Monday, May 21, 2018

Trash vortex: How plastic pollution is choking the world’s oceans by Danielle Smith-Llera

Capstone has made a very interesting new series that focuses on pivotal moments in history as captured by photography. They’ve expanded this from history to scientific events as well. The latest set includes catastrophes like oil spills and nuclear explosions and this particular title addresses the rapid spread of micro plastics.

The story begins with Captain Charles Moore’s discovery of a huge soup of micro plastics in a gyre in the Pacific Ocean. Publicized by Moore and other researchers, it became known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and most people think of it as a giant, floating raft of garbage. The reality is more more complicated however.

Following the history and creation of plastics, from celluloid and bakelite to modern plastics, the author blends in the science of pollution and study of how plastic is filling the oceans and its affect on ocean and land life, including humans. Readers will learn about sea currents, how plastic is broken down into micro plastics, and how these are eaten by animals and then by humans. The science of recycling is addressed, the historical change from reuse to disposal, and the problem of pollution in Third-World countries is also touched on.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and resources.

This is an interesting take on a complex issue. The author does not simplify the issues or imply that there is an easy fix. She addresses the numerous issues in ocean pollution, the many ways it affects our lives, and the ongoing research to discover the full affect and find solutions to the problem.

Verdict: An excellent choice to introduce readers to this complex scientific problem that affects everyone, whether or not they live near the ocean. It also models some excellent research skills and presentation for readers learning to research their own topics. A must-have title to keep your recycling and ecology sections up to date.

ISBN: 9780756557454; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Summer Reading Reflections

 - I freely admit that I did not put a ton of work into this year's summer reading program. As I focus on expanding outreach and other services, and as I deal with changes in our community, I've been moving away from the traditional model for summer reading which involves a lot of time, money, and staff. My goal for summer reading is a simple, accessible program that encourages frequent library visits. This year, I am making the weekly activity bags an honor system - there's a sign on the top that reminds them to sign up, but they can just take one.
 - As far as reading, well, to be honest I don't personally think summer reading programs make any difference in whether or not kids read during the summer. The kids who would normally read will read anyways and the ones who don't probably aren't coming to the library in the first place. I have separate programs set up to reach non-reading kids and encourage them to maintain and develop reading skills over the summer.
 - This year I made several changes in view of various shifts in the school schedule and from feedback last year. I found participation in my 0-3 age program dropped significantly, while participation in our year-round reading program, Read and Grow (1,000 books before kindergarten) grew. Last year a significant number of kids were enrolled in summer school, which was run in two 3-4 week sessions in June and July and also included afternoon classes and free lunch. This year, due to construction, there will only be two 2-week sessions and all classes except pre-kindergarten will be located at the high school, not the middle school, which is farther from the library. The pre-kindergarteners will be at the closest elementary school. I also had a lot of growth in middle school participation, but it does not look like I'll be visiting that school this year, so I don't know if that will continue.
 - I also had major staff turnover last summer. This year I have one part-time associate (21 hours) who has not gone through a summer at the library yet and a second part-time associate (8 hours) who is primarily handling teen programs and a little desk time at the youth services desk (They've been here in the summer but only as a teen volunteer years ago!). Of my two teen aides, only one has gone through summer and they worked limited hours. The other aide will be leaving at the end of summer, so this will be their first and last summer! I will also be bringing back a very experienced aide for the summer only.

Check out this blog post for details on our summer reading programs, with links to materials

Summer reading proper will be running June 9 to August 11, although we will have programs before and after that date. You can see our current master calendar here.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This week at the library; or, now it's hot and humid. Ugh Summer.

Happening this week at the library
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Trikathon
    • Worked 9-6
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 10-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • 1st grade field trip
    • 2nd grade field trip
    • Book Explosion
    • Worked 10-6:20
  • Friday
    • Middle School Madness
    • Worked 2-6
  • Saturday
    • Worked 10-2
Last programs and small field trips are this week - next week the big field trips begin. This is a new thing I'm trying this year, getting the kids to visit the library instead of doing short booktalks at school. We'll see if it makes a difference. Last year we had an author visit and I didn't really visit the schools at all. Our numbers did drop a little, but there were other factors in play.

I've finished all the summer reading materials, sent out numerous emails to teachers, worked on setting up the field trips, am almost done putting together all the prizes and activity kits, and am sorting through a huge bounty of donations. Also dealing with the regular detritus - lost and damaged items, maker kits that need refilling, paperwork, budgeting, etc.

I still have to actually plan this summer's programs, like the I Survived party, make sure I have all the supplies for the maker workshops and art storytimes, and I should probably finish my picture book weeding before it gets delayed another year!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

Rosa Diaz is angry, grieving, and confused. She comes from a long line of expert ghost-appeasers, i.e. librarians, and can't understand why her mother, one of the best in the business, has moved them to Ingot the only unhaunted town in the world. When Rosa meets Jasper Chevalier, whose only wish is to disappear in the shadow of his renaissance-fair obsessed father, she at first takes out her anger on him. Gradually, however, the two become friends. It's a good thing they do since Ingot isn't going to be unhaunted for long - and something very dangerous is coming.

Alexander builds a familiar but strange world skillfully, dropping hints and clues along the way without over-explaining, letting readers use their imagination to fill out the story. There are moments of frightening terror, moments of gentle warmth, excitement, magic, and the telling of family secrets.

One thing I did have a hard time believing was that Rosa, who is from cosmopolitan New York, would be surprised that Jasper is biracial, having a white mother and black father. That seemed really odd. However, kids are nothing if not unobservant of life around them I've found so it's possible that she never thought about her biracial friends or classmates. It's gradually revealed that Rosa's father is dead, having been killed in a mistaken attempt to banish rather than appease a ghost, and some readers might be frustrated that Rosa's mom is so withdrawn in her grief, refusing to communicate or explain to her daughter what's happening.

I did appreciate that Alexander packed the whole story into one slim volume, under 200 pages, but it's a complete story with some thoughtful reflection on history, family, and the choices that people make and the way they remember the dead.

Verdict: This was a Cybils finalist in 2017 and it's well-deserved; it's not often I have a book that combines diversity, humor, horror, and fantasy in such well-blended amounts. Hand to readers who like stories with a little shiver but not too much and those who are comfortable reading about ghosts.

ISBN: 9781481469159; Published 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry; Purchased for the library

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Life in the library

Looking out the window at our insect water dish, a shallow bowl with glass marbles...

Kid: "Is that weird dish for the bees?"
Me: "Yep, it's like a birdbath but for bees and other insects. The pebbles are in there so they can get a drink without drowning."
Kid's parent, with interest: "I didn't know that. I told Kid they were a liar."

Well, we all learned something today?

Peter and Ernesto: A tale of two sloths by Graham Annable

I still don't really understand the fascination with sloths; they're interesting creatures, but why not hyenas? Or bongos? Anyways, sloths are IN right now and this simple graphic novel will be enjoyed by sloth fans and others.

Peter, a stay-at-home gray sloth and Ernesto, an adventurous beige sloth, are best friends. But when Ernesto decides to take a trip and see the rest of the sky, Peter is worried and upset. Ernesto doesn't stop to think about his friend at first; he is busy exploring the wonderful world outside his tree. He sees many amazing new pieces of sky, makes new friends, and even travels across the ocean. Meanwhile, Peter slowly overcomes his fears to set off in search of his friend. He runs into the same obstacles as Ernesto, and at first feels he simply can't face them. However, his friendship makes him brave and, in his own fashion, he faces all obstacles to find his friend.

