals moving; Baby animals playing by Suzi Eszterhas

These two titles are part of a series by wildlife photographer and author Suzi Eszterhas. I've really loved her books in the past and, although some are a little long for reading with younger children, they are great fun to look at and talk about.

Eszterhas knows just what interests children - cute animal babies! In Baby Animals Moving she explores how a wide variety of baby animals get around. A lion cub is carried in its mother's mouth, a warthog piglet trots through the grass, bear cubs piggyback on their mom in the water, and many other animals cavort through the pages. Some of the text is a little clumsy, "Orca calves are strong swimmers. They dive and flip as they move through the ocean with their family pod. Sometimes they swim for miles to find fish to eat. See you later, orcas!" but it's simple enough to explain to a young child and kids will enjoy mimicking the different animal movements.

Another title in this series, Baby animals playing, features a different set of cute baby animals frolicking; but it's not all fun and games, their play will prepare them for survival later in life. A bison calf butts heads to practice protective moves, jackal pups play with a ball of elephant poop to learn to work together, and many baby animals climb trees. The text in this title isn't quite as even - some explain how the baby animals' play will help them survive later, other pages just make generic comments, "Raccoon kits perch high in the treetops. It's a safe place to hang out while Mom looks for food below."

But the real focus of the books are the engaging photos of wildlife and different movements that kids can mimic as well as showing young children how they are similar and different to animals. Back matter includes a note from the author and some additional photographs and information about them.

Verdict: These are great introductions to animals for young children and I will happily add them to my animal section (and my storytimes) to spark interest in preschool and kindergarten-age listeners.

Baby Animals Moving; ISBN: 9781771472999; Published 2018 by Owl Kids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Baby Animals Playing; ISBN: 9781771472975; Published 2017 by Owl Kids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Holiday Edition: Once upon a snowstorm by Richard Johnson

This cozy story is a sweet read for to celebrate the new year. The wordless pages tell the story of a lonely boy and his father. Grieving the loss of the boy's mother and with no food to eat, the father takes his rifle and his son and sets out to hunt. The boy becomes lost in a white blizzard, where the snowflakes look like leaping stags and running foxes. Frightened and alone, he falls asleep in a sheltered part of the forest and awakens to find himself surrounded by the forest animals. They become friends, sharing what little they have together and celebrating until the boy misses his father. The kind bear takes him home and the boy tells his father of his adventure; the father puts away his gun and as spring slowly awakens the woods, the boy and his father become friends with the animals and their weight of grief and loneliness lifts.

The practical, unsentimental side of me would like to point out that if they don't hunt they're going to starve; that chipmunks and many of the animals portrayed actually hibernate (not to mention eat each other); and that there are a lot of odd inconsistencies in what historical time period is being portrayed. But this isn't a nonfiction nature story; it's a story about opening up to friendship and new life after grief and loss. The fanciful pictures light up the pages and this wordless story becomes a powerful metaphor for choosing friends and life.

Verdict: Not for every library and not necessarily a strong storytime choice, but a great book for a quiet family gathering with the right child to talk about new beginnings and new friends for a new year.

ISBN: 9780571339280; Published November 1, 2018 by Faber & Faber; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, December 29, 2018

This week at the library; or, Holiday edition

What's Happening at the Library
  • Monday
    • Closed for holiday
  • Tuesday
    • Closed for holiday
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Thursday
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Friday
    • Worked 10-5:30
No programs this week! Um, all three days of it. Yeah, I should maybe have given myself a longer break, although I didn't start ALL programs immediately in January. Anyways, the big projects this week were finishing one last grant and shifting/weeding/moving. On Wednesday I and my staff moved the movie shelves and I did a lot of serious weeding - I needed to bring all the juvenile video games back over, so I needed to free up six shelves! We left a lot of movies piled on top of the shelves, but finished on Thursday. At least, I finished weeding and shifting, with my staff's help. I still have a bunch of lists to look over and replacements to order in the new year and then my associate has to finish adjusting the labels but we can do that next year! In a week! Oh yeah, and somebody threw up on a chair. Whatever.

Friday was everything-i-didn't-finish-the-last-two-days-b/c-i-was-weeding-movies day. The grant turned out to be really easy! No narrative! Then I worked on the process of inputting all the programs and staff schedules to google calendar, cleaning off my desk, answering questions, etc. I didn't finish - I took home the schedule and my year-end report to work on, but oh well.

I'm excited to have a new staff member, but the schedule does not get easier! So, I have myself (full-time), two 20-hour associates, two teen shelver/aides (9 hours each and one has a flex schedule so is available during the school day), and an outside programmer from the school district. You can see my beautiful color-coded master calendar here. I've got the bulk of the programs January - May done, we might add a few more teen events (my teen associate is starting next week!).

The problem comes when I try to lay out the desk schedule. The main information desk is staffed primarily by the adult services department (full-time department head, two part-time associates with a total of around 42 hours I think?) and then the director, myself, and tech services fill in as needed. We can also call on our head of circulation in a pinch. So, I regularly work one evening, one Saturday a month, and I and my staff cover weird bits on Thursday. Thursday is weird.

Once I've got the programs, outreach, meetings, and information desk schedule down, including who's doing what program and helping with which programs (and made sure I haven't conflicted with class schedules or staff's other jobs and counted out all the hours) then I have to cover the youth services desk. What I've ended up with is one associate primarily covering mornings and early afternoons, three days a week, one associate doing the late afternoon/evening, three days a week, and then I cover two mornings and an afternoon. Except Thursday late afternoon - that's on its own.

All of which is to say, I finished two months of schedule around midnight last night and my staff still has to check my math!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff

Even though they're twins, Colm and Mal (sometimes their mom calls them "Malcolm" collectively), don't agree on much of anything. Mal likes things organized and planned; he's a realist who enjoys building house layouts in Minecraft. Colm is a dreamer, a rule-breaker, and sometimes a trouble-maker. But they both agree that they don't want to move from Texas to Chicago. Unfortunately, after their father's death two years ago they're still tiptoeing around their mom and Colm especially doesn't feel like he can complain or act out, especially after all the trouble he's gotten into recently. So, off to Chicago they go.

The boys are cautiously interested in the historic apartment building they move into, and they meet an interesting, if slightly mysterious, girl named Tamika. But the professor their mom is working for is weird and there's something... off about the building. As the secrets of the tower and it's phantom twin, trapped in time, begin to be revealed, the boys realize that this is more than a fun adventure; they're facing some serious dangers.

This is a mystery, an adventure, and a time-travel fantasy all in one, but it's tied together by an exploration of how people grieve and how it can be painful and difficult but is important to move on with your life after losing a loved one. There are some truly scary moments, but overall it's a fairly gentle fantasy with a whiff of Minecraft and "following the clues" mysteries.

Verdict: While not a must-purchase, this is a good backlist title for readers who like mysteries with a hint of magic and danger but are not fans of epic, Warriors-style fantasy.

ISBN: 9781524739522; Published August 2018 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Birds of a color and Contrary dogs by Elo

These two board books are created by French designer Elo (there should be an accent, but my computer doesn't want to add it in). Both include flaps.

Birds of a color displays a variety of fanciful birds in black and white patterns. Each has a flap to lift - a wing, ruff, beak, or other part to reveal a surprise color. The first spread, a long-necked black bird with white spots and a white wing, has the word "white" on the flap. Lift the wing flap and it is black underneath with "black" in white letters. All the other words (colors) are under flaps. A toucan-like bird has an orange beak, drop a black head flap and show a blue eye, lift a chicken's solid black wing and show a yellow wing and yellow chick, etc.

