Saturday, July 21, 2018

This week at the library; or, July continues

What's happening at the library
Another staff member is down with a suspected viral infection that only small children are supposed to get! I am starting to feel sick in sympathy... Thankfully, so far everyone has been spacing it out and taking turns. Prepping for big kindergarten trip on Wednesday, last-minute order, working on grants, lots of misc. stuff.

We got a temporary replacement for our desk chair - another office chair that had been relegated to the back b/c when you're not sitting on it, it slowly rises up and then you have to drop it again. It's annoying. Also, I suspect it of giving me leg cramps, b/c of how I am always tucking my legs under chairs when I sit and it doesn't work well with this one.

It's not hand foot and mouth. It's strep. Sigh. It's just been that kind of week.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The city on the other side by Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson

The story begins with a tragic war between Seelie and Unseelie, battling over a dangerous necklace and the depredations of humans. But the war does not only affect the fairy affects the other side as well.

In the human world, Isabel lives like a shadow. She feels unnoticed by her mother, except to be scolded into proper ladylike behavior. When she is sent to spend the summer with her distracted, artist father, she at first hopes to have more of a life, but quickly finds things are just as awkward. Wandering into the forest at night, she comes across a strange creature, wounded and dying. The Seelie messenger gives Isabel a necklace and suddenly she is transported to a magical - and dangerous - world.

There she will make new friends and enemies, including another human, a Filipino boy named Benjie. Isabel will discover that she is capable of more as she finally has the chance to explore her inner strength and risk everything to keep her promise to the dying Seelie. Along the way, readers will pick up clues to the identify of Isabel’s city - San Francisco, after the great earthquake - as well as exploring the complex, beautiful, and deadly world of faerie.

The art is lovely, presenting a huge range of varied Seelie and Unseelie creatures, never making them attempt to appear like humans and yet keeping them from looking grotesque. Isabel is a sturdy girl with shoulder-length brown hair and brown skin, apparently of Hispanic heritage. Benjie refers to his Filipino roots, explaining that he was left behind in the earthquake after his parents died because he was Filipino.

Verdict: While most young readers probably won’t pick up on the historical references, at least until they read the extra end comic about the historical research behind the book, they are sure to devour the exciting and beautifully-drawn story. Hand this to fans of Amulet and Zita the Spacegirl.

ISBN: 9781250152558; Published 2018 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Texas trail to calamity: a Miss Mallard mystery by Robert Quackenbush

This is another title in Aladdin's new imprint, Quix, which features reprints and updated editions of early chapter books in a new layout for contemporary readers.

I remember the Miss Mallard mysteries, and several other Robert Quackenbush titles, from my own youth and was interested to see if they hold up to the test of time.

Miss Mallard is a duck detective, traveling the world to solve crimes. In this title, originally published in 1986, Miss Mallard is on vacation in Texas when she's thrown by her horse and ends up spending the night with the Butterballs. During her stay, she witnesses some mysterious behavior that culminates in the theft of an important document - "a list of the first three hundred duck families who settled in Texas". Luckily, with the skills of Miss Mallard, the thief is discovered and the document is safely taken to the museum.

Quackenbush's distinctive drawings, with heavy crosshatching and multiple shadows, have been somewhat lightened in some of the spot illustrations. Some full-page drawings are also included. As much as Quackenbush's art is part of my childhood, I have to say that it doesn't age well. The hats and almost Victorian style of the clothing, the dark, muddy drawings, and the cluttered backgrounds are not likely to appeal to most contemporary children. The Miss Mallard books in particular have not, I think, aged well and a mystery involving the (white duck?) settlers of Texas with no reference to the native or Mexican inhabitants who came first is rather tone-deaf.

Verdict: A nostalgic sigh for my youth, and I might be tempted to pick up some titles from other series, but these are unlikely to find an audience with children, unless their parents were fans in their own youth.

ISBN: 9781534413108; This edition published May 2018 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Small Readers: I wish I was an orca by Sandra Markle

I’m most familiar with Sandra Markle as the author of many excellent science books for middle grade readers, often for Lerner. So I was very interested when I saw she had written a series of easy readers under the label of Ranger Rick. Each of these books encourage readers to imagine they are an animal and then learn about how that animal lives.

This book focuses on orcas. Readers learn that orcas live in oceans, eat fish, seals, and whales, and their feeding habits differ from area to area. They live in pods and breathe air, and calves learn from their pod how to live as an orca. More facts about orcas are included on each page, along with photographs. On most spreads Ranger Rick, the raccoon, pops up to ask readers to imagine how they can relate to the orcas - what if their family had a special way of talking, what if they could see using echoes, etc. The final spread celebrates the reader and the orca’s special abilities.

Back matter includes additional facts about orcas, some activities for kids to try, a short glossary, and a link to a Ranger Rick website.

This is supposed to be a level 1 reader, “simple sentences for eager new readers,” but like most nonfiction titles actually is a much higher level, an M in the guided reading level system, due to the more specialized vocabulary. It’s also much more text-heavy than I usually see for beginning readers.

Verdict: If you are looking for more nonfiction easy readers for intermediate readers, this new series has proven to be a popular one in my library and will serve you well. The cartoon Ranger Rick was annoying to me, and I think few kids are famliiar with the logo anymore, but it’s not an integral part of the story.
ISBN: 9780062432087; Published 2017 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Honey by David Ezra Stein

The bear from David Ezra Stein’s Leaves returns in a new, tasty-sweet adventure.

Bear, after his first hibernation, awakes hungry. As he searches for food, he remembers the sweet taste of honey from his first year but it’s too soon for honey, even though he diligently follows the bees and regularly checks their tree. The bear enjoys the warmth and feel of spring, the rush of rain, the sweet taste of berries, but he still longs for honey. Finally, the time has come and there is honey, “Warm, golden, sweet, clear, slowly flowing, spicy, aromatic, sparkling with sunlight” just like his memories and his new experiences in the water, air, and meadows of the spring and summer. The summer ends with bear remembering the sweetness of summer - and the taste of honey.

Stein’s swashy, swirling colors show a plump bear amidst the color and verve of spring. Many of the illustrations are set in rough frames, like little glimpses into the bear’s summer adventures. The bees are quick little scribbles of yellow and white wings, the bear a big gray shape with a friendly, sweet look. The pictures slowly shift from the golden-brown vegetation, dusted with snow, left over from winter to the bright green of spring. The greens deepen and the sunlight grows into summer, until it is time for the gold of honey and the soft nights of autumn and blues and browns begin to creep over the landscape.

Verdict: A perfect storytime choice for reading about bears, seasons, or learning to wait patiently, this delightful sequel is a must-have for your library collection.
ISBN: 9781524737863; Published 2018 by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 16, 2018

Baby Penguin's First Waddles by Ben Richmond

This is part of a series of nonfiction picture books produced by the American Museum of Natural History.