In the end, both Peter and Ernesto have learned something about themselves and about the world around them. Although they covered much of the same ground, their very different perspectives gave them an opportunity to see things in a different way. Annable's art is a good match for the simple but thoughtful text. The colors are mostly greens and earth tones, with simple lines and mild humor in the sketched large eyes. The text is minimal, but a great deal of story is told in the sloths' mobile faces.

While not factually accurate (sloths are actually excellent swimmers) this is nevertheless an amusing tale of exploring the world and following your dreams. The text is simple enough to hold beginning chapter readers but there is enough depth to the story and art to capture the interest of older children as well.

Verdict: This quiet story is amusing and makes an excellent addition to the beginning chapter graphic novel genre. While I'm not as wildly enthusiastic about it as some reviewers, it will certainly find an audience and planned sequels are sure to be popular.

ISBN: 9781626725614; Published 2018 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Quiet as a mouse and other animal idioms by Chieu Anh Urban

This guessing-game board book is sweet and clever, but has a few issues.

The first spread of each riddle shows a solid, boldly-colored background with the written clues. The facing page is white or pastel and shows eyes, nose, and a few details like whiskers. The following spread shows the animal in its entirety.

The animals included are a lamb, fox, ox, bat, and a clam. The clam at the end is sporting mirrored sunglasses so the child can see a blurry picture of themselves.

The pictures are brightly colored and have large shapes creating the animals. They also include die cut eyes, smiles, etc. to trace with a finger and add tactile interest.

However, some of the word choices are odd, as are the pictures. "Happy as a clam" is not an expression I hear often and even here in our dairy-rich, quasi-rural area most kids don't know the word "ox", they call them cows or bulls. Bats are called "blind" and given dark glasses and sharp, vampire-like teeth. Most babies and toddlers aren't going to be familiar with the characterization of a fox as "sly."

Verdict: Cute pictures and a nice layout; the text is really not developmentally appropriate, but it will attract the interest of older children and parents. I dislike the factually inaccurate elements though; bats are not blind and their eyes don't glow that I'm aware of. I'd think twice about purchasing it because of this.

ISBN: 9781454925057; Published 2017 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A couch for llama by Leah Gilbert

As soon as I saw that cover I knew I had to absolutely have this book.

The Lago family loves their old blue couch. Blonde mother, dark-haired and dark-skinned father, and three children with light brown skin and dark hair (or dark fuzz in the case of the baby) have many happy days reading, cuddling, playing, and chasing their cute little black scotty dog. But the couch has seen better days... it's time for a new couch.

Unfortunately, on their way back from the city with a brand new, cheerful red couch tied on top of the car, it slips off! And that's when the fun begins. Discovering this strange object in his field, Llama tries to be friendly. He tries to share. He does a few taste tests. Finally, he figures out what a couch is for - comfy sitting!

When the Lago family returns and finds their couch, Llama has settled in. Is there a way to make everyone happy?

The simple text is delightful, and just the right length for storytime. The real star here are the soft, expressive illustrations and especially that goofy llama! Drawing on familiar plots of stories like The Mitten, where an animal discovers a piece of furniture or clothing and tries to figure out what it is, Llama's efforts to figure out what the couch is for just made me giggle repeatedly. His little friend the blue bird, expressive ears, and stubborn demeanor are just icing on the couch-cake.

Verdict: You must have this for storytime immediately! Buy at once!

ISBN: 9781454925118; Published February 2018 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wolf Island by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read

I love bears, especially the bears of the Great Bear Rainforest on the northwest coast, but I was disappointed with this duos' first picture book featuring them - although the photographs were lovely, the text was disjointed. This second title, featuring the wolves of the rainforest, is much better and I'm eager to add it to my library.

The story begins with a wolf, with thick, shaggy fur in a multitude of colors, swimming to a new island. He's ready to begin life on his own and has found his own territory. The wolf is sometimes lonely, but there's plenty of food to find and places to explore. He hunts for salmon, eats fish eggs, and tracks deer. Finally, another wolf arrives and the first wolf has a mate! The two have a litter of cubs and the island has a new pack of wolves.

While there's not an extensive amount of information in the text and the wolf is more anthropomorphic more than I would like, the gorgeous photographs let the reader into a special world. Placid sunsets, roiling seas, and all the rich life of the northwest rainforest is shown in this pictorial journey of one wolf from loneliness to a new pack.

Verdict: If you have wolf fans, this is a book that will introduce them to a unique group and their lives at sea and on land.

ISBN: 9781459812642; Published 2017 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 12, 2018

This week at the library; or, Field trips begin

What's happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Outdoor Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Manager's Meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Pinata party
    • Worked 9-5:15
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • 1st grade field trip
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • Worked 10-6
  • Friday
    • Anime Club
    • Worked 3-6:45
  • Saturday
    • Get Fit Fest (off-site)
    • Worked 8-12:45
Working on planning for summer reading, putting together logs, sorting books for Library in a Box, and so on and so on. I've got two Library in a Box placements - both daycare/preschool/after school care centers that run year-round. My first choice for the third box couldn't place it, so I'm waiting to hear back from the next possibility on the list.
1st grade field trip. These particular classes visit regularly in the fall and late spring, as schedules allow. I read a few stories, they pick out books to check out for their classroom, and they all got bookmarks promoting summer reading. We also had a lengthy conversation about the gerbils, the previous hamster, how he died, why he died, and how I felt when somebody put his dismembered corpse on my desk. I love 1st graders.
I set up the Winter Wigglers obstacle course and Library on the Go at Get Fit Fest. People liked the obstacle course, but there was very low turnout.
Kind of off my game this week, allergies have been so bad that I haven't been able to sleep much. However, I did get a lot of summer reading planned and field trips put together, finished a bunch of picture book weeding, sorting books, and other projects. So I was not exactly idle!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Best buds under frogs by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli, known for her hilarious board books and picture books, steps into the chapter book world with a brand new series: The Rizzlerunk Club.

Lily is attending a new school and she's super shy. What's even worse? First day nerves make her throw up. So much for ever making friends! The cool girls immediately ignore and laugh at her - and so does weird Darby. Darby just won't leave Lily alone and at first Lily can't stand her, but slowly they start to understand each other and become the founders of the Rizzlerunk Club, best buds under frogs, together forever.

At least, they were. Then Darby's old friend, Jill, reappears from England. Jill is exciting and has wild ideas - but she's also mean. Worst of all, Darby, free-spirited, don't-care-what-anyone-thinks Darby, does whatever Jill wants! If Lily wants her friend back, she'll have to make some hard decisions and find out whether or not she can stand up for Darby - and herself.

There is a LOT of friend drama crammed into these 270+ pages. Lily's family is supportive, but lets her make decisions on her own, appropriate to a fourth grader. Darby's family is a little harder to swallow and her sudden changes in character - going from not caring what anybody else thinks to following Jill's dangerous and mean ideas without thinking - may seem unrealistic, but anyone who has been around nine year old girls will just sigh and nod their heads. One minute their engaging in high school-like cliques, the next they're catching frogs. Yup.

Verdict: This is funny, engaging, and relatable. It will make readers laugh and maybe reconsider some of their own friendships. But... will it find readers? It feels young, aimed at third and fourth graders. At nearly 300 pages though, even with cartoons and fairly large text, it's going to daunt most young readers. Still, fluent readers will have no problems with it. I recommend this to fans of Ivy + Bean and Julie Bowe.