Contrary dogs has a similar design but illustrates opposites with an odd assortment of dog shapes. A squat, bright green dog with pink and black polka-dotted ears and legs sits against a chartreuse background with the word "short" on their squat body. Lift and spread the flap, which turns into a long tab, and see the word "long". A pear-shaped dog with a long pink snout, pink ears, and pink legs has a red-orange body with vertical black dashes and the word "fat". On the opposite page is a pink dog with green and black ears and legs, a strip of color labeled "thin." Lift the fat dog's belly to double it in size and see the words "very fat." A mint green dog with darker green ears sits against an orange background with peach dots. Punched out holes in the dog's body gives them "spots". Lift their body to show the other side, which is the same light peach as the spots with speckled charcoal ears and see the words "no spots".

Both books are very artistic and have fun design concepts, but they're definitely not sturdy. The flaps are light cardboard and lift in different directions, usually a precursor to ripping. While "artsy" the designs aren't really particularly good for babies or toddlers, besides the ripping factor they're such odd shapes that the kids aren't necessarily going to recognize them as birds or dogs, in my opinion. I prefer simple, clearer shapes or photographs for this age.

Verdict: When reviews include words like "chic" and "sophisticated" that's a sign to me that these are board books that aren't a good fit for my audience. They would make cute presents, but I wouldn't expect them to last long with an actual baby or toddler.

Birds of a color
ISBN: 9781536200638

Contrary dogs
ISBN: 9781536200621

Published May 2018 by Candlewick Studio; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

How do you do? by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Gianna Marino

This isn't the usual type of picture book I like - or even read - but I've come to expect something different from each book Gianna Marino writes or illustrates and this pairing with a debut picture book author (Theule has a previous credit for a middle grade novel and a second picture book being released in April 2019) is an excellent combination.

It's hot. Blazing orange and yellow backgrounds show weary Water Buffalo and dropping Crane on a small, orange globe. The trees are dead, the flowers droop, everything is hot. Nothing changes, there is only the endless heat.

Then someone new appears. Goat. Goat says only, "How do you do?" and begins dancing, but it changes everything. The others join in and they dance around their tiny globe, kicking up their heels and watching the earth turn green and beautiful again. Is the rain real or only metaphorical? Either way, Water Buffalo and Crane have experienced a change of heart and they see new beauty in their world.

Verdict: The beautiful language and glowing colors make this a thoughtful and unique story to read aloud or pore over with a special child.

ISBN: 9781523503544; Published January 2019 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, December 24, 2018

Fur, feather, fin all of us are kin by Diane Lang, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

This joyous, rhymed celebration of life on earth explains animal classes in a way that children can understand.

The book begins with mammals, from whales and bears to a spread of diverse families in a variety of skin-colors, national dress, and family configurations from two moms to a single dad. The next spread explores birds, with feathers and eggs and the following full-page spread shows a snowy owl in full flight, pouncing on a lemming. Next comes amphibians, with careful drawings of their metamorphosis, then reptiles in both wet and dry habitats. Arthropods includes undersea creatures and various bugs, butterflies, and spiders. A stream of "normal" fish are followed a spread of weird fish like eels, seahorses, and rays. The next class is the somewhat odd "water dwellers" including octopus, jellyfish, and a giant squid and sperm whale. Then I learned a new word, which I can't wait to teach to the kids, "detritivores" which includes worms, slugs, and millipedes. A final spread celebrates the place all life has on earth, finishing with a scene at the beach featuring the dark-skinned family who appeared in the first pages.

The rhyming text probably has a specific name, but I just call it "not irritating". "More water dwellers live offshore,/ in tidal pools, on ocean floor./Some cling to rocks, while some float free,/our sandy, salty family." Laberis' colorful art is neither too cluttered nor too minimalist. Readers can easily identify specific species and animals and enjoy the colorful, exciting diversity of life on earth in her illustrations.

Extensive notes fill in the story, explaining food webs, the different classes (the choice of "water dwellers" and "detrivores" makes more sense if you read the notes) and also points out that the rhyming first two lines of each class make a great memory device - teachers take note! There is a quick list of ways you can help the environment, and here is one of the things I really liked about the book - they're almost all things kids can actually control/do. Unlike many books which suggest things like biking instead of driving, or shopping choices that kids don't make, this one has reminders about not feeding wild animals, simple recycling, cleaning up trash, and not putting trash down storm drains. There are a couple books and websites recommended as well.

Verdict: A beautiful and informative book; recommended.

ISBN: 9781481447096; Published May 2018 by Beach Lane Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Holiday Edition: Little Christmas Tree by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Throughout the winter day, a magical pine tree sparkles with silver lights, gleaming in the snow and providing a central focal point for the surprises hidden under multiple flaps. Rather bland rhyming couplets set up the scene on each spread, "And as the sun shines in the sky,/a brilliant goldfinch sings,/while underground, a sleeping bee/awaits the start of spring."

The pictures are colorful and attractive and children will certainly enjoy finding the wide variety of surprises under the flap. However, be aware that this is absolutely not an accurate picture of nature! The first spread sets the scene for a pine woods in winter; presumably the white cat seen in the background is actually an ermine? And I'm not sure about swan's migratory patterns. Start lifting the flap and get a surprise... I am definitely sure that parakeets don't live in the pine woods of the north in the snow! Some scenes randomly show flowers at the wrong season or animals in the wrong coat - goldfinches have a duller winter coat, not bright yellow. Some things aren't identified just called "berries" or "yellow bird."

This is a lift-the-flap, board book, formatted like a picture book. It has a total of seven pages, made of thin cardboard, and is tall and thin, about 12 x 7 inches. I've used some of Courtney-Tickle's previous titles in storytime kits, which is usually the only use I have for books with movable parts, but a holiday book is a little different because it is generally only used once a year.

Verdict: Factual inaccuracies aside, this is an attractive novelty that is sure to enjoy brisk circulation in your holiday collections, although I don't expect it to last long-term. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781536203110; Published October 16, 2018 by Big Picture Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, December 22, 2018

This week at the library; or, Programs are done! Ok, not really.

Happening this week
Somehow this year the programs just keep going and going and going... Wednesday was my birthday and I did two sessions of booktalking for 4 classes of fifth graders, promoting their upcoming nonfiction unit. I think I am 37 years old, which feels unlikely but time marches on. (Apparently I am actually turning 36, so I have an extra year!)
On Friday I put up my new red NO INTERRUPTIONS PLEASE sign and finally got the Jan-Feb staff schedule done. Or a first draft anyways. Then I tidied my desk, shelved a little, and done!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Death Eaters: Meet Nature's Scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls

Ok, I understand that not everyone will want to read further after seeing that cover but this is a truly fascinating and compassionate look at death, the cycle of life, and decomposition. Halls addresses the science of decomposition - what happens to skin, blood, and the body after death? - and then jumps right into a description of the various creatures involved in the breakdown of the body. First are blowflies, whose life cycle includes maggots, and other bugs (did you know roly-polys eat dead bodies as well as dead plants? I did not!). The next chapter focuses on furry, or mammalian death eaters - raccoons, skunks, wolves, and yes, humans. There are also additional sections on research regarding dinosaurs as well as modern-day reptiles like monitor lizards.