This is the story of the first part of an Emperor penguin chick's life and does an adequate job of describing their behavior, habitat, how the parents raise them, and the wider world of Antarctica. The whole is illustrated with vibrant photographs.

There are no sources or further reading, but the last page discusses the dangers of global warning and there is a note from Paul Sweet, the museum's Collections Manager in the ornithology department.

The text is in rather large chunks and although it's a large font is not suited to be read aloud because it's so long. However, this is a great text for fluent readers in the early grades who are starting their first research projects. This is something my school district focuses on, so this would be a great text for them to use. Younger children will appreciate the plethora of photographs.

Verdict: Penguins are perennially popular and this is a strong addition to expand your collection in this area.

ISBN: 9781454927013; Published 2018 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, July 14, 2018

This week at the library; or, Back into the fray

Giant beetle!
What's happening at the library
As you may be able to guess from how early I've been showing up at work, my a/c is still out. We had 52 people at Storywagon, which is about average if a school doesn't come. Life continues to be exciting. Our desk chair broke - the back sort of fell off, which was interesting, and the city department showed up to mow right in the middle of the outdoor part of my associate's bug program...

My a/c was fixed on Friday afternoon! Woo! A good program on Saturday - not too busy, could probably have started later and gone until 2 with people getting really into it later on. Saturday program for July completed!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sparks! By Ian Boothby, illustrated by Nina Matsumoto, color by David Dedrick

The Graphix imprints presents another cinematic graphic novel; at first a light-hearted and humorous adventure, bringing to mind Tom Watson’s popular Stick Dog and Stick Cat adventures, there are several more serious themes for readers to pick apart from the narrative.


In a peaceful, everyday town, a baby falls down a well… and a gallant dog springs to the rescue. But this is no ordinary dog! This dog is really… a cat! In fact, it’s two cats. As we slowly learn throughout the story, August, the inventor of the dog suit, was a naive kitten who ventured outside and paid dearly for his curiosity, being catnapped and tortured by evil scientists. During his time in the lab, he meets Charlie, a daring cat who’s willing to try anything to gain his freedom. Together, the two manage to escape and together they save people as a gallant dog. But, the odd little blonde baby who is so often in trouble is more than just her parents’ little princess… she’s actually a supervillain with a shocking (literally) secret!

August and Charlie must navigate their own painful pasts and their current friendship in order to work together and save the world.

Lots of cute pictures of cats and their wacky adventures keep the humor high, while sprinkling the apparently light-hearted story with darker flashbacks to the cats’ past in darker blue hues. There are plenty of gadgets, blinking lights, robotic arms, and computer screens to make things look techy, and no lack of bathroom humor with the robotic litter box. Humans in this world show plenty of diversity, leaning towards darker skin. The evil baby and her “parents” are white and blonde, but clearly not wholly human.

Verdict: This will be a popular graphic novel for fans of Captain Underpants and Stick Dog who are ready for a little more serious in their funny.

ISBN: 9781338029475; Published 2018 by Scholastic Graphix; Purchased for the library

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our principal is a frog by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Aaron Blecha

In the past few years, beginning chapter books have become more and more popular. Scholastic led the charge with their Branches series and more and more publishers are creating their own illustrated beginning chapters. Read and Bloom from Bloomsbury was a disappointment to me; I've only found one series (Wallace and Grace) that I liked.

So, I was interested to see that Aladdin has jumped on the bandwagon with an interesting twist; their new Quix (Fast-Fun-Reads) beginning chapter books are illustrated with black and white cartoons. They have bold text in a large font and.... they are adapted picture books!

The first title I looked at was adapted from the 2001 picture book, The Frog Principal, which was illustrated by Denise Brunkus. There are some slight changes in wording and updates - the computers are more updated, there are cell phones instead of landlines, etc. The basic plot and most of the text remains the same though.

Mr. Bundy, the principal at PS 88, is always trying to improve life for his students and teachers. He decides a magician will make a great assembly speaker, as long as they are suitably educational of course. Unfortunately, he gets Marty Q. Marvel, a very confused magician, who accidentally turns him into a frog! Mr. Bundy manages to get back into school and keep on working as principal, but being a frog causes more and more problems, until he finally solves his problem through a lucky circumstance.

Verdict: This is amusing and the black and white cartoons are funny. It doesn't stand out from the crowd though, especially in comparison to the more up to date and popular Branches titles from Scholastic. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781481466677; This edition published May 2018 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Small Readers: I can run by Murray Head

While I still have reservations about some of the artwork in Holiday House’s I Like to Read series, they’re really the only imprint that regularly turns out excellent books in the emergent, or A through E levels.

Despite my animosity towards squirrels (must they dig up everything in my garden?) this is a cute and attractive title. The endpapers consist of multiple panels of photographs of squirrels, peeking out of holes, eating nuts, or just generally looking cute. The left side of each spread features a single sentence, “I can…” and an action word. Some, like “run” and “hide” are repeated. On the right side a photograph of a squirrel completing the action is shown. Cute pictures of squirrels peeking out of holes, dodging hawks, and eating peanuts, will make this a popular choice for animal-lovers.

The book is in I Like to Read format, which means it’s not the typical rectangular shape. It’s a much wide, almost picture book size, about 9x9. The simple text puts this at a level A, just right for emergent readers.

Verdict: A fun addition to a popular series. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823438310; Published August 2017 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Natsumi! By Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

“For a small girl, Natsumi did everything in a big way.” This is the story of a little girl - with a BIG personality! She’s always being told to be quiet, to be calm, to be slower, gentler, to be different. As her town gets ready for a festival of traditional Japanese arts, Natsumi tries to join in, but she’s too rough for flower-arranging, too wild for the tea ceremony, too loud for traditional dancing. Only Grandfather sees how hard Natsumi tries and finds the perfect thing to fit Natsumi’s talents.

At the festival, each one of the family shines in their own way from the tea ceremony to dancing; and with grandfather’s help Natsumi shines as a taiko drummer, her exuberance and energy the perfect fit for a new town tradition.

I loved this story’s blend of traditional and new; instead of changing the dancing or flower-arranging to fit Natsumi, or forcing Natsumi to change to fit them, her grandfather found a way for her to participate and still be herself. Readers who are just a little too exuberant for the average classroom, or who struggle to fit into a family or culture’s mold of expectations will find hope in this book that they can create their own traditions.

The bright, colorful pictures show a family that honors the traditional ways while embracing a contemporary lifestyle. Natsumi shines in the line of children with her big, Godzilla-shaped umbrella. She bounces out of the picture, flails her arms, and joins in everything with all her energy.