ISBN: 9780763651046; Published February 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Alien Next Door: The new kid by A. I. Newton, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

There's a new kid in school and he's having trouble fitting in. Zeke, the new kid, wishes he could go back home to Tragas. He wishes his parents didn't move around all the time. He wishes he wasn't always the new kid. But his next-door neighbor isn't worried about Zeke's feelings; Harris is pretty sure that Zeke is an alien!

The viewpoint alternates between Zeke (yes, he's an alien. Looks kind of like a squid.) and Harris (African-American) with some input from Harris' more level-headed friend, Roxy (possibly Latina). Harris doesn't like new things any more than Zeke does, but in his world Zeke IS the new - and scary - alien thing! In the end, Harris and Zeke decide they can be friends, even though Zeke still misses home and Harris is determined to prove that Zeke is really an alien.

The book is heavily illustrated with black and white art, showing Zeke's confusion trying to deal with unfamiliar earth things and Harris' suspicion. The font is dark, a slightly larger font and would be a good choice for readers ready to try chapters and those who are voracious readers of series.

Verdict: Hand this to fans of Wendy Mass' Space Taxi and readers who enjoy funny school stories. A good addition to fill out your beginning chapter section if you're looking for more titles.

ISBN: 9781499805598; Published March 2018 by little bee; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: You’re my little cuddle bug by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Natalie Marshall

This sweet little board book would make a great baby shower or gift for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Each spread features a few rhyming couplets of baby love, illustrated with bright, cheery colors. A big and small bug show the warmth between parent and child. The baby bug is raised on the page and fits into a die-cut shape on the opposite page.

When you turn the page, the cut-out encircles the previous text. For example, on a rich fuschia background with white flowers picked out in sea green, a little yellow-green caterpillar looks up at something unseen in flowers while the text reads “You’re my caterpillar, You’re ticklish through and through.” Turn the page, and you’ll see the big caterpillar, gazing adoringly down at their little one. You can reread the previous page’s words through the die-cut shape of the caterpillar, or continue on to the rest of the couplet, “I love to make you giggle, And you make me laugh too!” The bugs included are ladybugs, bumblebees, caterpillars, butterflies, and fireflies (although they are called “cuddle bugs”).

The book is a sturdy square, the raised cardboard pieces are firmly attached, and the die-cut shapes are set into extra-thick pages.

Verdict: While not necessarily a storytime pick, this will be a favorite bedtime read for parents and little ones. The non-gendered caregivers are a nice touch, rather than focusing exclusively on mothers, and babies and toddlers will enjoy the raised bugs and bright colors.

ISBN: 9781684122585; Published 2018 by Silver Dolphin Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

If I didn't have you by Alan Katz, illustrated by Chris Robertson

Funnyman Katz teams up with illustrator Chris Robertson on a new picture book that will have both parents and children giggling.

Alligator Mike and his dad imagine what it would be like if they didn't have each other. Mike's dad could have a sports car! Mike could stay up all night and eat all the candy he wanted! Of course, as his dad points out, he wouldn't have to brush his teeth either - because he wouldn't have any. With each wacky idea, Mike's dad reassures him that he'd rather have him and they end up finding something they can both do together: dance like crazy! Now they just have to convince Mom that she'd rather have both of them than a nice, quiet house... or a custom-built sports car!

Robertson's art is full of toothy grins (except for the imagined toothlessness of endless candy eating of course) and silly surprises. My favorite was the water buffalo butler, with appropriate posters on the wall. Shades of blue and green predominate, keeping the theme of alligators throughout the book. There are lots of small jokes that kids will appreciate, like Mike playing "Swamp Craft" video games and having "Poke Gator" posters on his wall. In some ways the art is reminiscient of the classic Lyle books by Bernard Waber, with the upright alligators and there are several retro touches, like a stereo an LPs spread across the floor which kids may or may not pick up on.

Verdict: A funny and sweet book, a nice additional choice for storytimes featuring family or one-on-one reading with a child. The reassuring text doesn't stray into the overly sentimental and the wacky art will inspire kids to try their hand at making up their own silly options for what their life might be like in different circumstances. I would know your audience though; if you have a lot of kids with absent fathers it would be better paired with other titles showing a variety of families.

ISBN: 9781416978794; Published 2018 by Simon & Schuster; E-ARC provided by illustrator; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Whydah: A pirate ship feared, wrecked & found by Martin W. Sandler

Readers who like stories of pirates and treasure hunts will be intrigued by this meticulously-researched historical story of pirates, treasure, and the history of many people who were involved in the story.

The story begins with the capture of the slave ship Whydah by pirate Black Sam Bellamy. After many adventures, and heavily burdened with loot, the Whydah returned to the dangerous Cape Cod coast where it was wrecked. The survivors were tried as pirates; some were executed, a few were pardoned. The story was over. Or was it? A long tradition of looting wrecks added to the many stories surrounding the Whydah and Bellamy and over the years many attempts were made to find the hidden treasure. Finally, in the 1980s, more than 200 years after the wreck, marine archaeologists discovered the wreck and a bounty of historical information, as well as some of the original treasure.

Besides the basic history, there's a lot of information packed into this book. Explanations of the culture and behavior of pirates in the 1700s, discussions of the slave trade and the various occupations and possible stories of the pirate crew, technological advances in archaeology, the controversies around treasure-hunting, all this and more are included in the story. Copious back matter adds to the story as well as original documents, photographs, and maps.

Verdict: The fast-paced, narrative sections of this history will draw in even reluctant readers who will find much to interest them in the wide range of history, technology, and social information included in this book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680336; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Summer: A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter

I’ve been eagerly waiting for the next seasonal pop-up book from Carter. One of my Storytime Kits, Seasons, features his previous titles (among others) and while I normally don’t add pop-up books to the collection I’ve found they’re a popular addition to the Storytime Kits.

The book is board book sized, a square of about 6x6 inches. The cover’s bright yellow background gives way to sharp blue and rich green in the interior. Each page features a different aspect of summer and a different paper creation. Simple sentences “The summer day is long and warm,” are joined by small captions on the different items, drawn in Carter’s simple, minimalist style. Summer items include cherries, a pileated woodpecker, ladybug, June beetle, vegetable garden, pansies and katydid, a small pond with painted turtle, Western fence lizard, kingfisher, and golden trout, and a final spread that returns to the farmhouse and features an apple tree.

Each spread has one or two items; the pond has a small pop-up of wild columbine flowers and a gray stone flap that, when lifted down, pops up the heads of the two chipmunks who can be found on each page. The garden lifts a spray of tomatoes above the page and coils a cucumber vine across the spread, nearly hiding the clever little chipmunks.

I would happily add this to my seasonal Storytime Kit except for a few small problems on the final page. Namely, the apple tree. Apples don’t ripen until fall. There are also pumpkins in the field, another fall harvest item. There’s a cornfield as well, but no corn, so it’s not looking forward to autumn, and the final text clearly says it’s summer, “The earth is rich when summer is here.”

Verdict: I’m not sure how such a major error was passed, but especially for our area, where fall apple picking is a big deal, it’s not something I can overlook. Although the kids probably would enjoy pointing out the error… I suppose there might be some place where apples ripen in the summer, but it doesn’t fit with any of the other wildlife or plants in the book.