The next chapter features scavengers we're all familiar with - crows and vultures - and some not-so-familiar death eaters like the bald eagle and seagulls. This chapter also delves into how humans have changed the environment, and not for the better, by killing or otherwise altering the habits of these creatures. Next we visit a whole different scene of death - the ocean. Who - or what - eats dead creatures in the ocean? Is being buried at sea a more environmentally-conscious choice? What happens to bones in the ocean?

Halls concludes the book with a thoughtful memory from her youth and a reflection on the sometimes scary and gross but always interesting processes of death. Source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading, and photo acknowledgements are also included.

Verdict: While not a topic frequently seen, this is an important subject both in science and life. Kids who are exploring science need to see the sometimes gross and scary side as well as the cute animals and exciting experiments and realize how seemingly small changes, like eliminating apparently useless creatures like vultures, can have a huge impact on the world. Recommended (but not for the weak of stomach).

ISBN: 9781512482003; Published August 2018 by Milbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Zoey and Sassafras: Unicorns and germs by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay

As we have previously established, I am as close as I ever get to being a fan of Zoey and Sassafras. I love the mixture of magic and science, the experiments, the adorable kitty, the diversity, and just the whole thing! Seeing this latest addition to the series inspired me to start planning a Zoey and Sassafras, Magic and Science, program next year where I plant combine unicorn slime and cute crafty caterflies, microscopes and magic!

The quick rundown of the basic plot; Zoey and her mom can see magical creatures, which come to their barn for help. In each book Zoey works on helping a different magical creature using science. Her mom is usually there to help and advise, but Zoey tries most things on her own. She's experimented with removing mold from a monster's fur, what to feed a baby dragon, how to safely melt ice and feed caterflies, and much more.

In this title, we meet what might be the most impressive creature yet - a unicorn! Did you know that unicorns are GIANT? Neither did Zoey! Even though he's just a baby, Tiny is taller than the trees! Tiny has a cut on his leg and Zoey needs to figure out how to safely treat it and keep it from getting infected. Luckily, she and her mom were already experimenting with live cultures, making yoghurt, and they use the same principles to isolate and treat the bacteria in Tiny's injury. The book includes entries in Zoey's journal that walks readers through the experiments and a glossary of science terms in the back.

Verdict: These beginning chapter books are just exactly what I, and my readers, want on so many levels. Kids love to read them on their own, they love the magical creatures, they appeal to kids who love science, and I have many parents who read them aloud as well. I look forward to more adventures from Zoey and Sassafras!

ISBN: 9781943147472; Published October 2018 by Innovation Press; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided for Cybils

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Small Readers: Chicken in mittens by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Shahar Kober

I've only recently been getting into Lehrhaupt's Chicken books, both picture books and easy readers, and I feel I've really missed out since they're super funny!

In this easy reader adventure, Zoey the chicken (she's the brave, adventurous one) and her best friend Sam the pig (he's the nervous, hungry one) embark on a perilous journey to the North Pole. Along the way they encounter a yeti, sled down a mountain, and Sam helps them find their way back home, courtesy of Zoe's imagination and clever ideas.

Simple, cheerful pictures show a mostly white landscape with splashes of color; the pink pig, colored mittens and scarves, and blue sky. This is a level 1 easy reader in the I Can Read series, which actually is fairly high - for a comparison it's a level I or lexile of 380, meaning it's going to be for readers who can handle fairly complex words and simple sentences, not emerging readers who are still sounding out words.

The conceit of Zoey and Sam's stories, that they go on various journeys and adventures with Zoey's imagination turning a basket into a rocket, an old barn into a school house, etc. is carried out well here. It's simpler than the picture books, so readers don't need to try and interpret the pictures as well as the words.

Verdict: If you're looking for more intermediate readers, this is a good addition to your collection.

ISBN: 9780062364159; Published October 17, 2017 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Stick by Irene Dickson

Irene Dickson's first book, Blocks, is a very popular toddler title at my library and I think her new book will prove to be equally attractive to little listeners as well.

The white boy on the cover is the only character in the book, besides a black girl who appears in the last few pages, and he and his dog play happily in a British countryside. After finding the titular stick, he demonstrates all the fun a child can have with this simple item. He uses it as a walking stick, an instrument, a toy for his dog, a drawing and stirring tool, and much more.

While he plays, he leads the reader through a quiet countryside with green fields, blue water, pale sand, and finally meets up with a black girl; together, they combine their sticks to build a playhouse.

Verdict: While some anxious parents may fret over the lack of adults as the child explores a stream, mud, and fields, this gentle story explores the joys of outdoor play and solitary playtime. A fun addition to storytime with many possible activity extensions.

ISBN: 9781536200164; This edition published 2018 by Nosy Crow/Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 17, 2018

The truth about dolphins by Maxwell Eaton III

Maxwell Eaton, author of the hilarious Flying Beaver Brothers and the Adventures of Max and Pinky series, is back with a new nonfiction series that’s perfect for read-alouds and intermediate readers. “The truth about…” features “seriously funny facts about your favorite animals” and his latest entry, Dolphins, is no exception.

The jokes start right away, as a cheerful dolphin pops up on the front page to say “We’re social animals.” Followed by an orca chasing the dolphins across the title page saying “Wait! Let’s be social!” Each page features a simple line of text with a fact about dolphins, a seascape illustrating the fact, and additional explanations and jokes in boxes and word bubbles. An unnamed, dark-skinned girl scuba dives alongside the dolphins learning all about them. Readers will learn that dolphins aren’t fish and how they can be told apart from fish, that they are mammals, how baby dolphins are born, about echolocation, and many more facts. Many different kinds of dolphins are shown, and some of their unique behaviors and habitats. There are also some pages on dolphins’ threats, mostly from pollution, both chemical and noise, and climate change. A final page is set up like a file with snapshots and facts, as well as some further research facts (divided up into tucuxi-sized books and orca-sized books)

Eaton packs the picture-book sized title full of his trademark tongue-in-cheek humor and friendly cartoon pictures. While I often have trouble getting older readers to pick up picture books, the simple layout and humor of these titles makes them accessible even to kids (and parents) who think “picture books are for babies”. Although there are several more difficult vocabulary words, with some help kids can work through them and there are pronunciation guides for some of the most difficult, like echolocation.

Verdict: Simply and humorously explained, these are a great first introduction to animals and perfect for older readers who aren't yet been able to handle chapter books and younger readers who read at a high level. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781626726680; Published 2018 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Holiday Edition: Smithsonian Exploration Station: Human Body

I don't usually look at or review books with "things" or kits, but around the beginning of the year I update our various kits and so this is a good time to take a look at what's new and will spark ideas. This Smithsonian kit features the human body and right away I thought "that would make a great storytime kit!"

This kit has a sturdy cardboard case and includes a 56-page paperback, poster with reusable stickers, skeleton model, and fact cards. The book is a basic overview of the human body. Most of the people pictured are white, but there is some diversity included. The book matches with the fact cards, which are index-card sized (does anybody even use index cards anymore?) and made from cardstock with a slick coating. The book and cards cover things like the basic digestive, nervous, and circulatory system, the skeletal structure, and include sections on the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

The skeleton is plastic and pops together with little knobs. It has a stand to attach it to. The poster is double-sided and the stickers include bones (for one side of the poster) and organs (for the other). There's also a sheet of square stickers with simple outlines of body parts (nose, ribs, head, etc.)

