Monday, November 12, 2018

Absolute Expert: Dolphins by Jennifer Swanson with Justine Jackson-Ricketts

This is a new series from National Geographic, featuring the latest research, photographs, and facts about a popular science subject, in this case dolphins. The "National Geographic Explorer" is a real-life scientist who gives expert knowledge and talks about their own experience in the field. Bonus points for both (of the two titles currently out as I write this) being women.

The featured scientist for this title is Justine Jackson-Ricketts, marine biologist. She specifically studies dolphins in the gulf of Thailand. The first chapters introduces dolphins as a family and the different species included. After this overview, the book delves more deeply into the subject, covering dolphins' bodies, adaptations, and habitats. Dolphins' social habits are covered in the next chapter, including a discussion of dolphins in the wild and in captivity. The final chapter discusses current issues facing dolphins and human involvement, both good and bad.

Back matter includes a suggestion for getting involved, further reading, index and credits. Like most National Geographic titles, this is a nice mix of expository and narrative nonfiction, mixing information about dolphins with narratives of scientists' experiences, mythology, and how dolphins have affected, and been affected by, humans.

Verdict: This is an excellent new series that is sure to intrigue middle grade readers. It's best for those who are strong readers, as it's fairly text-heavy with a smaller font. There are still plenty of factoids and photographs for fun browsing though.

ISBN: 9781426330100; Published May 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 10, 2018

This week at the library; or, November

What's happening at the library
November I was going to plan fewer programs so I could write grants, work on projects, and plan for life-size candyland. HA HA HA HA HA HA. Maybe next week. Tuesday I covered storytime for my school colleague who, as I explained to people, told me where she was but I forgot. In the afternoon I put together my new dollhouse! Which turned out to have several broken pieces. This does not auger well. I set them with heavy-duty glue and got a 15% refund (couldn't get replacements - they didn't have it). Started a little on the grants, planning for next year, and a weeding project.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Timo goes camping by Victoria Allenby, illustrated by Dean Griffiths

I admit that when I saw this I was... skeptical. It's an odd little book, with illustrations that remind me of Michael Hague's oil paintings for Wind in the Willows, fairly dense text, albeit in a large font, and a slim, hardcover layout that just felt... odd. However, I ended up being charmed by Timo and his friends - which is a great bonus of Cybils, because you try different things!

Suki, a bouncy grey squirrel, has a great idea - the friends will go on a camping trip! Bogs the toad will sing, Rae the badger will do their engineering, and Hedgewick will cook. Timo, a gentle brown bunny, isn't so sure. He doesn't know how to camp - and neither do any of the others! So he takes himself to the library and finds just the right books. He takes lots of notes. Now Timo is ready, even though he's still nervous. When the camping trip starts, so do the disasters. Suki isn't quite as knowledgeable as she thought and when Timo tries to help she makes fun of him, as well as the others.

Finally, Timo has had enough. He tells Suki how upset and hurt he is and gets a surprising response. Suki apologizes and the others talk about how they feel; some of them were hurt by the teasing too and some don't care. In the end, Suki admits they all have a role to play, and Timo's notes and knowledge from the library turn out to be useful.

Paintings of the friends and their mishaps are scattered about the pages of this slim volume. While there's a definite moral pointed, there's just as much story as well and the lesson is given in a gentle, natural way. I also appreciated that while it's shown that Timo needed to speak up, Suki is just as at fault for not asking if her teasing hurt before assuming that it was ok.

Verdict: While I don't see this appealing to a broad range of my readers, it's too low-key and gentle a story for most of them, plus the text is fairly challenging, I definitely have an audience who will love these. I have a section of young readers who are very fluent and whose parents want them to read quiet stories along these lines and the kids enjoy them as well. Definitely putting on my list.

ISBN: 9781772780406; Published March 2018 by Pajama Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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

This clever board book will appeal to both adults and children with its mingling of shapes, colors, and animals.

On the left side of the spread is the text of the page and a small image of an animal. On the right is a large shape. The text combines the two, "When a lazy turtle meets an oval, they become a..." and the following spread shows a cute combination of the two, "Slow-val".

Each shape cleverly combines the animal, shape, and description; the turtle is a large green oval, legs and tail tucked around itself, compared to a school of darting green fish. A woodpecker flattens itself against a trapezoid to become a "tap-tap-ezoid" as it taps on the bark. An orange-brown dog squats into a hexagon to become a "scent-agon" as it sniffs for a cat.