Verdict: I would have liked a little more background on the taiko drumming; The only explanation of it is given in the author and illustrator bios on the back cover flap, neither of whom have any Japanese heritage. Both are experienced creators though, and I assume they researched their subject thoroughly. This would make a fun storytime read or discussion-starter with kids who have trouble fitting in and the bright colors and expressive faces of the characters are truly charming.

ISBN: 9780399170904; Published 2018 by G. P. Putnam/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 9, 2018

Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure

This unusual biography of Newton completely captivated me once I started it; but I think it will need a lot of booktalking to get kids to pick it up initially.

The narrative of Newton, focused primarily on his youth, begins with the discovery of a small notebook belonging to a young Isaac Newton, wherein he wrote of the secrets of alchemy and the philosopher’s stone. Newton was separated from his mother at a young age, left behind at the family farmhouse while his mother went to live with her new family. Isaac attended the village school and rarely saw his mother again until his stepfather died and the family moved back to the farmhouse, when he was ten. But Isaac was soon sent away again, this time to live with an apothecary and study at another school. Losure considers how Newton may have felt, but never goes beyond speculation to fiction; during this time she focuses on the books he would have had access to, his writings, and contemporary events and philosophy.

Newton moved on to the University of Cambridge, continuing to be solitary, hoarding his secret discoveries to himself. But then came the plague and he returned to the farmhouse of his childhood. Isolated and alone, even in the midst of family and servants, Newton made a great discovery; a mathematical work he called fluxions. When Newton returned to the university he continued to study mathematics, revealing his knowledge to no one; but he also delved ever deeper into alchemy. Although eventually the university discovered his mathematical genius and he did, reluctantly, share some of his discoveries, Newton continued his search for truth on his own. He created his own telescopes and instruments, retreated from the Royal Society after Robert Hooke dismissed his experiments with light and color in prisms, and despite great acclaim after his astronomical discoveries and laws governing motion were made public, continued to pursue his own path.

Losure’s back matter consists of some further explanations of Newtonian laws, chemistry, and alchemy, copious source notes, photographs of some of his original documents and writings from his youth, bibliography, and index.

The genius of Losure’s book lies in the smooth blending of science and story, making Newton seem like a real, albeit strange and remote, person. Readers will sympathize with his difficult family situation and imagine their own reactions and feelings in his place. Losure simplifies the mathematics and science so readers will find themselves understanding the basics of Newton’s experiments without stopping to struggle with the complicated mathematical equations, although mathematically-inclined readers may also pursue those in more detail.

Verdict: Beautifully written and presented, this book brings the life and world of Newton to contemporary readers, showing not only the importance of his discoveries but also the change from medieval to modern world that he played such a large part in. The problem will be trying to find readers for it. While the writing is clear and comprehensible, something even elementary-aged children will be able to learn from, it’s not, at first glance, a riveting topic. I wouldn’t hand this one to reluctant readers or those who are unwilling to explore new topics. It will need a reader who is passionately interested in history or science and one who is willing to give a book at least a chapter before losing interest. Although it may not have a wide audience, it’s a great book that deserves recognition and to be promoted to readers, something that will expand their worldview and understanding and may spark a lifelong interest in learning.

ISBN: 9780763670634; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, July 7, 2018

This week at the library; or, Vacation time!

Baking pies. In 85 degree heat.
I have no desire to live in historical times.
What's Happening at the Library
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Vacation!
  • Wednesday
    • Library closed
  • Thursday
    • Wrinkle in Time movie showing
    • Vacation!
  • Friday
This is our chance to catch our breath before July starts!

Ha ha ha. Sum total of this week - one staff member down with probable case of hand, foot, and mouth, my a/c died Wednesday night, and the chipmunk has developed a taste for pepper-laced birdseed. Well, it could be worse? At least my allergies are just making me mildly sick, not completely unable to breathe.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Marcy and the riddle of the sphinx by Joe Todd-Stanton

I am pleased that I’ve gotten several kids into Joe Todd-Stanton’s graphic novel/picture books. His art is lovely and he has a magical way of creating unique stories that capture the imagination. I loved his first book in the Brownstone series, Arthur and the Golden Rope, and now Arthur’s daughter, Marcy, returns with her own story.

To her father’s disappointment, Marcy doesn’t seem to have his curious mind and fearless interest in exploring. In fact, she’s afraid of the dark. But when Arthur disappears into an Egyptian tomb, Marcy digs deep to find courage and track down her father. She not only discovers fascinating aspects of Egyptian mythology, she also discovers that she can be brave when someone she loves is in danger.

The endpages are the first indication that here is something wonderful and delightful to the eye. Elaborate star maps, including symbols of Egyptian mythology and gods cover the pages. One then meets Professor Brownstone, chronicler of the mysterious and fascinating Brownstone family. Arthur, now “very old and far too portly” still looks quite limber, perched in a large, burnt orange chair and telling stories to a wide-eyed Marcy. With her father, Arthur’s adventures unfold in her mind’s eye; but, alone in her bed, they turn into frightening monsters.The art grows from there, as Marcy expands her horizons and explores to Egypt. There she encounters the mysterious world of the tomb where her father is trapped and then the sun boat of Ra himself. Golds, oranges, blues and yellows glow from the pages until, triumphant, Marcy returns home. There she stands, proud and brave, in her father’s big red chair and tells her own adventures.

Verdict: Fans of Joe Todd-Stanton and all those who enjoy mysterious and wonderful stories will find this beguiling to the eye and the mind.
ISBN: 9781911171195; Published 2017 by Flying Eye; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Life in the Amazon Rainforest by Ginjer L. Clarke

Technically, this is an easy reader, however Penguin level 4 is generally too high for my easy reader section. I usually place them in the juvenile nonfiction and consider them part of the beginning chapters.

This nonfiction title starts with a brief introduction to the rainforest, a map, general description of the weather, and the layers from forest floor to emergent trees.

Each chapter in the main section focuses on selected animals from a different area; dolphins, capybara and caimans in the river, jaguar and tapir on the forest floor, and so forth. Some of the animals are familiar - boas, bats, spider monkeys, and sloths. Others are more unusual like the hoatzin (a bird), harpy eagles, and ocelots.

The final chapter briefly addresses the destruction of the rainforest and ways readers can recycle and otherwise help. Back matter consists of a small glossary.

The book is illustrated with photographs, many of them set in frames, with a few full-page photos. This is a nice introduction to the rainforest, which would also work well as a supplemental resource. However, I feel there is a major gap in this story; there is no mention of the approximately twenty million people who live in the rainforest and are as much a part of it as the fascinating creatures that also call it home. The only reference to the inhabitants are a mention of the use of poison dart frogs in blow darts and a photo of said dart guns. I've noticed that many calls for "saving the rainforest" seem to ignore the people who live there and should be part of any conversation involving its current and future use and preservation.

Verdict: This serves as an introduction for rainforest animals, but should be supplemented with more materials that include all aspects of the rainforest.