The book does not address reproductive organs in any way (and doesn't even mention the word poop, just a vague reference to "waste" which is disappointing). However, it's a nice, basic introduction to the human body with some fun hands-on activities. This would make a good holiday present for a curious child but I'll be using it as the basis for a storytime kit. In addition to this, I'll probably look into additional resources like nonfiction books, more human body models/skeletons, and some fun picture books like Tedd Arnold's Parts or Skeleton Hiccups.

ISBN: 9781626867215; Published by Silver Dolphin (note that this is marked "cancelled" on my vendor, Baker and Taylor, but is available through Amazon); Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, December 15, 2018

This week at the library; Almost the last week of programs!

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Gingerbread house playgroup
    • Books for bedtime
    • Paws to read
    • Department meeting
    • Interview
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Holiday Cookie Party (toddlers)
    • Interview
    • Worked 9:30-6:30
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday
    • Toe to Toe Nutcracker Storytime
I somehow thought this week would be so relaxed after Candyland. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. It was insane. Interviews, meetings, a gazillion things to do, finishing the newsletter, planning for next year, all the warning lights on my car came on, scheduling, last-minute outreach visit next week to prep for, my skirt ripped as I walked out the door. Crazy! I am looking forward to a couple days off at Christmas to sleep!

Friday, December 14, 2018

D-Day: The World War II invasion that changed history by Deborah Hopkinson

I am really getting into Scholastic's new nonfiction imprint, Focus. This title revisits what one might think is a well-known event - D-Day in World War II - but under Hopkinson's excellent treatment it takes on a whole new dimension.

This carefully crafted narrative divides the story of D-Day into the planning stage, the final moments, traveling across the channel and the early attacks, and then expands on two main fronts - Utah and Omaha - and sums up the narrative in a final chapter.

Within this framework, meticulous research, quotations, original documents, and interviews fill the pages. Hopkinson does not neglect those who are often forgotten - sections telling readers about the roles played by women and African-Americans are included as well. She analyzes the approach, the challenges, and the horrors of war through the voices of the people who were there. Maps, sketches, and links to online resources are included throughout. At the end of each sub-chapter is a section entitled "Look, Listen, Remember" which links readers to additional resources. For example, chapter 9 "Pegasus Bridge" tells the story of glider pilots who embarked the evening before D-Day, going inland to France as backups to the main attack. The additional materials for this chapter include links to a photo of the bridge and memorial museum, a mention of a film and book in which the bridge plays a part, and a link for more information about World War II gliders.

Extensive back matter is included in the "Quartermaster's Department" including a timeline, glossary, notes, links, extensive sources, and much more.

While this would require a strong reader, and Hopkinson doesn't shy away from the horror and tragedy of war and the suffering and death that accompanied this historic event, she does not dwell heavily on graphic scenes. It has always been my contention that if middle grade readers are interested in history, especially in war, they should not be given sanitized versions of events. This will interest World War II buffs who will appreciate the extensive research, facts, and statistics; kids interested in history will learn many new aspects about this famous event; and reluctant readers will be drawn into the very human thoughts and actions of the soldiers and the fast-paced, intense action.

Verdict: An excellent and definitive work for middle school and high school readers, with interest for younger middle grade readers who are ready for this depth of history as well. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780545682480; Published August 2018 by Scholastic Focus; Galley provided by the publisher

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Poppy & Sam and the leaf thief by Cathon

With the ever-growing popularity of graphic novels, I'm sometimes frustrated by the lack of popular and still high-quality titles for younger readers. Sure, there are plenty of movie tie-ins and on the other end of the spectrum there's Toon books with their mostly artistic titles, but where are the Bone, Amulet, and Raina Telgemeiers for 2nd graders?

So I simply fell in love with this sweet and adorable title. Poppy, a miniature girl with light brown skin and black hair and her best friend Sam, a cute panda, live in a garden. Poppy has a house in a pumpkin and together they care for the garden. But one day something horrible happens - someone bites off Basil's leaves while she's sleeping! Can Poppy and Sam solve the mystery?

Colorful, simple pictures show a busy, green garden with anthropomorphic bugs and plants. The speech bubbles are easy to follow and the panels clearly outlined.

There's a little nonfiction included, as Poppy and Sam use various methods, both deductive and scientific to solve the mystery and keep the culprit away from Basil. Once the nibbler is found, Basil generously hands over some leaves, reminding them that it's better to just ask!

Verdict: A sweet choice for beginning readers, I'm eager to use this one in book club and I hope it turns into a series.

ISBN: 9781771473293; Published August 2018 by Owlkids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Small Readers: The perfect gift by Paula Yoo and The garden by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez

These two titles are from Lee & Low's Dive into Reading series. Both are labeled as "emergent", "Predictable story episodes, simple dialogue, high frequency words and familiar vocabulary." I usually consider "emergent" to be much lower level - these come in around the 400s in lexiles or a E level. They are easier stories in the Confetti Kids series.

In The perfect Gift, Mei, an Asian-American girl, tries to figure out the perfect gift for her baby brother Ming when he turns 100 days old. The story includes notes about Chinese culture, making red eggs and a 100-day celebration, as well as Mei's sweet gift, a book of drawings, for her beloved baby brother.

In The Garden, Lily and her mom miss their garden at home so they join a community garden, along with Lily's friends. Their neighbor Mr. Sam, an experienced gardener, walks them through the work of planting, weeding, and watering until they have a great harvest.

The illustrator's work is soft and colorful, showing a diverse group of children; Henry, Lily, Mei, Pablo, and Padma, in an idyllic urban setting.

Verdict: It's nice to see easy readers with some diversity and the simple stories are reader-friendly. On the other hand, they're not particularly memorable; the trend for easy readers right now is humor and cartoon-style art and layouts and these are a more traditional layout. There's no real conflict or story to grab hold of, just some everyday events. This is what I'd purchase as filler for my easy readers - the kids won't ask for them specifically, but when they need a nice, big stack of books to work their way through these are a good choice to pop onto the stack.

The Garden
ISBN: 9781620145654
The Perfect Gift
ISBN: 9781620145678

Published May 2018 by Lee & Low; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

How does my garden grow? by Gerda Muller

I personally love many of Floris' books; they often publish older European titles with lovely illustrations, but they're usually just not a good fit for my library. Too text-heavy, unfamiliar words and settings, etc. But this one, oh I loved this one and I really hope it will be popular in the library!

The white endpages are covered with delicate drawings of the "eight vegetable families" - fruits, bulbs, tubers, flowering vegetables, stem vegetables, pulses (those are peas and corn in case you were wondering, like me), leafy vegetables, and root vegetables.

Sophie, a small girl with dark hair, who might be Asian, has gone to live with her grandparents in the countryside. Together they plant, weed, water, and harvest, all carefully illustrated with delicate drawings of plants and vegetables, pictures of Sophie and her grandparents and neighbors working in the garden, illustrations of how plants grow and are pollinated, and periodic full-page spreads of the garden at different times of day and the vegetables being harvested. The story ends in winter, with Sophie returning to help put the garden to rest, and a look forward to spring.

The story is admittedly too long to read in storytime, or probably at a sitting. It's handily divided into chapters of a few pages each and filled with gardening knowledge and suggestions. It's a great choice to check out again and again from the library, reading a little bit each night or before gardening, or to purchase for your family's bookshelf to accompany work in the garden.