ISBN: 9781419728327; Published 2018 by Abrams Appleseed; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, May 5, 2018

This week at the library; or, Summer begins

Book club attendees!
Yes, summer doesn't "officially" start until school lets out in June, but this month is when I'm doing all my field trips and our special toddler parties and finishing all the summer planning so it counts.
  • Monday
    • Craft-o-rama
    • I had vacation! One extra day b/c of the staff development last week.
  • Tuesday
    • Stanley the hamster party
    • Worked 9-5:15
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Worked 9-5
Time to gear up for summer, field trips, pop-up libraries, more outreach, etc. etc. I'm going to need to do a push to get new attendees for Bookaneers next fall. Weather is weird and is affecting our attendance.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Bug Blonsky and his very long list of don'ts by E. S. Redmond

Bug's real name is Benjamin, but everyone calls him Bug. His mom says it's because he's super wiggly, but his sister says it's because he's super annoying! Bug think that sounds kind of cool - a superhero with the power to annoy! Either way, Bug ends up spending a lot of time thinking in the quiet chair about his choices, so he's decided to write himself a list of don'ts, to keep out of trouble.

Bug's list of don'ts include things like not playing video games before school, thus making him late, having to wear his milk-soaked socks (previous don't) and sit next to Abner, the goody-goody kid. Don't talk to a friend when you're supposed to be listening, because you'll have to sit next to the girl with a crush on you. Don't tell the older boy that your sister has a crush on him. Don't make fun of your teacher. Don't retaliate when kids make fun of you.

The book is heavily illustrated in color, showing Bug's lively inner life and the disastrous consequences of his don'ts. The girl with a crush on him, Peggy Pinkerton, is shown as a pudgy girl with a pig-like face and Bug's don'ts include not telling the mean kid to stop calling her names - because she hugs him, the kids laugh, and then he stamps on her foot and gets in trouble. Bug imagines all the places he could eat breakfast instead of the table (hence the milk-soaked socks), all the awful smells in the world when he takes off his milk-soaked socks (and gets laughed at when the kids see his Timmy Tow Truck underwear), and a list of the thoughts that should have stayed in his head, like telling his grandma the curse word he learned, pointing out his sister's pimple, or telling his mom that her jeans would make a great tent.

Will kids find this funny? Probably. It's humorously written and kids who enjoy Captain Underpants and would like to read Wimpy Kid but aren't old enough will devour it. Bug is a second grader and very relatable with his tactlessness, inattention, and the disasters he falls into. The characters are almost all white, with the exception of a few glimpses of Bug's black friend, Louie. The adult women are shown with grotesquely wide hips and saggy chests and none of them see the humor in Bug's antics. The humor level is about on par with Andy Griffiths or Captain Underpants including jokes about farts, Uranus, etc.

Verdict: Some of Bug's antics were funny; he obviously has trouble focusing and gets into lots of trouble. However, a lot of his antics (and those of the other kids) are just mean. Where are the adults when the kids are teasing each other into tears or physical retaliation? Why don't Bug's parents give his sister a lock on her door, since he's quite willing to walk into her room, read her private diary, and talk about it to all and sundry? I've met some kids with a complete lack of filter like Bug has and find the best way to deal with it is to shut it down with a calm "Asking personal questions or making comments is rude. Don't do that again." Instead, Bug's teacher, clearly a veteran, gets embarrassed and angry. Bug's tactlessness is played for laughs and there's no evidence that anyone is trying to help him to improve, other than plopping him in a time-out chair to "think about his choices." Redmond's depiction of Bug's plump classmate is distasteful as well. There are plenty of other funny books out there that aren't as mean-spirited as this one. I'd also like to see a change in the "white boy with attention issues driving everyone crazy is funny" trope.

ISBN: 9780763689353; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The thrifty guide to ancient Rome: A handbook for time travelers by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella

On the one hand, I loved this and laughed all the way through. On the other hand, I kind of want to shelve it in fiction and write letters explaining how inaccurate it is.

So, the idea of this is that, hundreds of years into the future, a giant corporation (complete with evil CEO) has taken over America and time travel is now possible. But, as a sort of corporate-sponsored vacation, so with lots of liability waivers and "oh, you got beheaded, too bad, no trip insurance."

The book is written like a travel handbook, starting with where (and what) to eat, where to stay, and local hazards (like being beheaded). It then expands more into the history of the area, mostly focusing on Julius Caesar and his conquests and then giving an overview of the tumultuous history of Rome after his assassination.

The book is illustrated with red-tinted cartoons and filled with plenty of wacky information, like a venn diagram of Cleopatra's romantic involvement, TripAdvisor-like reviews of gladiator games, and letters from Time Corp's evil CEO. There is a limited bibliography - one contemporary title about every day life in Rome and a number of classic writers like Livy.

One review said this walked the line between fiction and nonfiction, but I feel it kind of slips over. Yes, it covers a lot of history, but it slips in so many jokes that it's hard to take seriously. It briefly mentions slavery, women's rights (nonexistent), and systems of government, but it references ancient Rome as a democracy, saying that there wouldn't be another democracy until the United States. That doesn't sound right to me? Can you call it a democracy if a large portion of the population has no voice? And isn't the US a republic? With the lack of sources and the light-hearted feeling of the text, I wondered how many inaccuracies there were - I am not an expert on Ancient Rome by any means.

But as an introduction, to get kids interested in history, this is delightful. It's funny, doesn't take itself too seriously, and will attract both history fans and those who think history is "boring."

Verdict: Buy it, but I still haven't decided to put it in fiction or nonfiction. There's an American Revolution title as well, but the third projected title was cancelled so I don't know if this will be a long-running series or not.

ISBN: 9781101998083; Published 2018 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: So far up by Susanne Strasser

This deceptively simple board book offers a gentle, repetitive story and a surprise ending.

In the window of a tall house sits a cake. Along comes bear, who is very hungry. But the cake is so far up! As more animals appear, they each climb on top of bear but they still can't reach. Finally, a child appears in the window and... the cake is gone. Or is it?

Close observers will see a black bird on the telephone wire, edging closer and closer and finally snapping up the cherry on the cake, even as the animals suffer (they think) final disappointment. SPOILER: The child brings the cake down to share!

Cute, minimalist illustrations show a range of animals stacking themselves up in kooky attitudes in an effort to reach that delicious cake, but they're just not close enough. The sounds each animal makes as it jumps atop the previous one are delightful, from "fwoop" to "hippity hop".

Verdict: A quirky but fun addition to your board book collection.

ISBN: 9781580898485; Published January 2018 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It's springtime, Mr. Squirrel by Sebastian Meschmenmoser

Meschenmoser's books about Mr. Squirrel just make me laugh and laugh! They don't always click with kids - Waiting for winter is the most relatable, but sometimes I just have to get a few picture books for the grown-ups.

Mr. Squirrel and his friend the hedgehog have waited for winter together, experienced all the drama of an apparently missing moon, and now its spring!

The black and white, pencil drawings of the cold winter world have been touched with color. Squirrel is still feeling a bit groggy, but he can see the changes - grass, leaves, and insects. What has happened? "It's SPRING!" roars the bear, with bear-sized enthusiasm. Squirrel is up for it, but hedgehog isn't ready to join in. What's wrong with the hedgehog? He has seen something. Something amazing, something wonderful. A Beautiful lady hedgehog. How can he catch her eye? Luckily, Mr. Squirrel has his back and plenty of suggestions for showing his bravery.


The funniest part of this is the surprise endings. First when Mr. Squirrel and the hedgehog "defeat" their friend the bear (who doesn't even really realize they're there) and secondly when the hedgehog makes a disappointing discovery about his "lady love" who's really not a hedgehog at all!