ISBN: 9781524784881; Published 2018 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Small Readers: Flower Wings: Marigold Fairy makes a friend by Elizabeth Dennis, illustrated by Natalie Smillie

My first thought was that this was just another fairy series, like the Rainbow Magic books. However, when I first read one, I found that they were much more than I had expected.

This story features the Marigold Fairy. All of the fairies in the land of the Flower Wings have magical powers from the flowers they belong to. Marigold, with dark skin, a tower of rich, curly, black hair, and a full skirt of bright yellow petals, takes after her flower. She keeps pests out of the garden and makes the vegetables grow big. She’s best friends with Butterfly and usually the pests all leave when they ask them to. But one day they discover a baby bunny is eating all their carrots! Are all pests bad? Can they learn to live with the pests and share with them?

Gardeners won’t be very amused by the solution, which involves all the pests participating in growing food together, but it fits in with the theme of friendship in the book. A final page talks about the “science behind the story” and explains how marigolds work, their uses in the garden, and the interaction between butterflies and marigolds.

The colors are bright and cheerful, with lots of brilliant greens and glowing yellows and oranges. The animals all look cute and cuddly (even the snails) and most of the text is clear and easy to read against the backgrounds. It’s a low level easy reader with a few more complex vocabulary words - in my library it gets a red sticker, which is for beginning readers, one step up from emergent readers with just one or two words per page.

Verdict: Although the story is kind of trite, the bright, cheerful pictures are very attractive and the addition of some facts makes this stand out from the usual fairy fare. Recommend to beginning readers who like fairies and animals and to fans of the Rainbow Magic easy readers.
ISBN: 9781534411746; Published 2018 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A round of robins by Katie Hesterman, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

I know a lot of people love Ruzzier’s illustrations, but I have never been a fan, I’m not really sure why. Something about the colors and the faces just doesn’t click for me. However, I have finally found a book with Ruzzier’s illustrations that I can whole-heartedly recommend.

Hesterman’s cheerful verses tell the story of a robin’s life cycle. Beginning with the male frightening other birds away from their chosen nesting site and Mama robin building a nest, the robins raise their first clutch. Hesterman goes into more scientific detail than one might expect, explaining how the mother robin incubates the babies, their development, hatching, and feeding. There are also quiet verses describing the peace of a spring evening, humorous moments as the father robin defends his territory, and delightful language like “fluffs of plump perfection.” The robins grow, fledge, and fly away, and the original parents begin the process all over again, raising a new clutch.

Ruzzier’s illustrations are carefully correct, showing the building of the nest, development of the chicks, and fledging. They’re also funny, with big, cartoon eyes, silly expressions, and all the squabbles of bird life shown in a very human-like way. Some spreads show soft pink, orange, and blue pastel backgrounds, fluffy clouds, and soft stripes of color. These are interspersed with spreads that show the birds, eggs, and nest against a white background, making them pop out of the page. The mother robin dreams of cute baby robins, the blue eggs line up against the page, ready to hatch.

Verdict: This would make a delightful addition to a bird storytime or lesson, as well as a nice mix of poetry and science. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780399547782; Published 2018 by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 2, 2018

President Lincoln's killer and the America he left behind: The assassin, the crime, and its lasting blow to freedom and equality by Jessica Gunderson

This slim volume is part of a series of four books that examines the aftermath of presidential assassinations. This particular title looks at the assassination of Lincoln and speculates on how America's future might have changed had Booth not fired the fatal bullet.

Much of the 64 pages are devoted to explaining the context of Lincoln's death. The author explains the backgrounds of both John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln and their respective rises to fame. Booth came from a family of famous actors and was incredibly popular; however, he was also an ardent supporter of the Confederacy, slavery, and his increasing anger at Lincoln and the North during the war led to a breach between him and his equally famous brother, Edwin Booth, who was an abolitionist. Lincoln rose from poverty and tragic family circumstances to become a powerful political figure. But the respect and admiration he gained in history was far away when he struggled with the growing unrest in the country and the horrors and difficulties of the Civil War. These two very different men were set upon tragic paths by the turmoil of the United States leading up to the Civil War, including the bloody battles over Kansas and the rise of the Confederacy.

Gunderson covers briefly but concisely the plot to kill Lincoln and several other members of his cabinet and the tragic events that followed. The final chapter discusses the impact of Lincoln's death and Johnson's difficulties in leading the country after the Civil War. What would have happened if Lincoln had survived? Would he have been able to reunite the country? Would his plans to support and unite African-Americans and whites have saved the country from a hundred years of prejudice, racism, and oppression? We'll never know.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and an index.

Verdict: This is a good introduction to a pivotal event in American history and an excellent source for teachers to use to assist in critical thinking and social studies. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780756557164; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 30, 2018

This week at the library; or, June goes out with a bang

What's happening
I have no idea what happened this week, but Tuesday is when it all went nuts. We somehow acquired a stray cat, which I volunteered to take to the animal shelter (yes, I am allergic to cats) so I ended up driving a miserably hissing and mewing cat in a book bin across miles of construction and through a torrential rain storm. The basement flooded again. The a/c in the community room (where I was having a dance party) quit again. I did manage to get home alive, sans cat, at past 4!

Wednesday was exhausting and thankfully nobody came to the afternoon storytime because I lost my voice. I had worried that we'd lose attendance if we didn't have a weekly Wednesday afternoon program, but I won't be doing that next year...

Thursday I made it through four more storytimes. My throat is now sore. Great turn-out for Miniatures in the afternoon - several repeat visitors and some new attendees at the last-minute.

Friday - more outreach. Summer school is being held at the non-air-conditioned high school. I saw a lot of middle schoolers lying on the tiled floor in an attempt to cool off. It was miserable. But we checked out a lot of books!

Saturday - the big day. Finally done. My feet hurt. Ok, I admit I took the schedule home to work on it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Surfside Girls: The secret of danger point by Kim Dwinell

The cover of this, and the description, sounded really attractive. But nobody in my entire consortium bought it when it came out last year so I couldn't preview it. I finally decided to bite the bullet and get it myself.

Samantha has always loved summer, being a lifeguard, hanging out with her best friend Jade. But this summer is different. Jade gets all giggly and silly around boys and there's something suspicious going on out at Danger Point. When Sam encounters ghosts, who insist that she has to help them save their home, things get even more complicated and she starts getting into trouble.

Can Sam save her friendship and her home? Will she ever understand how Jade feels about boys? What is the mystery of the ghost of Mr. Wu?

Soft pastels, fading to white in the ghost scenes, show an idyllic seaside scene with palm trees, a softly blue ocean, sandy beach, and spots of soft color in bathing suits, surf boards, and tourist stops.