Verdict: This isn't a necessary purchase for every library, but if you have an emphasis on gardening and an audience for longer picture books, you are sure to find some readers who appreciate this simple story of garden appreciation and growth.

ISBN: 9781782500377; Published 2014 by Floris books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pipsqueaks, slowpokes, and stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

Stewart steps away from popular, big-name animals to take a look at some unusual creatures - and their unique abilities.

Forget about elephants and cheetahs - what do you know about the Etruscan pygmy shrew? The Amau frog? How about a stinky hoatzin or reeking zorilla? Why is an okapi so shy and a bat so lazy? Stewart takes each of these animals, as well as walruses, naked mole rats, western fence lizards, and more and shows how their stinky smells, tiny size, weird diets, and sleep habits help them survive and thrive.

Back matter includes thumbnail illustrations of each animal with additional information on their habits and abilities. The final page has a brief list of sources and a dedication to children who are bullied. Laberis' friendly illustrations add a cartoon flavor to the various creatures while still capturing their unique looks and behavior. Plump gray koalas lounge on tree branches, a naked mole rat tries on a furry coat, and a panicked group of predators flee in humorous shock from the stench of the hoatzin and zorilla. Readers will want to look carefully to discover the okapi blending into the forest, well-hidden from a prowling leopard, and the western fence lizard flies comically off its branch.

Verdict: This cute book not only introduces kids to an unusual set of animals, it also gently points the lesson that sometimes the smallest, weakest, and weirdest of us all have hidden strengths! Recommended for storytime read-alouds and class discussions.

ISBN: 9781561459360; Published 2018 by Peachtree; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Holiday Edition: The Brambly Hedge complete collection by Jill Barklem

As a child, I deeply loved all things miniature and British - so when I discovered Jill Barklem's exquisite little books about the mice of Brambly Hedge I was smitten. Fast forward lo these many years (we won't say how many) and I still have my miniature set-ups, my collections of tiny books including Jill Barklem, and my utter delight that HarperCollins is republishing these classic stories.

Now, just so you are aware, they are also republishing the original books (they're about the size of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books for a size comparison) but if you're looking for a great holiday gift for a miniature and/or book lover, why not get this gorgeous collection? It comes in a nice, sturdy slipcase and includes the eight classic stories in a single volume.

The first set of four are seasonal - Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, and Winter Story. They show the mice enjoying the excitement of each season from harvest to winter balls, weddings to picnics. The second set  - The Secret Staircase, The High Hills, Sea Story, and Poppy's Babies adds to the adventures of the mice showing them traveling to the seaside to get salt, setting up a new home for a tired mother, and discovering secrets in the Old Oak Palace.

The Brambly Hedge stories are a pastoral world, with the mice busily collecting, storing, and sharing food in their intricate stumps and tree homes. There's a quasi-feudal feel to it, with the presence of Lord and Lady Woodmouse, but on the whole the mice are an egalitarian lot with everyone pitching in to help each other out. The most present characters are the ever-curious Wilfrid Toadflax and his best friend, Primrose Woodmouse. Together they have many adventures in and around the meadow.

A large part of the charm of this series is Barklem's intricate illustrations showing shelves stacked with tiny dishes, food, and other household equipment. Then there's the fields, stream, and trees with exquisite drawings of flowers, grasses, berries, and mushrooms. The mice themselves are dressed in old-fashioned style, buttoned into trousers, petticoats, and adorned with shady straw hats (suitably adjusted for ears and tails of course).

Verdict: The complete collection is a great buy for library shelves, if you have little listeners who love tiny things (and who doesn't?) and I look forward to introducing our patrons to this beloved series. Consider either the complete collection or selections of the individual books for the miniature loving children in your life; you can even pair them with some little mouse dolls or tiny foods for imaginative play.

ISBN: 9780008282820; This edition published October 2018 by HarperCollins; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library (I have purchased my own copies of the individual books as well as a few for the library)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

This week at the library; or, Candyland

Happening at the library this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
    • Worked 12-8
    • Cleaned off desk, monthly report, Lost/Paid for list, Weeding, Cleaning up after adorable kittens who left us a "present" (but were still adorable and it was a corner I want to rip the carpet out of anyways)
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Worked 10-5:15
    • Finished lost list, busy morning on the children's desk, wrote up all the marketing blurbs for next winter/spring programs.
  • Wednesday
    • Budget meeting
    • Worked 10:30-6
    • Finished second grant (one more to go)! Working on Candyland, weeding, busy few hours on the children's desk in the late afternoon, other stuff.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers
    • Meeting
    • Worked 10:30-6:15
    • Random stuff kept happening all day.
  • Friday
    • Worked 4:30-8:30
    • End of the week emails, setting up next week's outreach, and then set-up for Candyland.
  • Saturday

Friday, December 7, 2018

Animal zombies and other bloodsucking beasts, creepy creatures, and real-life monsters by Chana Stiefel

If you have kids who love the gross, ghoulish, and disgusting, all in the name of science, this book is for them! I've got a pretty strong stomach and a few spreads made me shudder!

The idea of the book is to look at "real-life" monsters in the animal world and compare them to Dracula, zombies, and other supernatural creatures. Under the category of "the living dead" are included various bugs and parasites that take over their hosts and control their actions. Chapter 2 introduces creatures that feed on blood - lampreys, vampire bats, ticks, and more. For sea monsters we plunge deep into the ocean and meet poisonous and powerful undersea creatures, including a cone snail, giant squid, goblin shark, and more. For those who like to shudder at the thought of alien invaders, there's tapeworms, guinea worms, fungus, and other things we don't want to think about. The last chapter, "animal monster mash" has a wide range of creepy, gross, and unexpected animals from a porcupine with quills to cannibal crickets, a lizard that squirms out of its skin to escape predators to a caecilian mother that feeds its young with its own body.

Each chapter also includes a section on the mythical or popular culture monster - zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. that inspired the research as well as profiling a "mad scientist" who researches some of the animals included. Back matter includes a glossary, index, further resources (I, personally, am not watching the videos) and credits.

The book is available in library and paperback bindings and is a slightly wider layout than some National Geographic titles - 10x9 inches. This gives plenty of space for lots of close-up, gory photographs! A great nonfiction pick for Halloween, grab this one off the shelf any time you have a kid proclaiming they like REALLY scary fare or that nothing grosses them out!

Verdict: Full of facts and photographs, this is a great addition to National Geographic's oevre and is sure to fly off your shelves (but hopefully not into your brain. Mwa ha ha ha).

ISBN: 9781426331497; Published August 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Craftily Ever After: The un-friendship bracelet by Martha Maker, illustrated by Xindi Yan

So, I read and reviewed the second title, Making the band, first. After reading the first title though, the characters have a very different look!

Emily and Maddie, or Mad-Ily as they call themselves, have been best friends forever. Emily (white, red hair and glasses) likes to make things with tools, while Maddie (black, with natural, curly hair) is an artist and can sew. They have friendship bracelets they made for each other and spend all their time together. But then Isabella Diaz shows up. Bella is great with math, coding, and crafts too! Bella is put next to Maddie and suddenly the two are spending all their time together - and Emily feels left out. Maddie even teaches Bella how to make their special friendship bracelets! When Emily loses her bracelet, she feels like it's a sign that their friendship is over forever. And then there's Sam Sharma, who sits next to Emily. Maybe she wants to be friends with him too?