While few, if any, kids will pick up on the Don Quixote references, they're sure to giggle along with Mr. Squirrel's efforts to prove their courage, including dressing in "armor" and battling other creatures. The surprise ending is good for a laugh as well.

Verdict: Not an absolutely necessary purchase, but definitely a fun one to add to your spring picture book collection.

ISBN: 9780735843103; Published April 2018 by North South; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 30, 2018

Revolutionary Rogues by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by John O'Brien

I'm not a huge fan of historical picture books or John O'Brien's pointilistic style - but I am a big fan of Selena Castrovilla's historical nonfiction so I wasted no time in grabbing up this book as soon as I heard about it.

Castrovilla tells the parallel stories of John Andre and Benedict Arnold in short clips, organized by date and location. Both were popular, well-educated, and longed for glory and to be distinguished on the battlefield. One was hanged in disgrace as a spy, but still had the honor of both his fellow soldiers and the respect of the opposing army. The other's name became synonymous with "traitor" and although he saved his own life, he was despised by both sides.

Castrovilla gives a nuanced portrait of two important figures in the American revolution for young readers, showing both the action and excitement of the war and the complex loyalties and motivations of those who fought. Detailed sources are included as well as the aftermath of Andre and Benedict's actions, historical sites, timelines, and additional information.

O'Brien's style doesn't convey a great deal of emotion, but it adds color and interest to the book, which is laid out in picture book format. Many of the pictures are laid out in panels or scenes, making them feel like historic woodcuts or scenes in a theater production.

Verdict: Castrovilla's strength lies in created nuanced portraits and action-packed narratives of the American revolution for young readers and this is a great addition to her small but excellent body of work. Readers will be absorbed by the tense action and eager to discuss afterwards. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781629793412; Published 2017 by Calkins Creek; Purchased for the library

Saturday, April 28, 2018

This week at the library; or, I'm not at the library

Yep, I took another week of vacation. I usually take some in the fall, but made some changes because of new staff and my anniversary date is May 5th. Anyways, I wanted to work on my garden. This is what I did, in case you're interested:

  • About a month's worth of laundry
  • Same of dishes
  • Organized and put away things that have been accumulating, including my basement space
  • Caught up on reviews and reading (sort, still have a big stack there)
  • Gardening! This was my main project. Cleaned out garden beds, moved bricks, hauled pots, put together trellises, then dealt with the resultant pain in my back and knees, remembered that I am getting old and am in horrible shape, somehow managed to sunburn myself in 60 degree weather, planted seeds, planted the tubers I've been saving all winter, etc.
(I lied, I didn't finish the dishes. I'll do them tomorrow?)

While I was gone, life went on at the library. Our community room was recarpeted and painted and the chicks hatched. I left plenty of instructions and I figured staff would have no problem handling things.
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books
    • Lego Club (teen aide ran it in our Storyroom)
  • Wednesday
    • no programs
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Closed for staff development. I went in for the staff meeting at 9am and following events as well as checking my email - I knew there would be urgent teacher requests to fulfill.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Hammy and Gerbee: Mummies at the museum by Wong Herbert Yee

Yee expands from his sweet easy readers to an equally light-hearted new graphic novel series for beginning chapter readers.

Best friends Hammy the hamster and Gerbee the gerbil are delighted to find they will be in Miss Capybara's class. They're not so pleased that the evil mice twins Anna and Hanna will be there too! Miss Capybara has the class compete in a spelling bee to decide where their field trip will go; luckily, even though Hammy and Gerbee don't win, they know just how to convince the twins to pick the science museum!

Once there, the friends have a delightful time until they decide to play a trick on their class. It's all fun and games at first, but then a REAL mummy shows up! Or does it?

The art is two-colored, in shades of blue and white. The animals have blunt noses and a similar look and this is one thing that really bothered me. It's minor, but after a long series of hamsters we have two gerbils at my library and I have spent the last three months reminding kids over and over and over again that hamsters do not have tails, gerbils have long tails with a fluffy tuft. Both Hammy and Gerbee have the exact same stubby tails, both being incorrect. This bothered me.

The plot is light and the art simple and rather blobby. But I have a ton of beginning chapter readers who will adore this! They love the simple graphic novels like Jump-into-Chapters and this will fit right in. It's funny, has animals, and the two-toned color that they are familiar with in their graphic novels.

Verdict: While the anatomical inaccuracy annoys me, and the story isn't stand-out enough to make it a necessary purchase, if you are looking to expand your graphic novel offerings for beginning readers this is sure to be popular. Available in paperback or prebound.

ISBN: 9781627794626; Published January 2018 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Life in the library

Nine-year-old girl: "Oh no, I lost my nail clippers!"
Me: "Why did you bring nail clippers to Mad Scientists Club?"
Girl: "Because they have a tiny knife on them."
Me: "And you need this because...?"
Girl, giving me a look of ultimate scorn, "in case I get kidnapped and tied up and have to cut my way free."
Me: "ah. It's good to be prepared."
Girl: "Yep, that's what I think."

Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

When Pig's mother died, his father stayed around only long enough to teach him how to run the dam. Then he committed suicide by walking out into the fog and Pig became the dam keeper. He keeps the windmill running that keeps Sunrise Valley from being overcome by the toxic black fog outside its walls. His only friend is Fox, who insists on trying to make him befriend the local bully, Hippo. Pig is haunted by the tragedies in his life and the suspicion that he might be getting as crazy as his father. But then disaster strikes and Pig finds himself - and Fox and Hippo - stranded outside the walls with the toxic fog coming on. Can they work together to survive? Will Pig discover the truth about his father? Or is there more going on than meets the eye?

The art will strongly appeal to fans of Shaun Tan. Soft, earth colors are spread across the pages showing a small, plump pig with an air of aching grief, a cheery orange fox, and a clumsy, huge hippo who sometimes seems to be trying to make friends, but just can't communicate outside of hitting or yelling. The landscapes are haunted, with a looming horizon of black fog rising over the towering structures of the dam, a strange and frightening frog who could be alive or could be a zombie, and the constant company of Pig's father, a shadow that blows into ash whenever he looks too closely.

The story ends on a huge cliffhanger and I want to find out what comes next - but I admit that I'm skeptical about audience for this one. Reviews put it at the middle grade level, roughly ages 9-12, but this is an intense story with a lot of death, grief, and very dark moments. On the other hand, it has a child-like quality in the interactions of the three main characters that seem to point it at a younger audience. The publisher puts it at ages 7-11, but it would have to be a very special seven-year-old that I handed this to! It's based on the Oscar short of the same name and ultimately I'd say the audience is really adults - it's one of those books that isn't really directed at a specific audience, but a gatekeeper, parent or librarian, will know which children will appreciate it.

Verdict: Basically, I want to know what happens next and it's a beautiful book, but it's creepy and sad as all get out, you have been warned. I've had one kid read it have much the same reaction.

ISBN: 9781626724266; Published 2017 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Is it warm enough for ice cream? by Violet Peto, illustrated by Victoria Palastanga

This mix of photographs and art is a nice introduction to the seasons for small children. Despite the obvious inaccuracy of the title (it's ALWAYS warm enough for ice cream, sometimes you just need more sweaters on beforehand) it presents lots of familiar signs of seasons in the midwest.