The main character is white, her friend Jade is Asian-American. The ghosts include a variety of prior inhabitants, from Chinese immigrants to the indigenous inhabitants. It's troublesome that many of the ghosts, especially the Native Americans, are shown only as dead people - and cultures. It's also problematic that Mr. Wu chooses a young white girl to be the new "savior".


There is a lot of wish fulfillment in the end; dolphins saving Sam's life (they talk to her as a friend), the mayor turning out to be a con man who is arrested by the FBI, the discovery of treasure, etc. I also have questions about Sam's first "boyfriend" being a ghost. How, exactly, is that going to work?

Verdict: This is a light and frothy beach read, a fun graphic novel to skim through and set aside. I'll be interested in seeing how future volumes handle diversity. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781603094115; Published 2017 by Top Shelf; Purchased for the library

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Felicita Sala

This had very strong reviews and I've liked some of Ellen Potter's books, but I'll be honest; it just didn't click for me.

Hugo, a Sasquatch, lives in a vast cave system with his family and friends. He's a "squidge" or child, and still learning how his world works. In the Sasquatchs' world, humans are terrifying monsters, always to be avoided and feared. Hugo and the other squidges learn to sneak and hide, to identify forest foods to eat, and eventually they will perform the Acts of Bravery and become grown-up! Or, at least, slightly bigger squidges.

But Hugo is curious about the Big Wide World. When he messes up their sneaking practice and endangers the whole class, he retreats to his room and, on a whim, sends a message out via a toy boat and the stream that runs through his cave. And a human boy writes back. Through their letters, the two become friends. But can a human and a Sasquatch be friends? And what will happen when there's a misunderstanding and the human boy won't talk to Hugo anymore? Even more scary, what if his family finds out?

I saw the illustrations in a galley, so they were unfinished. They look like quirky, black and white sketches. Both Hugo and the human boy, Boone, have white skin. It's a gentle, sweet read, emphasizing the meeting between two cultures and how both Hugo and Boone are afraid of each other until they meet and discover that there are good and bad Humans and good and bad Sasquatches.

What bothers me about this though, is that it doesn't correspond to actual history. Whatever your feelings about the existence (or otherwise) or Sasquatch, Bigfoot, and other crypto-creatures, historically when "primitive" cultures have met "civilized" cultures it almost universally ended badly for the primitive culture. So the Sasquatch's fear of humans is, actually, really well-founded. Ultimately, I felt like this was one of those "if we just sit down and talk we'll all get along" fantasies that overlooks the very real and tragic experiences of many marginalized cultures over many years.

Verdict: I'm not opposed to books that engender tolerance of other cultures in children, and I've no problem with Sasquatch (although I personally think that if it existed they would have found poop). But this just left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since both characters were, rather blindingly, white (even if one is covered mostly in fur). For funny Bigfoot stories stick to the Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry and for books that introduce children to other cultures, try books that actually feature real people with real experiences.

ISBN: 9781419728594; Published 2018 by Amulet/Abrams; ARC provided by publisher for review

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Small Readers: Fun with Ed and Fred; Gran on a fan by Kevin Bolger, illustrated by Ben Hodson

I’ve been looking for more fun, low level easy readers. I’m pretty much always looking for these elusive items. I don’t know how I missed this series by Kevin Bolger, author of the popular Zombiekins (whatever happened to the promised sequel to that anyways?), but I’ve just discovered these and they look awesome.

Fun with Ed and Fred focuses on sight words. The end pages list the books on a pseudo-blackboard with a peppy older lady in a purple dress and red glasses and a classroom that includes a blonde girl, a monkey in a baby bonnet, purple sheep, orange dinosaur?, magenta creature, and a bear in a striped shirt and beanie. Bolger, who is apparently a reading specialist (I didn’t know that!) explains why children need sight words and then the adventures of Ed and Fred begin. Ed is the orange dinosaur and Fred is the magenta creature.

Ed is shown in various fun situations, at the beach, riding a horse, driving a fancy car, while Fred is increasingly unhappy with his own situation. When Ed gets a cute little dog, a huge monster dog grabs Fred. The situations get more and more crazy, with tornadoes, meteorites, and finally a monster. Luckily, Fred, much the worse for wear, has found a hiding place. Between two mattresses. Uh-oh. Those aren’t mattresses…. The story ends with Fred fleeing from a monster and some more sight words for readers to practice.

Gran on a Fan focuses on short vowels. The end papers show some of the short vowels included in a picture with sky-writing clues being followed by a police dog, all leading to a little house… inside of which, on the title page, shows Gran (the purple-dressed lady from Fun with Ed and Fred) spinning frantically on her fan. The story, which is really more of a series of cartoons, shows a variety of creatures in a variety of crazy adventures. Gran spins on her fan, pets zoom around in jets (and crash into the ocean then end up at the vet), Nell falls down the well, Pop runs a race (and accidentally gets arrested instead of a mob, who gets arrested by the police dog), and so on. Each short story notes at the top which sound it is emphasizing and at the end of the book all of the words are repeated and divided up into their sounds.

Ben Hodson’s cheerful cartoons really make the story; the smug Ed, outraged Fred, wacky animals, indignant Nell, and crazy situations, all pop off the page in color and comic style, with the occasional speech bubble. Readers familiar with Canadian cartoons may recognize the colorists’ name, Jo Rioux, as the creator of some excellent comics of her own (incidentally, I also have kids still wanting the next book in the Golden Twin series, which never went past book one!).

Verdict: While a little older, these books are still great choices and sure to tickle the funny bone of fans of Elephant and Piggie, Toon, and Ethan Long. Recommended.
Gran on a fan
ISBN: 9780062285966; Published 2015 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Fun with Ed and Fred
ISBN: 9780062286000; Published 2016 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall

The Cornell Lab has commissioned a series of books featuring various birds. I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the previous titles, but I did like this one.

Rhythmic, lyrical poetry follows a dark-haired child across the beach. They have found a sea star, but it is caught out of their reach by a gull. The gulls squabble over the sea star, dropping and catching it in the air. The child follows eagerly across the beach, passing crabs and beach grass, tidal pools and stones. The child’s hands catch the sea star and they return it to the sea, safe from the gulls on Gull Beach.

An afterword talks about bird life on a New England beach. The titular gulls are herring gulls, and there are also pictures of and information about sanderlings, willets, and snowy egrets. Other tide pool and beach creatures like crabs, sea stars, and horseshoe crabs are also described. Links and suggestions for environmental action are also included. The bird information includes links to hear their calls.

Marstall’s soft illustrations show a wind-blown beach with colorful stones and small creatures busy about their lives. Birds are everywhere; gulls swooping across the sky, egrets and sanderlings crossing the sand in the distance or tucked into corners of the beach.