Once Emily speaks up and explains how she feels to Maddie, all is well. The four become friends, bonding over cleaning out a shed in Bella's yard that becomes their crafting clubhouse. The diversity, as it often does in these early chapter books, feels carefully planned and I was disappointed to find that the first book in the series features the white girl, but overall it's a good attempt to create something to appeal to young makers.

Verdict: This isn't particularly realistic, from the access to craft supplies and skills to the level of independence the kids have, not to mention their maturity in dealing with friendship issues. However, it's a nice modeling of behavior to follow and will appeal to kids who like to make things.

ISBN: 9781534409071; Published March 2018 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Small Readers: Mouse loves snow and Mouse loves spring by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan

I'm looking at two easy readers by Lauren Thompson today. I freely admit that I bought these for the library without looking at them. I've seen other work by Thompson and it's usually popular with the kids and their parents, mice and seasons are generally popular subjects, and sometimes you jusCybils that they're actually extensions of picture books about Mouse.

t buy books to fill in, especially in the easy readers! I didn't realize until I read them for

In Mouse loves snow the titular character and his father go outside to play in the snow. Each activity includes a repetitive phrase. First, his father does the action, "Poppa slides down the hill. Woosh, swoosh!" and then on the next page Mouse copies him, "Now Mouse will try. Pliff, ploof! Good job, Mouse!" The story ends with them creating a snow mouse together.

In Mouse loves spring, he experiences another season, this time with his mother. This has slightly more complex text, although it still includes some repetition. Mouse sees a creature, described by an adjective "something flittery" and his mother tells him what it is. "The wind blows whoosh!" and the creature hides, flies, or otherwise goes away. The story ends with something cuddly - a hug and a kiss with Momma.

Erdogan's illustrations are soft and fuzzy, often with little halos of light around objects. Mouse is a cute, fuzzy grey ball and his parents are larger versions. The art runs along the top two thirds of the page with the text in a bold font on the bottom. The books are labeled as "pre-level one" but the made up words like "flittery" actually bump this up to about a level one for us. Erdogan's illustrations are copyright 2005, so from a little research it looks to me like these easy readers are just cut-down versions of two older picture book titles, which have also been reissued as board books, Mouse's first snow and Mouse's first spring. I also found these rather annoyingly stereotyped - the father does all the active things, the mother looks at pretty flowers and animals and gives hugs. Mouse defaults to male, his father wears a blue/green scarf and his mother is pinkish-grey, rather than just grey.

Verdict: These aren't particularly stand-out easy readers, but they're solid backlist fare to fill in your easy reader collection. Kids need a lot of easy readers to work through as they're building fluency and these are acceptable for that purpose.

Mouse loves spring
ISBN: 9781534401853; This edition published January 2018 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Mouse loves snow
ISBN: 9781534401822; This edition published November 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Cat Book by Silvia Borando

Another delightful interactive book from minibombo.

What's that orange ball? It's a cat! Call him by name to wake him up and let's get the story started. As this cute little interactive book continues, kids will pet, feed, tickle, and even squish fleas off their cat.

I'm looking for fun new cat books for a cat-themed outreach I have planned and I think this one, with its minimalist illustrations and silly actions, will work great with both toddlers and preschoolers.

I would recommend adapting the instructions somewhat if used with a class, but with minibombo books I generally use them as a framework and put in my own dialogue. First, you'll need to discuss what we're going to call the cat. Once a name is decided on, the kids can call her name (I usually switch to female pronouns b/c it's ridiculous how many animals etc. in storytimes default to "he") , make stroking motions in the air, make tickling movements with their fingers, pinch fleas (make sure they don't pinch each other), blow away fleas, hold up hands like an umbrella, blow again to get him dry (the book says to use your shirt as a towel, but I don't need to see that many bare tummies lol), and so on.

With a small enough class the kids can take turns doing the actions with the book, but you'll want to count beforehand - just so you know, there are 8 actions an individual child could come up to do.

Verdict: This small book is not ideal for a large storytime, but for a small group it's sure to hit the sweet spot! Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763694722; This edition published April 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Squirrel's busy year and Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Richard Jones

Martin Jenkins has written several "first science storybooks" and I recently read through a slew of them, these two being some of my favorites. On a quick surface read, they appear to be about animals and seasons, but dig a little deeper and they actually incorporate specific science concepts.

In The Squirrel's Busy Year, Jones' earth colors illustrate Jenkins' story of the seasons through the eyes of a family of squirrels. An owl sits silently on a tree, a recurrent figure through the story. Young listeners will learn how squirrels visit their food caches over the winter, search for buds in the spring, dig up bulbs, and survive a storm in the summer. When fall returns, animals begin to hibernate and the squirrels work to build up a food supply for the winter ahead. There's more to the story than just the seasonal changes for squirrels; as explain in an opening note for parents, this book is about the science of the seasons. Each description of the season and the squirrels' behavior includes a note about the position of the sun and the changes in the weather. The final note includes seasonal activities and a simple index.

In Bird builds a nest, Jenkins uses even simpler language, suitable for a toddler, to show a brief season in the life of a bird. Bird hunts for a worm; after unsuccessfully trying for a big one, she successfully catches a small worm. Next, Bird works on her special project - building a nest. She collects just the right kind of twigs and weaves them together to create a nest. When the nest is lined and finished, it's ready for eggs! This is not just a book about nest-building, it's also a book about forces. The opening note gives readers simple language and concepts to discuss with children and the book incorporates those concepts in how the bird pulls at the worm then chooses a smaller one that can't resist as much, and how she pushes and pulls to weave in the sticks. A final note suggests some activities and a simple index is also included.

These books make fun reading, just right for a toddler or preschool storytime about squirrels, seasons, or birds. They're also a great choice for STEM-based programs for little ones. Use Bird as a central choice for a story about building things, then provide string, twigs, and other recyclables for children to make their own nest. Squirrel would make a great introduction to how the earth moves and affects the seasons; pair it with a flashlight and some shadow puppetry or some globes to learn more.

Verdict: Excellent choices to bring more science into your storytimes and classrooms for younger children.

The squirrel's busy year
ISBN: 9780763696009; Published July 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Bird builds a nest
ISBN: 9780763693466; Published January 2018 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holiday Edition: Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

That grouchy and unlovable bear is back; this time, Bruce is desperate to hibernate but his annoying family won't let him!

In Higgins' previous books, we were introduced to a gaggle of goslings, who view Bruce as their parent; an inquisitive and noisy group of mice, and the extremely grouchy Bruce who just wants to be left alone! But alas, it is not to be. In his first holiday story, Bruce is looking forward to staying in bed in the winter so he can "skip right through the whole business." But, of course, the mice, goslings, and other forest animals have other ideas. Especially when he puts on long underwear and a hat to combat the cold... an outfit which just happens to be red...

Much against his will, Bruce finds himself bringing Christmas cheer to all the creatures of the forest. Next year, he's really going to sleep through it all! At least, that's what he thinks...

Hilarious asides, like the mice's discussion of bear's hibernation habits "Actually...[bears] spend the winter in a state of lethargy." "I thought were were spending winter in the state of Maine..." pepper the pages and Higgins' colorful art shows a ragged group of enthusiastic animals, reluctantly watched over by the disgruntled bear.

Verdict: An amusing addition to your holiday sections and a sure hit for fans of Bruce and Higgins' other titles.