Some of the shapes are advanced for the audience - trapezoid, hexagon - but little ones can still enjoy the funny sounds - and the funny combinations of animals that result! The brightly-colored illustrations are very attractive and the text simple and brisk.

Verdict: A delightful addition to any board book collection; Recommended.

ISBN: 9781499805345; Published March 2018 by little bee; Purchased for the library 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pterodactyl show and tell by Thad Krasnewsky, illustrated by Tanya Leonello

Kids really like books where things, people, kids, or animals get eaten. They just do. Get used to it. This book not only fulfills that basic urge, it also includes dinosaurs, so pretty the two best things ever!

The story opens with a orange-haired kid with a mischievous grin bringing his giant, green pterodactyl to school for show and tell (with a falconer's glove and red leash, naturally). The other kids, a blend of races and skin colors, are horrified by this monstrous creature and with good reason - one by one the students start disappearing!

From quiet reading time to recess, math to lunch, and all periods in between, the hungry pterodactyl chows down and the class gets smaller and smaller until only our red-headed mischief-maker and his pet are left.... but what will happen when he gets moved up to fourth grade?

Leonello's cartoons are full of many hilarious tidbits; during quiet reading time the kids read books with titles like "It's coming to get you" or "Scary stories" with a picture of a toothy pterodactyl on the cover. Small dinosaur models and other jokes are hidden throughout the book and the narrator's naughty grin will keep readers giggling through the tale of saurian greed. It would have been nice to see one of the diverse kids as the main character; kids of color never seem to get an opportunity to be funny. However, I did appreciate the more realistic class size (at least until they start getting eaten...).

Verdict: If, like me, you like to have "things being eaten" themed storytimes, this is a definite addition to that delightful genre.

ISBN: 9781936261345; Published October 3, 2018 by Flashlight Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 5, 2018

Absolute Expert: Volcanoes by Lela Nargi, with Arianna Soldati

This is a new series from National Geographic. It has the latest research and information, as well as interviews and input from a current scientist in the field.

The book is laid out in typical National Geographic style, with lots of inset panels with additional information, photographs, varying fonts, etc. The book is divided into four chapters. It covers the basic formation and existence of volcanoes, both on earth and in space, different types of volcanoes, how volcanoes affect - and are affected and studied by - humans, and finally a collection of current information on climate change, scientists, and what we can look forward to in the future regarding volcanoes.

The featured scientist is Arianna Soldati and throughout the book she interjects her scientific expertise and personal experiences working with volcanoes. Back matter includes some additional experiments and reading, index, and credits. The book is a trim size, big enough to look and feel like a chapter book, not a picture book, but sizable enough to contain all the various information packed in it.

Verdict: This new series from National Geographic is a nice addition to their repertoire and sure to be popular with middle grade readers who have strong reading skills and enjoy science and nonfiction.

ISBN: 9781426331428; Published August 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This week at the library; or, Goodbye October

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9:15-5:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
Projects

Friday, November 2, 2018

King of the bench: Kicking and screaming by Steve Moore

This is a notebook novel, one of the countless spawned by the mighty machine of Wimpy Kid. This one has a sports focus - the main character is also purportedly the author. Steve is your average kid - he likes sports and has pretty good hand to eye coordination, but his feet - not so coordinated. Which is bad when soccer is the THE most popular sport in the world and he hates it. A fact which he inadvertently mentions to his friends, short and psychic Joey, enigmatic and weird Carlos, and Becky with the perfect smile.

Becky who also loves soccer.

Becky who now isn't speaking to him.

So, Steve braves bullies, humiliation, and signs up for the JV soccer team, just to prove to Becky that he's willing to learn about her beloved game. Then he finds himself on a bus to a soccer tournament, sprayed by a skunk, meeting the craziest best soccer player in the world, and, just maybe, learning to actually... like soccer?

The book is illustrated throughout with scratchy black and white cartoons which reminded me a little of Gary Larson or Stephen Pastis' style (Pastis blurbed the book). It has the requisite bodily humor jokes, weird best friends, and (sort of) triumph of the underdog. At least Becky is talking to him again (or will be, after he stops smelling of skunk).

There's a fair amount of soccer talk in here - sports aren't a huge deal around here, not as much as, say, football in Texas, but I do get a lot of requests for soccer players, mostly from the Hispanic kids who are more familiar with the Brazilian and other teams. There's also the deprecatory tone of many of these notebook novels, where the kid kind of realizes he's on the outside and/or sometimes being a jerk, but just keeps going anyways. There is some diversity, but all secondary characters (Becky is a great soccer player, the celebrity player is from South America). While I personally didn't find it particularly funny, as I often tell kids humor is subjective!