This would be an interesting title to read before visiting the beach, but I do have some reservations. Marstall’s illustrations are pretty, but not clear or focused enough to make identification of the birds possible in several instances. I prefer the work of the Sills, whose clear, simple illustrations make it easy to identify the various species of both plants and animals pictured. Yolen’s poetry is lovely, but overly anthropomorphic, portraying the gulls as playing with the sea star for fun and the child saving it from “gullish slaughter.” This is more a reflective title to read, evocative of the calls of gulls, the spread of the beach, and the surge of the sea, rather than an informational, nonfiction title. The back matter is interesting and would make this a good book to pair with other titles for readers interested in birds, for classroom studies, or for poetry units.

Verdict: An additional choice, one that would work well in concert with other titles. We maintain a birdwatching area and several science programs in our library and this book would be a good addition to our curriculum in this area. Our schools also do a poetry unit and would find this useful.

ISBN: 9781943645183; Published 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dog days of history by Sarah Albee

History is going to the dogs in Sarah Albee's latest micro-history. She's examined poop, bugs, and fashion and now it's time for our best furry friends.

Albee ranges across time and the world to look at the role of domesticated dogs in early history, the ancient world, and up to the current day. While mostly including western history, the author does not neglect more diverse cultures, dedicating sections to the role dogs played in Native American, especially Inuit, life as well as the history of the Pekingese and how dogs represent economics and class.

There are many, many stories of famous dogs - dogs in war, dogs in movies, dogs who belonged to celebrities and dogs who were celebrities on their own. As the book winds to a close, Albee reflects on the history she's presented and the current state of dogs; the medical problems of "purebred" dogs, the uses of dogs in the military and in many other ways, as well as fun trivia like popular dog names.

Author's notes include Albee's personal experience with dogs and some thoughtful notes on the truth of the stories told in the book. There are also extensive references and bibliography (or biblidography), places to visit, and an index.

Verdict: Another crowd-pleasing title from Sarah Albee, this is sure to fly off your shelves and attract the interest of children and adults alike. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781426329715; Published 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by the author; Donated to the library; Additional copy purchased for the library

Saturday, June 23, 2018

This week at the library; or, Now it's REALLY hot. Nope, now it's raining.

Rocking out on air guitar. Somebody got really into it
(or was just hamming it up for the crowd, but both work)
What's Happening at the library
Torrential rain on Monday. Julie the kitten made it in for Paws to Read rather late. The basement flooded. Tuesday morning, basement flooded again and the a/c went out in the program room. My associate worked with a developmentally disabled volunteer - this is a new venture for us and it went pretty well. Having them come at a time when we weren't busy worked best and we got all our toys cleaned!

In a dramatic burst of energy (followed by a splitting headache) I finished July AND August of the STEM calendar!

Quietish Wednesday, I did my first Library on the Go outreach at a daycare/summer camp/preschool. Great crowd for We Explore Outdoors - my associate's first summer and second solo programming series and people are turning out!

The rest of the week was exhausting. My feet hurt.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Frazzled: Everyday disasters and impending doom by Booki Vivat

Abbie Wu is starting middle school. Her mom says it's the start of everything! But Abbie is pretty sure it's.... not. The thing is, she's always been in the middle of everything. The middle child, and now middle school? Nothing good happens in the middle.

Abbie is even more worried when she realizes that everyone - except her - seems to have a "thing". She's not interested in hobbies, sports, or, well, anything. Except maybe getting some better lunches. It's really unfair that the sixth graders have awful lunches and don't get to share in the good lunches of the upper grades. Abbie didn't mean to start anything, but suddenly discovers that, somehow, she's now the leader of a lunch revolution! Could this be her thing? Or is it just going to get her in even MORE trouble?

This notebook novel series from 2016 is still going strong, but I missed it originally and didn't end up purchasing it for the library. The main character is an Asian-American girl, which is a nice touch of diversity. There are lots of black and white illustrations, more cartoony than the stick figures that decorate many notebook novels, with lots of freaked out eyes, panicked waving arms, and moans of despair.

The drama is extreme in this one; from an adult point of view, one can see that a lot of it is generated by Abbie and she might be better served with some therapy or destressing techniques instead of her mom's "everything will be ok" stance. The weird cafeteria arrangements and antagonism between grades sounded odd to me, but maybe our school is unusual in that, so far as I've ever observed, the older grades are generally very helpful to the younger grades.

Verdict: If you need more notebook novels, this is an acceptable choice, but the extreme levels of anxiety made me feel a little meh about this one. Most of my readers stick to a few favorites - Dork Diaries and Wimpy Kid, and I prefer some of the other titles I've found to this one - Ellie McDoodle especially.

ISBN: 9780062398796; Published 2016 by Harper; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fox + Chick: The party and other stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Maybe Sergio Ruzzier is growing on me. Maybe not. It's hard to tell.

This comic emergent chapter book (or challenging easy reader, depending on how you look at it) features the familiar trope of odd-couple friends.

In the first story, Fox is trying to read a book when he is interrupted by Chick, knocking at his door. After some back and forth, Chick asks to use the bathroom... but when Fox hears loud sounds and goes to check, he sees Chick having a party with friends! Fox is annoyed and Chick and friends leave.

In the second story, Chick is obsessed with Fox's diet. Fox likes vegetables and soup. But Chick knows that foxes are supposed to eat grasshoppers, moles, chipmunks.... and little birds. Wait a minute... Chick decides it's a good thing Fox like soup after all!

In the final story, Fox is painting a picture. Chick would like a picture of themselves and Fox agrees... but Chick just can't sit still! All three of the stories feature comic panels and Ruzzier's distinctive style. Soft pastels, long noses or beaks, and little tufts of hair mark Ruzzier's art as well as highlight his quirky humor. At the end of the first story, Chick huffs, "I guess he didn't mean it when he said I could use his bathroom." and each story ends with a similarly snarky punchline. It's hard to see the two as friends; maybe they're more like neighbors, with Fox putting up with the annoying Chick. Ruzzier's art doesn't have the crisp lines that I'm used to seeing in emergent chapter books like Branches or Jump-Into-Chapters. He strikes me more as a Toon artist, with more emphasis on the artistic aspect than the plot.

Verdict: An additional purchase if you have a strong interest in graphic novels for your younger readers or a lot of Ruzzier fans.

ISBN: 9781452152882; Published 2018 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Life in the library

A middle school kid tried to con me out of a fine amnesty coupon for a friend (who was not in the age bracket for the coupons). 
I said, "No, you're just going to give it to your friend."
Kid gives me a shocked look, "You don't know that!"
Me, "Yes, I do. I can read you like a book."

Dramatic pause

"Because I am a librarian!"

(Yes, the older friend did get their fines taken care of.)

Small Readers: Peanut Butter's first day of school by Terry Border

The popular characters from the Peanut Butter picture book series have recently been adapted to easy readers and this is their latest adventure.