ISBN: 9781484782903; Published September 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, December 1, 2018

This week at the library; or, Holidays begin

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Paws to read
    • Managers' Meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Meeting
    • Worked 9-7:30
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 10-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • OPtions field trip
    • Worked 10-5
  • Friday
  • Saturday
    • Christmas parade
    • Worked 10-2
Major snowstorm Sunday night meant no school Monday - Playgroup and Bedtime storytime were cancelled since Miss Pattie works for the school district. We had chihuahua puppies for Paws to Read - I think there were more staff than patrons in there (I was not one of them - I prefer big, fluffy dogs. And Rottweilers. Corgis are good too.)

Tuesday - smallish group for toddlers. I finished and submitted a grant then stayed late to attend a parents of young adults with disabilities meeting as the library representative. Lots of good info.

Wednesday - working on the winter/spring newsletter and collection development. Also a busy afternoon on the desk.

Middle schooler "you want to hear something?"
Me, with trepidation "like what?"
Middle schooler "you know the middle school?"
Me, "yes"
Middle schooler "you know the pond?"
Me, "yes" (the middle school has a big wetland/garden/prairie kind of area and a pond)
Middle schooler "I fell in. I'm soaking wet up to here (measures up to stomach"
Me "thank you for that information don't you think you should go home and get some dry clothes on??" (did I mention it was about 20 degrees outside?! and they already walked half a mile from the middle school to the library?!)
Middle schooler "nah, I'm fine."
Me "so you just wanted me to worry about you. got it."
(I did later convince them to call for a ride instead of walking a mile or so home.)

Thursday - finally got my oil changed. Good news - my car will live for now! (It is rather ancient and there is a certain amount of rust, but I have explained that all I care about it whether or not it will explode and apparently I'm good on that front.)

Friday - finished the last of the errands after my outreach and some misc. work. Renewed my driver's license finally! Saturday - on the information desk.

I live in the Christmas Card town. There's a lot of Christmas stuff. Usually, for the youth services department, we have a number of more or less neutral holiday programs (it's hard to be completely neutral with an entire town decorating with Christmas decorations and 20+ classic Christmas paintings on display in the library, so I don't really try that hard). The town Christmas stuff happens on the first weekend, then next weekend is life-size Candyland! Our circulation staff really stepped up, putting a lot of time into these events. I was very grateful because that left me and my staff free to concentrate on Candyland! Then comes toddler cookie decorating, a gingerbread house playgroup (thankfully Miss Pattie is doing that one - I did one one year and was traumatized) and the circulation staff have also got the book presents under the tree (they wrap picture books and easy readers and kids check them out and then get to "open a present".)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Woodpeckers by Sneed B. Collard III

I like woodpeckers. I get downy woodpeckers at my birdfeeders sometimes, which is always fun. Also, did you know that woodpeckers and toucans belong to the same order, Piciformes? I learned that whilst cataloging! Enough dithering, on to the book.

In a casual, friendly manner, Collard talks about woodpeckers; the different types, their behaviors, effect on the environment, and current state of vulnerability. He makes mention of pop culture, like saying that you can't mistake a woodpecker's drumming unless you're absorbed in Shark Week or Minecraft. He talks about his own experiences with these fascinating birds - he and his son took the photos in the US and abroad. The photographs are occasionally blurry, but generally of a high, professional standard. The layout of the book is a large, picture book style with a lot of white space around the edge of the light font.

Back matter includes an author's note, encouraging readers to revisit the author's earlier book, a glossary, index, and photo bloopers.

The author is correct that there aren't many books for kids on woodpeckers and certainly nothing approaching narrative nonfiction, not since Hoose's Race to save the Lord God Bird in 2014. This accessible title combines humor and the author's friendly, down-to-earth text to create an informative, attractive volume on birds that should be better-known.

Verdict: A strong addition to middle grade nonfiction on animals; recommended.

ISBN: 9780984446094; Published May 2018 by Bucking Horse Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

With the success of the delightful Sofia series by Jacqueline Jules, Capstone has added another own voices beginning chapter series, this time featuring spunky Yasmin Ahmad, a Pakistani-American.

Like the Sofia books, these are available in single titles or in a chapter-book style collection, which I am reviewing here. It includes four stories: Yasmin the explorer, Yasmin the painter, Yasmin the builder, and Yasmin the fashionista. In the first story, we meet Yasmin who is learning about maps. She draws a map of her hometown, but gets lost when she goes to the farmer's market with her mother. Will her map help her find her way back? In the second and third story, we see Yasmin at school, working on art and science projects and putting her unique spin on things. The four story returns to Yasmin's home and her extended family as she enjoys dressing up in her mother's clothes with her grandmother, Nani.

At the back there are questions about the stories, a glossary of the Urdu words in the text, a page of facts about Pakistan, a recipe and crafts, and a profile of the author and illustrator.

The bright illustrations show the spunky and enthusiastic Yasmin with dark skin, short black hair, and gold earrings. Her father is casually dressed and her mother wears a hijab outside the house. She appears to live in a fairly diverse area; her teacher is white, with short, spiky hair, but a variety of races and families are shown in the school.

I felt there was a little more wish-fulfillment in Yasmin's stories than in Sofia's life. Sofia has to deal with siblings, sometimes feeling left out in her big, noisy family, and not always getting her own way. Yasmin seems to be the sole focus of her family and lives in what appears to be a prosperous urban area. Despite her doubts, she easily wins an art contest (and free lessons with a famous artist) and her mother appears to have an extensive collection of beautiful clothing.

Verdict: This is a sweet look at a loving family, but it's not quite right for my audience. I appreciate that it gives my readers a look at a different culture which they are very unlikely to have encountered in our small town, but the economic status and single-child family is more of an outlier than the family's culture. We'll stick with Sofia, which is very popular in my library.

ISBN: 9781684360222; This edition published August 2018 by Picture Window/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Small Readers: Mr. Monkey bakes a cake by Jeff Mack

Mr. Monkey, who looks like a human with a tail, furry ears, and large muzzle, is baking a cake. He dumps in bananas, sugar, and other ingredients, making a huge mess. However, he ends up with a great cake! Which he's too full to eat, having stuffed himself with bananas. Fortunately, there's a cake contest in town and he sets off to complete. Along the way, he runs into a series of catastrophes; he jaywalks and is almost run over by a tattooed cyclist, fends off birds, is chased by dogs, nearly gets attacked by a gorilla... finally, he arrives at the competition.... but he's too late! The competition is over. Could things get any worse? Well, that gorilla is still on the loose...

Cartoon illustrations show the series of mishaps, slapstick, and luck that Mr. Monkey encounters. Throughout the story, there's a small black girl in the background, carefully carrying her own pink-frosted cake and she gets incorporated into the happy ending. This comes in at a good beginning reader level - it's a 220 lexile level and would come out to a red sticker, or beginning reader (one step above emergent readers) in my library.

I'm... torn about this one. I really don't know what to decide in conclusion. On the one hand, I'm sure kids will like this. The cartoon illustrations and panels, slapstick humor, and colorful art are similar to other popular series like Jump-into-chapters, Elephant and Piggie, and Ethan Long's titles. There's a nice diversity in the background characters - the little black girl and tattooed bike rider with a basket full of flowers. But... for anyone who's been following children's literature discussions online there's been a lot of controversy (not just recently, it's always been around, it's just recently cropped up again) about depicting humans as monkeys, children as monkeys, etc. because of the racist overtones. I'm not going to comment one way or another on that - I don't feel qualified to judge and I haven't purchased most of the books discussed for other reasons - but this one... why is Mr. Monkey a monkey? He doesn't talk, and yet he's very anthropomorphic - and there's a very stereotypical gorilla in a cage. It just feels... off. Maybe I'm overly sensitive to it because of the ongoing discussion, but maybe this is a good thing to feel sensitive about?