It starts in fall, showing tractors, apples, leaves changing colors, and cloudy weather. "Is it warm enough for ice cream?" nope, it's time for windy day activities. In winter it snows, animals hide, and it's far too cold for ice cream. It's time to play in the snow and drink hot chocolate. In spring the animals have babies, the flowers blossom, but it's still not ice cream time. It's time to play outdoors and enjoy the rain and garden. Finally, summer arrives. Everything is warming up, the insects and animals are out, and it's time for lots of summer treats like ice cream!

The book is a large, sturdy square with one spread showing different outdoor aspects of the season and the following spread showing how children interact with the season. A mixture of skin colors and races is shown. This is very definitely set in the midwest or a similar climate with four very clearly-defined seasons. This is perfect for my area, where tractors and apple picking are a recognized sign of fall and there's always snow at some point, even if (thanks to climate change) it shows up at weird times and unpredictable depths. The art is a little blah, but mixed with the photographs it is quite attractive.

Verdict: If you're in an area with four seasons and looking to add to your board books on this subject, this is a good choice.

ISBN: 9781465449867; Published 2018 by DK; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Many: The diversity of life on earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

I'm really torn about this book, but it's overdue at the library I borrowed it from, so I have to make up my mind!

With simple text but lyrical text, Davies explains the concept of biodiversity. The story begins with one cockroach, then adds a girl, then a bush, and then there are many things in the facing spread. Davies examines elephants and seashells, species identification and classification, food cycles and slight differences in species. This section of the story closes with a rich jungle scene, teaming with life.

The last five spreads strike sobering note in this exploration. Davies explains that biodiversity is shrinking, due to pollution, the destruction of habitats, and other human activities. We see the same jungle scene, this time with fallen trees and only a few living things left. There is a view of a museum exhibit of extinct animals and an opposing view of creatures that still exist, although many are endangered. The final spread shows a last scene with the same opening variety of animals faced by a page that shows only the girl. The text reads, "because we could not keep living on earth if we had to count down instead of up.../from MANY to one."

I like Davies' text, but I truly love Sutton's illustrations. Beginning with elaborate endpapers featuring a wide variety of green pen drawings of various flora and fauna, and moving into the increasingly involved art, Sutton shows the intrepid, red-haired explorer venturing beneath the sea, into the jungle, to hot springs and reefs, the Galapagos and deserts. Along the way we see a huge variety of animals, plants, microbes, bugs, and many other forms of life.

One thing, however, gives me pause. This picture book is directed at one children, but the ending felt very dark to me. I'm not particularly a fan of sugar-coating realities for kids, but I also believe in presenting them with some kind of hope and assurance. The problems shown are far too big for a child to even contemplate solving and that final sentence is frighteningly dark.

Verdict: Every child will react differently to this, but it's one I'd include as part of a unit, with an adult to discuss, not one I'd hand a child alone to read. I do really love the illustrations though.

ISBN: 9780763694838; Published November 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library

Monday, April 23, 2018

Talk, Talk, Squawk! by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

I use Nicola Davies' Animal Science series a lot in book clubs and as recommendations for school projects. They're good choices being small and not daunting to reluctant readers, with funny cartoons and small chunks of text.

This older title, from 2011, is still relevant and will intrigue readers who are interested in animal communication.

Davies compares animal communication to human communication; in "uniforms" and markings, sounds, smells and more. Each type of communication is illustrated with humorous cartoons and simple text. Readers will learn how bright colors signal poison, how fish stay in schools be reading each other's colors, and how birds sing to defend territories, attract mates, and maintain communications. There's also information about sea horses, dolphins, deer, and many, many more.

An index and glossary make up the back matter. While this isn't as complete and scientific an introduction to the subject as, for example, Castaldo's Beastly Brains, it's a great intro for beginners and casual readers. Kids who are studying nonfiction author styles will enjoy learning interesting tidbits and facts and those who like animal trivia will revel in this funny collection of animal facts.

Verdict: A great beginning for learning about animal communication, helping kids narrow down a research topic, or just enjoy a funny, informative book. Worth purchasing even though it's a few years old as the information is still fresh and relevant.

ISBN: 9780763650889; Published 2011 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This week at the library; or, Eric Carle week

My 5th grade homeschool volunteer face paints a
student from the special education school at the
Eric Carle party.
Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Eric Carle party
    • Worked 8:30-4:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Sewing Machine Maker Workshop (last of series)
    • Middle School Madness
    • Worked 12-6 (came in early to set up my new laptop, so I wasn't totally working and I wasn't supposed to anyways...)
  • Saturday
    • Worked 10-2
It snowed, rather heavily, over the weekend. I am saving my complaints for how hot it is in summer though! Then it snowed again on Wednesday, but I am truly grateful that the weather delayed until after the big Eric Carle party! We did have a smaller group - maybe 175-200 instead of 250-300, but that's actually closer to what our building can accommodate, so it's all good... You can see pictures from Eric Carle at the library's Facebook page

Professional development
  • WEBINAR: Using Movement for Optimal Development and Early Learning (Early Childhood Investigations - Gill Connell)
    • I really liked Connell's Smart Steps book. I think this could be useful in our early childhood programming, especially Winter Wigglers and other movement-based programs.
  • WEBINAR: Middle-grade reading, Spring 2017 (Booklist)
    • Yes, this is old. I am using these to prep for my pre-summer programs at this point.
  • UWM online course (Anna Palmer): Pop-up libraries
    • This is a two week course, started last week.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

Possibly because of my nonstandard schooling, I never got into the whole Magic School Bus thing. However, I see a lot of nostalgia for it from parents, requests for the original books by teachers, and younger kids who have rediscovered it. So I was definitely interested when Branches offered a tie-in series and it turned out to be quite popular.

Arnold is suffering through yet another day of winter when Ms. Frizzle suggests they take a field trip to somewhere else - like Hawaii! Wanda is disappointed, since she wants to visit the Arctic and save a rare fern, but changes her mind when she finds a cute little fish in the ocean. As Wanda tries to protect the fish, she and her classmates learn about how fish (and friends) can work together.

The black and white illustrations are rather bland - I would venture that only kids who grew up on the movies and original books will recognize each kid, who has a distinctive personality. Ms. Frizzle has apparently straightened her hair, which even I noticed, and the cast is carefully diverse, although, at least in this adventure, the white kids take the main roles. A glossary, dialogue with Ms. Frizzle with additional information, and discussion questions are included at the end of the book.

Honestly, I wasn't particularly impressed with this. I felt that the text was flat and bland, as was the art. The theme of the book wasn't well-defined, which left me wondering why Wanda was trying to "save" a random fish, without even researching its status. The kids are stereotyped and there's a little too much teasing of the characters for their various quirks for my taste.

However, none of this bothers the kids who recognize familiar characters, enjoy the touch of science, and like the nature-themed adventures.

Verdict: If you purchase all the Branches series, I wouldn't leave this one out, but if you can only get a few focus on other, more popular and better-written titles.

ISBN: 9781338194456; Published December 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tyson Hesse's Diesel: Ignition

Diandra "Dee" Diesel lost her adopted father long ago, when the Birdmen kidnapped or killed him. Now she's just counting down the days until she can take over his ship as Captain. There are just a few problems. First, the traveling community ship of Peacetowne already has a captain (and a first mate) and Dee isn't exactly qualified to take over. Second, the birdmen are back. Third, she's lost with no friends or help except her old robot Rick. As Dee travels to the wastelands below the clouds and back up again to the glorious capital city, she will encounter prejudice and injustice, family that isn't as close as she always thought, and come face to face with her own choices.