Peanut butter, a slice of bread with peanut butter and wire arms and legs, is nervous about his first day of school. He talks to all his friends and each offers him different advice - Cupcake suggests wearing sprinkles, Egg thinks telling a joke would be a good idea, and Jelly gives him a hug. But he’s still nervous! Luckily, all the other… things…. are nice and Peanut Butter has a good first day of school after all.

The fun of this series is the wacky things running around, which manage to look sentient even though they have no eyes or faces. It’s totally illogical; some of the characters include a bottle of syrup, milk carton with a flower decoration, an ice cream cone (with ice cream), and a salt shaker. They all have little metal arms and legs and are posed as if they’re completing various actions. There’s even a bowl of soup that “talks” by lifting out noodle letters in a spoon.

This is an intermediate level easy reader. There is not a lot of text, but the names of the different things are sometimes more complex. Readers who are familiar with the characters will enjoy seeing them again and the clever photography and little jokes, like the various inspirational posters, will keep their interest.

Verdict: Purchase if you have fans of the series or are looking for more intermediate easy readers.
ISBN: 9781524784850; Published 2018 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We don't eat our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Ryan T. Higgins first came on the scene in 2015 with the hilarious and tongue-in-cheek, instant favorite, Mother Bruce. He followed this up with more stories about Bruce, a wacky pair of mice, and now he's expanding into a very unusual new student in his latest tale.

Penelope is really worried about her first day at school. Her parents try to reassure her; she gets a backpack with ponies on it, 300 sandwiches for lunch, and her dad walks her to school. But then she discovers that all of her new classmates are...


Children, in fact. It's a lovely classroom, with only 12 students (counting Penelope), racially diverse, with lots of science equipment, cozy reading spaces, and a cubby for everyone. But Penelope has some trouble fitting in, especially when she keeps, well, you know, they look so good, and they smell tasty too and.... yep, she keeps eating them. The drool-bespattered children are naturally reluctant to make friends with Penelope. Penelope is lonely, but then she gets some good advice from her dad: "children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier." And she really tries! But they are so tasty...

It's not until the tables are turned on Penelope that she realizes what it's like to be eaten... and manages to curb her appetite.

Higgins' art is full of earth colors and lots of drool; Penelope's big, black eyes stare sorrowfully out at the reader, because she just can't understand why no one wants to be her friend! The bulgy-eyed goldfish, long-suffering teacher, and nervous children are all memorable and distinct characters. While the story points a lesson about friendship and fitting in, it's far from heavy-handed and the humor is definitely the main takeaway.

Verdict: Sure to be a favorite when reading back to school books, this one is a must-have for your school displays and it may even make a helpful reminder for younger students, in an updated version of the classic mantra, "Do unto others" remind your students, "Don't eat your friends!"

ISBN: 9781368003551; Published June 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; F&G provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson; Astro-naut/Aqua-naut by Jennifer Swanson

These two recent titles by Jennifer Swanson both deal with similar subjects - the science of space - but in different ways. Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System addresses the science of space through the lens of geology. Dr. Ehlmann is a planetary geologist. In her alter ego of Dr. E, a cartoon, faux-superhero, she takes readers through the study of geology and how it applies to space, from space rocks to weather, to following water patterns. The nonfiction sections, with photographs and more realistic information, is interspersed with short comic sections starring Dr. E and her robot Rover as they explore the universe. In addition to National Geographic's familiar layout - lots of panels with extra information, graphics, photographs, etc., there are also activities and science experiments included. This is part of the "Science Superheroes" series, which previously included Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. There is a huge amount of information packed into this book, and readers will learn about famous scientists, the parallels between outer space and earth, from volcanoes to storms, as well as the cutting-edge technology used to study space. Back matter includes a glossary, index, credits, and more resources.

The second book takes a more serious approach. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut compares the world of undersea research with outer space research, coming up with many interesting parallels. Readers will meet astronauts who study below the ocean with aquanauts, since in many ways conditions are similar to deep space. Each section connects the work done in the two different environments, for example, one section introduces the layers - first "going up" through the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, etc. and then going down through the zones, epipelagic, mesopelagic, etc. The similarities and differences in blasting off and diving are shown, and the living conditions and challenges of a space or underwater habitat. Along the way there are activities, interviews with scientists, experiments, and historical tidbits.

While the first title feels geared towards a younger audience, especially with the cutesy cartoons, it's actually quite advanced, containing fairly dense text and a lot of mathematical and scientific vocabulary. In contrast, the second title felt more mature and for an older audience, but in some ways also felt simpler and more accessible. My own preference was for the second title; I've found that most of my readers aren't really interested in "fake" superheroes and the comic portions were a little too goofy. However, readers who are interested in space science are likely to enjoy both these titles.

Verdict: Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System is an additional purchase if you have a lot of interest in geology, space, and younger readers with high reading levels. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut, with it's accessible language, wealth of photographs and information, and carefully planned layout, is a must for your science section and would make a great choice for any number of school projects as well.

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System
ISBN: 9781426327995
ISBN: 9781426328688

Published January 2018 by National Geographic; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, June 17, 2018

RA RA READ: Fantasy Adventure Graphic Novels

These are read-alikes for Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet and Jeff Smith's Bone series. Graphic novels with cinematic color, action and adventure, fantasy and magic.

Long-running or Complete Series
  • Three thieves by Scott Chantler
    • The Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler is an award-winning Canadian webcomic that is published in the US by Kids Can Press. The story is set in a quasi-medieval fantasy world and features a young acrobat and sometimes thief and her companions who are on a quest to discover the secrets of her family and to find her missing brother. Along the way they run into corrupt politicians, dangerous knights, and other people with their own secrets.
  • Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa
    • The Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa is a classic trilogy featuring a strong and determined princess, dragons, music, adventure, and magic. It's recently been reprinted and a third volume added. It's more in the fairy tale vein, but classic fantasy that kids, both boys and girls, will enjoy.
  • Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
    • Kazu Kibuishi's popular Amulet series begins with a pair of siblings entering a strange, fantastical world and gets more serious as the series continues with magic, prophecies, wars, etc. Kids love the combination of magic and adventure and the art is cinematic and stunning.
  • Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko
    • The Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko are, I think, originally a French comic series. They introduce a group of friends who travel to a magical world that turns out to be more frightening than fantastic. They are a little harder sell because they are in a picture book format, but once you get kids into them they're fans.
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
    • Jeff Smith's classic series Bone has been around for a long time and could be said to have catapulted the graphic novel format for middle grade readers to popularity. The original graphic novel series consists of 9 titles. There are also several companion volumes and an illustrated prose series called Quest for the Spark. Bone is basically the story of a collection of animated cartoon bone characters that go on a journey. Along the way they encounter various friends and enemies.
New Series
  • Rapunzel's Revenge; Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
    • These are roughly based on fairy tale characters, but take them to a whole new dimension. They are set in the wild west but include Rapunzel using her hair as a lasso, dwarves, monsters, giants (he is Jack the Giant Killer) and a little bit of romance.
  • The city on the other side by Mairghread Scott
  • Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner
Science Fiction that's closely related to fantasy adventure

Saturday, June 16, 2018

This week at the library; or, First week of summer reading

Happening this week
The animal shelter did show up for Paws to Read with a very cute puppy and the kids were ecstatic. I found some issues with my schedule - I hadn't accounted for the unfortunate injuries two of my three aides are suffering! It was very, very busy.