Verdict: I don't know. Kids would like it and read it, but the depiction of a half-man/half-monkey feels off to me. I honestly doubt the author had anything but funny cartoons in his mind when he wrote/drew this - his work is very silly, similar to Ethan Long. It's got many excellent reviews, including some starred reviews. So... I really don't know. Am I overthinking this? Should I get it since I know the kids will like it? Discuss it in a book club? What do you think?

ISBN: 9781534404311; Published July 2018 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Oskar can... by Britta Teckentrup

I'm always fascinated by authors who can create books with very different styles; Britta Teckentrup has created nonfiction titles like the peek-through series, simple toddler books, and more reflective picture books. Her cut paper illustrations are very similar and yet she uses them for different effects in each title.

There is an earlier book about Oskar the raven, although I haven't personally read it. In this title, he is exploring things that he can do - simple things like jumping almost as high as his friend Mo, more complicated things like making the perfect cup of tea. The book ends by asking the reader what they can do.

The backgrounds are earth shades of green and brown, blue and cream. Oscar is a static image, set against each background with a few simple props - a soccer ball, red skis, and stack of stones.

Verdict: Artistically, it's interesting but I don't see it being a very good storytime choice. The things Oskar can do are so varied that they don't really parallel a child's experience (ski? ride a tandem bicycle?) and although it could be fun in a fanciful way it just doesn't really stand out. My favorite Teckentrups remain her peek-through and seek-and-find titles.

ISBN: 9783791373614; Published 2018 by Prestel; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, November 26, 2018

Who eats orange? by Dianne White, illustrated by Robin Page

I was worried that this would be another Steve Jenkins-like title (nothing against him, it's just that he's very prolific and all the books start to run into each other after a while) but it turned out to be something quite new and outstanding (no, it's not by Steve Jenkins, but Page illustrates/works with him a lot, so that's what I immediately thought when I saw the cover).

So. Simple rhymes introduce different animals and the colors of the food they eat. Starting with the title, "Who eats orange? Bunnies in their hutches do./Chickens in the hen house too." shows a grey rabbit munching a carrot and vibrant red chickens pecking at cantaloupe melons (they do like these - I've fed them the rinds). The story continues with a goat eating an orange, a pig eating a pumpkin, and gorillas... "No! Gorillas don't eat orange. They eat..." turn the page to discover what gorillas, giraffes, zebras, and hippos eat! As you continue you'll note that the animals are loosely divided into sections - domestic animals, African animals, ocean creatures, wild animals of North America, tropical creatures, and so on. The book ends with a pudgy white hand in a red sweater scooping up a handful of blueberries and a rainbow of foods that people eat.

Back matter explores the habitats of each section - farm, Africa, ocean, forest, rain forest, and tundra. The vibrant digital illustrations mimic paper collages but have a smoother edge. Each animal and food is set against a white background and the simple art and text makes this ideal for toddlers.

Verdict: This is one of those excellent nonfiction titles that can be expanded for many different audiences. Read it in storytime with toddlers, helping them recognize animals and colors; read it with preschools and learn different kinds of fruit, vegetables, and other foods; study it with elementary students to discuss habitats and the similarities and differences between what animals and people eat. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781534404083; Published August 2018 by Beach Lane; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 24, 2018

This week at the library; or, I am not at the library

I took vacation. We close at 5:30 on Wednesday and are closed Thursday-Friday, then re-open on Saturday. The only event was Paws to Read on Monday and I left a lot of projects for my staff to work on, mostly decorations for life-size Candyland.

I often joke that my "vacations" are more of a change of venue. I slept (a lot), wrote many, many reviews, worked on Cybils, did the dishes and cleaned, did some shopping, worked on sewing projects, and generally relaxed. Ok, there was some collection development in there. I find it relaxing.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb

When I think of dramatic prisoner of war escapes, I usually think of Colditz in WWII - mostly because my sister was obsessed with it (there were Lego models). So I was fascinated to read this account of the "original" escape in World War I of a group of soldiers and pilots who escaped from the notorious German prison of Holzminden.

Bascomb builds the story slowly, starting with a rough outline of the war and the role pilots played - including the dangers they faced. As one by one men are captured and the war continues, the various characters make escape attempts, fail, and gradually come to be incarcerated in a notorious prison camp. Not all survive; if they make it through the initial deadly crash of their primitive planes, they still have to survive escape attempts and recapture, not to mention brutal treatment in the prison camps.

Eventually, a band of men, all of whom have made multiple attempts to escape, are housed together at Holzminden. There, despite the brutal treatment by the commandant Karl Niemeyer, they work together to plan a daring escape. It's not an easy task; some attempts are made and end in death or solitary imprisonment. Some men are sent to other camps. There are traitors and close calls, not to mention the physical labor and dangers of their risky escape tunnel. But eventually, a record number of men make their escape.

Throughout the book Bascomb details the various personalities of the men, bringing them to life as individuals. He doesn't shy away from cruel treatment, the realities of life as a POW, or even a frank discussion of how class continued to affect the soldiers even in a prison. Although honest, the book isn't overly graphic. It's aimed at a middle school audience but a strong middle grade reader would be able to handle it.

Verdict: This is the first book I read of Scholastic's new imprint, Focus, and I'm really excited about it! Action, adventure, history, and an author who doesn't shy away from the realities of war or whitewash the soldiers into one big happy family, including the different attitudes depending on the soldiers' countries, class, and their own personalities. This is sure to grab the attention of history and adventure fans alike.

ISBN: 9781338140347; Published September 2018 by Scholastic Focus; ARC provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Megabat by Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Kass Reich

I'm generally a little skeptical about stories starring sensitive boys - they tend not to circulate in my library. But this one won me over and I can definitely see an audience for this sweet and funny story.

Daniel Misumi is scared of his new house. It's old and creaky and, worst of all, there's a weird puddle in the attic which is also his bedroom! But when he takes up a jelly roll for dessert he discovers the source of the puddle... a talking bat! (It's tears, not pee. Just so you know.) Daniel and the bat quickly become friends and the bat gets a new name - Megabat! Plus a toy lightsaber! The next hurdle is Daniel's reluctant meeting with the next-door neighbors. Sweet Talia is instantly ready to help Megabat find his way home, but they've got bigger problems than just keeping Daniel's parents from finding out about Megabat. Now they've got to deal with Talia's nasty big brother, Jamie.

After some research at the library, Daniel figures out where Megabat's real home is. Will he be willing to let his new friend go? And can Megabat safely find his way home or will tragedy ensue? Along the way, there's a besotted and not-so-stupid pigeon, the thwarting of a villain (i.e. Jamie) and lots of silly bat talk.

Soft charcoal sketches decorate the pages, showing Megabat's homeland "Papaya Premium", Megabat pretending to wield a lightsaber, and other highlights of the story. A note at the back tells the readers more about bats and advertises the next book in the series.

Verdict: This slow and sweet story won't be for every reader, but there will be plenty of young readers who appreciate the slow building of a friendship and the quirky little bat.

ISBN: 9780735262577; Published August 2018 by Tundra; Borrowed from another library in my consortium