The art shows a complex and vibrant world, from the beautiful cloud cities to the dark wastelands below. Every protagonist has a different design, although Dee, the Captain, and most of the other women are comic-book skinny. There are bull-like creatures with horns and large, black eyes, a variety of humanoids, and the terrifying bird men, shown as giant, hawk-like creatures with broken English.

Dee is, frankly, not a likable character. She refuses to make any effort to learn or contribute, but wants to take over and run things because it's her adopted father's legacy. But there are a lot of secrets hidden in her father's past - and she resolutely refuses to listen to any suggestions that he might not be the hero she always thought him. She's oblivious to the prejudice and injustice experienced by members of her own adopted family, until she's bludgeoned over the head with it. But readers will gradually see a change as she starts taking responsibility for her own actions, listening to her friends and family, and using her abilities to make a difference. Ultimately, it's refreshing to see a central character, especially a women, who's allowed to be less than perfect, who makes stupid mistakes, and doesn't change overnight to the perfect role model.

Verdict: There isn't a good age range given for this, but I would say it's appropriate for readers who enjoy other fast-paced, action fantasy comics like 5 Worlds or Amulet.

ISBN: 9781608867; Published 2016 by Boom! Studios; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Go Baby! Go Dog! by Anne Vittur Kennedy

This silly board book will make parents smile and babies giggle.

Using the titular words, the baby chases the dog. The baby go, go, goes after the dog, who wakes up and go, go, goes away from the baby. They chase each other for a while until the dog successfully escapes the baby and goes back to her nap... whereupon the baby cries. The dog just can't take a sad baby, and the two end up curling up together for a nap.

Kennedy's cheerful blue and yellow background show up a crawling baby with a head of tousled red hair and a dog who just wants a little rest!

While some adults may be a little worried about babies chasing down a dog and sleeping on her, which is not at all safe dog behavior, most can enjoy the silly flavor of the story and the familiar negotiation between a pet who wants to be left alone and a baby who wants to play!

Verdict: A funny and light-hearted addition to your board book collection. Babies will enjoy finding the dog and baby in each picture while parents can appreciate the humor of the light plot.

ISBN: 9780807529713; Published March 2018 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Life in the library

Middle schooler: "Why are you always so serious?"
Me, straight face: "Dealing with you has deadened my soul."
Middle schooler: "You came to our school and you were smiling! You looked all excited and happy!"
Me: "That was fake."

Sarcasm is an important communication genre. Also, this middle schooler had been playing weird sound apps on their phone all week.

I am a cat by Galia Bernstein

This clever picture book combines animal classification with a not-so-subtle message about inclusion, all wrapped up in hilariously adorable illustrations.

A plump, small gray cat named Simon happily introduces himself to the other cats. "I am a cat. Just like you!" This elicits some wide-eyed disbelief from the panther, lion, tiger, and other big cats. A cat like them? Ridiculous! The lion has a fearsome roar and a mane; the cheetah is the fastest animal; the tiger is the biggest and strongest of all the cats! Simon points out that they're not alike either, so how can they be cats? The condescending big cats explain that they all have "small, perky ears and flat noses" as well as other things in common. Things that.... wait for it.... Simon has too!

It turns out Simon IS a cat - just a little smaller! So there's no reason they can't play together after all, doing all the things cats love to do.

Clever Simon's lesson to the big cats on looking for similarities, not differences, will hopefully not be lost on young children. It's also a nice lesson on how animals are defined and budding young biologists should be able to apply this to other animal families as well.

The illustrations are wonderful, with sleek, gray, stripy Simon the epitome of self-confidence, even in the face of the big cats' patronizing attitudes and amused golden eyes. The clean lines of the cats, set aside white backgrounds (except the eyes, glowing on black), remove any distraction from the simple storyline.

Verdict: A charming and informative book, perfect for storytime with a wide range of ages. Encourage kids to create their own families of animals with differences and similarities, or even of people, if they're old enough to translate the concept. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781419726439 ; Published February 2018 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, April 16, 2018

Welcome to the museum: Dinosaurium by Chris Wormell and Lily Murray

I've looked at several titles from the Welcome to the Museum series with longing; they're presented as museum exhibits and are masterpieces of information and art, with a "curator" instead of an author. However, I didn't feel that there was enough interest from my patrons in the previous titles to justify the cost - even with my vendor discount they come in at around $20, which is very high for a hardcover with regular binding that might not last through multiple uses.

However, when I heard a dinosaur title was coming out, I knew I had found the perfect fit - I was even more delighted to receive a review copy!

I read the WHOLE THING. I am not particularly a fan of dinosaurs to be honest; it's just not an aspect of science that has ever interested me. However, I made it through and it was really quite fascinating. The book is divided up into "galleries" and each one discusses a different classification of dinosaurs, like theropoda or ornithopoda. There is a final collection of non-dinosaurs, like pterosaurs, marine reptiles, and early mammals, and sections on extinction and survival. The final part of the book is the library, which includes the index, "curators" and bibliography.

The book is oversized and each giant spread includes carefully drawn illustrations of dinosaurs, an introduction to their group, and careful footnotes that are attached to each plate, or illustration. The text is detailed and challenging, so readers who want to not just examine the pictures and general information but read all the details will need to be either really motivated or very strong readers.

Verdict: This book will garner readers at a number of levels; younger readers and those who do not have the ability to read the full text will still enjoy poring over the illustrations and carefully examining each "exhibit." Older, more fluent readers will learn much from the information included (and probably drive their family crazy by repeating it to everyone, but that's life if you have a dinosaur fan!). Well worth the extra money and special shelving needed for the large size, I strongly recommend this title.

ISBN: 9780763699000; Published April 2018 by Big Picture Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, April 15, 2018

RA RA Read: Pink and Fancy Picture Books (now with unicorns!)

Glittery, frilly, pink and princessey books are hugely popular with children and parents alike. I personally favor a little "anti-princess" in my pink book recommendations, so you'll see that reflected in some fractured fairy tales and "you can be fancy and still have fun" books.

Series and authors
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
    • I really like Fancy Nancy because it combines lots of glitz with a down-to-earth family and everyday events and concerns for a child. There's also lots of fun vocabulary!
    • Multiple picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and 8x8 tie-ins are available.
  • Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
    • I have to admit that I, personally, detest these books and some parents agree. The art is flat and lifeless and the stories are poorly written and overly preachy. However, that's definitely a minority opinion - these are extremely popular with most people.
    • Additional picture books and easy readers are available
  • Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews
    • These stories are similar to Fancy Nancy but with more emphasis on the pink and pretty-pretty than general fanciness. Most of them deal with some event at school or a friendship.
    • Sequels, easy readers, and some additional paperback 8x8s are available.
  • Jellybeans and the big dance by Laura Numeroff
    • These are everyday school stories, but there is a lot of glitter, some dancing, and Munsinger's illustrations of plump and fuzzy animals.
    • There are several sequels as well as a few board books, although I don't think they make good board book editions.
  • Sarah Gibb's fairy tales
    • While some reviewers find her retellings to be a little flat and blah, it doesn't really matter because her pictures are gorgeous and most small children can't sit still for a long fairy tale anyways.
    • ISBN: 9780807568040 (Rapunzel)
    • ISBN: 9780807506004 (Beauty and the Beast)
    • ISBN: 9780807566305 (The Princess Who Had No Kingdom)
    • ISBN: 9780007526291 (Sleeping Beauty)
Fancy Clothes
  • I had a favorite dress by Boni Ashburn
    • Delicate watercolors by Julia Denos
    • Also a companion, I had a favorite hat
  • Princess Bess gets dressed by Margery Cuyler
    • Features extremely frilly underwear
  • Princess Gown by Linda Strauss
    • From the perspective of the family of tailors making the princess' fancy ballgown. The youngest daughter makes a mistake and then tries to fix it (out of print)
You can be fancy and still have fun (anti-princess books)
  • Princess and the pig by Jonathan Emmett
    • Older kids love this wacky fairy tale about a princess and a pig who change places
  • Olivia and the fairy princesses by Ian Falconer
    • Olivia doesn't get why all the other girls want to play princesses
  • April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham
    • Adorable little tooth fairies on their first mission.
    • ISBN: 9780763646837
  • Pink by Nan Gregory
    • A little girl dreams of having the fancy pink things her friends have, but her family can't afford it (out of print)
  • Paper princess by Elisa Kleven
    • Delicate, beautiful illustrations and a strong story (out of print)
  • Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis
    • You can be a princess and a superhero!
  • Tea for Ruby by Sarah York
    • Robin Preiss Glasser, who does the illustrations for Fancy Nancy, illustrated this. A little girl tries to remember her manners when she has tea with the queen (aka grandma)
Pretty Unicorn Books
Some unicorn books are silly but that's not what my unicorn fans want - they WANT pink and glittery unicorns.