My first Library on the Go of the summer went great - Headstart was very welcoming and my summer associate translated my bookmark into Spanish! It was great to be able to explain the program to everyone! Terri's first summer program, We Explore Outdoors, was very popular.

More schedule issues, but all was resolved and I redid the rest of the June schedule. Our core group of anime fans showed up and (reluctantly) signed up for summer reading. My summer associate got their first experience with anime!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron

It's hard to explain the difference I see between the US and UK imprints of Scholastic's graphic novel publications. David Fickling Books has several titles that have been popular in our library and they have nothing inappropriate in them, they just feel like they have a little bit more of an "edge" as it were.

Anyways, this latest title doesn't really break any new ground but it caught my interest nonetheless. Brothers Alex and Freddy are your typical, squabbling kids. Except they're also robots. They're living their life, arguing over video games, trying to get to school on time, but unbeknownst to them there are things going on in the background. Their mom is dealing with government officials who are skeptical of her work, trying to show the value of her cybernetics while also protecting the robots she's come to think of as her children. And then things start going wrong...

Throw in an existential penguin robot, some high-stakes shenanigans, and some dark dreams, and this is a fast-paced, superhero adventure with a twist. It's funny but also thoughtful, reflecting on what it means to be alive and a family. Colorful art and a futuristic, scifi world add to the intrigue. All of the characters, including Alex and Freddy's parents, display a wide range of diversity, as well as several characters in hijabs.

Verdict: Sure to intrigue HiLo fans, this is a must-have for your graphic novel collection.

ISBN: 978133818959; This edition published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The last firehawk: The ember stone by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Jeremy Norton

There's a limited number of fantasy books for beginning chapter readers. Mostly they tend to involve fairies and lots of sparkly glitter. Epic fantasy, not so much. However, Scholastic's Branches imprint was extremely successful with their Dragon Masters series by Tracey West (I don't know about your library, but I had to buy multiple copies and referee fights over the remaining titles!) and apparently decided to branch out into an animal fantasy, a la Warriors, in this latest series The Last Firehawk.

The story begins with an introduction: The fantasy is set in the land of Perodia, where the Owls of Valor fight against the evil vulture, Thorn, who is using the Shadow to destroy the land. Tag, a young owl who is smaller than the others, tries hard to live up to his dream of being an Owl of Valor. Appropriately, a classic fantasy map is also included.

Tag and his friend Skyla, a squirrel, rescue a mysterious egg from the evil tiger-bats, servants of Thorn. When the egg hatches, they discover it contains a firehawk, long thought to be extinct. Once upon a time, the firehawks had magic that could defeat Thorn and his Shadow, but their magic was contained in a gem which has since disappeared. Tag, Skyla, and the firehawk, named Blaze, set out on a quest to find the magical jewel.

Digital black and white illustrations are on every page. Most of the animals look "normal", excepting the weird tiger-bats, but the owls wear armor, as does Skyla at times. Some of the art is blurred and the faces a little distorted. This is very classic animal fantasy; owls and squirrels are "good", vultures and bats are "bad". There is a magical map, legends, and a dangerous quest for a magical artifact. The hero (male of course) is the smallest and yearns to be part of a group of "knights" but ends up proving himself in a different way. However, just because it may seem old hat to a regular fantasy reader doesn't mean young readers new to the genre won't enjoy it. The story moves quickly and is written smoothly and briskly, with just enough peril to keep the story interesting. There are gentle lessons about working with your strengths, accepting the help of friends, and trying even when things seem hopeless.

Verdict: I think the art does the story a disservice; I don't expect it will be as popular as Dragon Masters because of the lack of art and human characters to relate to. However, it was a good story; even I want to find out what happens next! Recommended to add to your Branches collection.

ISBN: 9781338122138; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal

I picked this up for the library because the bright cover was attractive and was delighted to discover the interior is equally whimsical.

Each spread shows two improbably colored animals and poses the question: what would happen if they were mixed? The following spread shows the result. A giant, vivid blue whale plummets through the sky, landing on a startled yellow lion and creating… a rather glum-looking “green whion.” The mixes get more and more weird, a “turquoise rhortoise,” a “chartreuse kangamoose,” and my favorite, a “violet brizzly.” The third to the last spread shows a swirling ring of mixed and unmixed animals which combine to form a marvelous creature on the second to last spread. It’s unnamed, but has blue wings, a yellow trunk, green elephant legs, stripy red body, and so on. The final spread shows spots demonstrating the different color combinations, with a red monkey juggling a few extra balls.

The vivid colors add excitement and interest to the quirky book. While the combinations are too advanced for most toddlers, they can still enjoy the combinations and colors and will be delighted with the wacky animals that are created.

Verdict: A bright new entry in the world of board books, sure to fly off your shelves and delight little ones. Recommended.
ISBN: 9781499805352; Published 2018 by little bee books; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Snail Mail by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Julia Patton

A long time ago, (well, not that long, but probably before you can remember!) people didn’t send emails and texts - they sent letters through snail mail.

Berger imagines a fanciful landscape with four determined snails and a very special letter. A dark-skinned girl in Santa Monica writes a special love letter “It was a card made with her own hands, written in her own handwriting, and sealed with her own kiss. It even smelled a little bit like her.” The letter is sent to a boy across the country in New York and the snails set out on their journey. They see marvelous sites like Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, sail across the fields with birds, and finally deliver the letter. “When the snails saw the Boy’s face as he opened the letter, they knew their journey was worth it.”

Patton’s soft colors show a sun-washed landscape and four unique snails, each with their own personality. Postcards, collage elements, and sketched in details pop against the water-washed background.

I like to write letters myself and it’s certainly a fun thing to introduce kids to. Although the book was sweet though, I didn’t care for the illustrations, which had a very indistinct, swashy look, as though they’d had water dumped over them. The text is a little long and complex for the average storytime as well.

Verdict: An additional choice if you have teachers who want to encourage letter-writing; most readers will be more interested in the workings of the real-life post office. However, it’s a sweet story and if you have a large collection or want to expand your books on postal services it could make a nice addition.

ISBN: 9780762462513; Published 2018 by Running Press; Review copy provided by the publisher