  • Uni the unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (2 titles)
  • Not quite narwhal by Jessie Sima
  • 12 dancing unicorns by Marissa Heyman
  • Unicorn dreams by Dyan Sheldon

  • Dollhouse fairy by Jane Ray
  • Mouse mansion by Karina Schaapman
  • But who will bell the cats by Cynthia von Buhler
More titles

Saturday, April 14, 2018

This week at the library; or, More stuff happens

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Department Head Meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • Art Fest
    • Worked 12-7:30
  • Friday
    • Maker Workshop: Sewing machines
    • Anime Club
    • Worked 10-6:30
Something went wrong with the furnace and hot water spurted everywhere! Fortunately, everything I had stored in that area was in plastic bags or was just recycled cardboard. I mostly finished going through the children's cds. I think to get them to circulate we have to change the cases, so you can see what we actually have. But that's a lot of cases! I'm waiting for our tech services manager to get back and I'll see what she thinks. 

I really need to finish the highly complex summer schedule, especially for staffing. I will have 3 aides, with about 10 hours each, 2 associates, one with 21 hours and one with 8, and everybody has to be at the exact right place for programs, shelving, etc. I'll also have volunteers, but they are not.... dependable. Mostly middle schoolers who can only put forth concerted effort for about an hour and need supervision. So it's complicated and there always seems to be a slot left uncovered. I need a chunk of time to just do this and nothing else, but I keep getting interrupted! I spent 5 hours on this on Wednesday and FINISHED! I told my staff to give me at least one day before sending in mistakes or changes...

Our three elementary schools traditionally put up a display of art at the library. The school sends over 4 big art boards and I clear space for 3-D objects on the shelves. Once the art is up, we have an "open night" where I provide cookies, the art teachers come, and hundreds of parents and grandparents flood in to see the art. This year, our charter school wanted to participate and sent over some art. Unfortunately, there was no art board to go with it! I rigged one up from a big piece of cardboard and I think it worked well. I put out some art materials in the storyroom and lots of kids stopped by to make something. I might make that a little more organized in future; I had to rush b/c I had just had a very large book club meeting. We also combined with the adult art fest, which has live music and our local art foundation. They got fairly good attendance and several parents purchased items there as well. We might rearrange things a little next year and make sure our times coincide.

I'm going to write up more details about this year's sewing machine workshops later. They went well - one more next week.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: The Haunted House next door by Andres Miedoso, illustrated by Victor Rivas

Andres has moved to a new town, yet again. Boring old Kersville. Except maybe it's not quite so boring after all... First, he meets a strange kid next door called Desmond who drops some very odd hints about calling him for help. Then he discovers his new house has a ghost!

Luckily for Andres, Desmond just happens to be the world's eight-year-old ghost expert. Like a paranormal Encyclopedia Brown, Desmond sets out with his equipment and solves the problem. But can he solve it before the ghost destroys Andres' house or gets stinky ghost goo all over the couch??

Told in the first-person, this funny, gross, and slightly scary book is the perfect beginning chapter series for kids who are fans of Ghostbusters or want just that little hint of spooky, but not too spooky. Rivas' black and white illustrations show the normal-boring Andres, smart and sassy Desmond, and their clueless but friendly parents.

Even better, I've finally got a beginning chapter series starring a Hispanic family! Woo! Andres' family throws in the occasional Spanish phrase and have dark hair and light brown skin. His parents are scientists and move around frequently because they work for the government. Desmond and his family are African-American and they live a pretty typical suburban lifestyle. They're not sidekicks or friends of the white kid, they are the main protagonists!

Verdict: Kids will laugh out loud at the funny antics, shiver over the spooky haunting scenes, and snicker as the ghost gets a taste of Desmond's mom's lasagna. Yuck! Perfect for beginning chapter readers with large type and plenty of black and white illustrations. I'm going to have to wait because I want to add it to my series section, which I can only update annually, but next December I will be purchasing the whole series! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781534410381; Published December 2017 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life in the library

Listening to the beep of the self-checkout, I realized I was hearing a little voice accompanying it. I looked over and saw a little curly head peeking over the top of the desk. Every time their parent swiped a book across the pad, they were announcing "TA-DA!"

RFID is endlessly entertaining.

Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans and Vince Evans

Another average boy makes big in this wacky, Captain Underpants-like adventure. On his way home from school, Ralph is attacked by a bully who threatens him with a "honk-kazoo" or tuba. But he's got bigger problems when a tyrannosaurus rex shows up and squashes him! Ralph wakes up in the secret lab of weird, tattooed Professor Overdrive (the junkman from down the street) and his stereotypical Igor-like assistant, Lugnut. Turns out an even bigger bully, the alien Clobberus Crunch, is threatening to destroy Earth unless they send a representative to fight in his arena. Overdrive couldn't get anyone to listen, so he fired up his time machine and grabbed a dinosaur from the past...which stomped Ralph. So he put Ralph's brain in the dinosaur.

Ralph is not thrilled at being suddenly expected to fight all sorts of terrifying aliens, especially when he realizes he's up against even bigger bullies than he was on earth. But to save earth, his new friend Joona, and himself, he's going to have to find some courage somewhere and fight back.

Splashy color and wild hijinks abound on every page. There's plenty of cartoon violence, but no real gore, even if there's a lot of serious issues going on. The wacky aliens and Ralph's horror at being forced into a sort of Luchador fighting suit are played for laughs while Joona is sexually harassed and threatened by the evil alien general and admits to having been outcast and abandoned by her people because of her differences. Although Ralph wins out in the end, the story isn't over - he might get pulled back to fight at any time - and he has some pangs of conscience about scaring off his bullies on earth by being a bigger bully.

Overall, however, everything is played for laughs and it's the kind of adventure that Captain Underpants fans are sure to love. As an adult, I find the "average or wimpy boy saves the day" trope to be annoying and overused, but at least Ralph is not white. The humor is mostly pretty childish and while the threats against Joona and earth are definitely mature, they're likely to go right over the heads of the target audience for this, which is definitely below the Pilkey Line.

Verdict: Add where you have lots of fans of Captain Underpants and other gross and silly comics.

ISBN: 9781449472085; Published 2017 by AMP!; Borrowed from another library in my consortium