Verdict: While I have a lot of Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Dork Diaries fans, my library kids won't necessarily pick up any book that's a notebook novel. They've largely turned up their noses at Timmy Failure, Classroom, Charlie Joe Jackson, and only some kids are Patterson fans. If you have diehard notebook novel fans or sports fiction enthusiasts, this would be a fun addition to the collection.

ISBN: 9780062203342; Published March 2018 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bella Broomstick: Magic Mistakes by Lou Kuenzler

I can't really explain what unmistakably marks some books as of British origin - there's a certain whacky, Dahlesque flavor of fantasy that just is British and this definitely falls into that category.

Bella Broomstick lives with her nasty Aunt Hemlock and is the worst witch ever, not even counting her own parents (a spell to turn themselves into mice to make baby Bella laugh went sadly awry). She's failed the witch's exam two times and her third, dramatic failure, condemns her to a horrible fate - being sent to the human world! Except Bella is actually not so sure this is a horrible fate after all. She's sneaked a lot of peeks at a department store catalog and the thought of hot baths instead of a dip in the sludgy pond, a bathroom instead of an outhouse, and no more eating spiders and toads sounds good to her! Her new foster parents are lovely and she's fitting right in, mostly, until she loses the magical moth Aunt Hemlock enchanted to make the Ables want her. They couldn't possibly want to keep her without magic, could they?

Bella and her aunt are shown with the same dark skin and curly hair and Mr. Able is lightly tanned (although with black and white illustrations it's hard to tell if he's white or not). The rest of the human and witch world is shown as white (or, occasionally, green). There are lots of cute pictures of cats, sparkling potions, and Bella's new life as well as little decorations of her mean aunt turning her into things and her gruesome life before the Ables.

This is a very typical "rags to riches" story with a Dahlesque flavor of wicked villains and Bella's dark skin adding just a little diversity (one review says that all the "bad" people are dark-skinned but that's... not true? The nasty Seymour family is white and the pictures of the girls who bullied Bella in the witch world show them as white also while Mr. Able is possibly a little darker in skin tone.) The over-the-top abuse of Bella was just icky to me - her aunt threatens, beats, and uses magic on her, eats spiders and other nasty tidbits, and is just generally nasty. But for kids who like this dramatic genre, it's sure to be a hit.

Verdict: If you have a lot of fans of Dahl and this particular brand of British humor this could be popular; it isn't one that's gotten a lot of interest in my library though, so I'll pass.

ISBN: 9781524767815; This edition published August 2018 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: 1 Grumpy Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce fans will instantly recognize the curmudgeonly bear from his previous adventures in this new board book title. The counting book begins with "1 grumpy bear" showing Bruce glaring out from a bold yellow background. He's joined by "2 uninvited skunks" and then the partying mice, "helping" geese, and so on until the story arrives at a spread of light blue and a welter of animals "having fun" but, as the last page shows and says, there's still "1 grumpy bear" as Bruce glares out from his yellow background, now sprinkled with confetti.

This is funny, especially to fans, but as an actual board book for toddlers isn't quite so successful. The Bruce stories have a fair amount of irony and sarcasm, something that young children generally don't grasp. However, they will have fun counting the various animals and adults can enjoy the silly expressions and Bruce's obvious discomfort in his unplanned party.

Verdict: Purchase where Bruce is a fan favorite among parents and children.

ISBN: 9781368023634; Published October 9, 2018; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Life with my family by Renee Hooker and Karl Jones, illustrated by Kathryn Durst

An older sister reflects that "Life with my family is not always easy." She imagines what it would be like if they were a different family... maybe pelicans, buffalo, or even wombats! But even animals have their problems and she eventually decides "while we're together, there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

Durst shows an exuberantly diverse family; a father with dark skin and curly hair, mother Asian mother, and mixed race children from the narrator with dreadlocks to her light-skinned, red-haired brother and baby sibling with a tuft of curly dark hair. The imaginative pictures of the family as animals are humorous and varied; her wombat brother who gets taken to the zoo has a purple bowtie and tuft of red hair while in jellyfish form the family retains their hairstyles, glasses, earrings, and that same bowtie.

The final spread lists more collective nouns and some extra pictures of the family as a bloat of pink hippopotamuses, colony of penguins, and parliament of owls. I've never understood the obsession with collective nouns - every staff member who saw this immediately pounced on it and made cooing sounds - but it must be like sloths, which I also don't get the appeal of.

Verdict: A light and amusing story; there's not a lot of substance here (it doesn't really make sense for the girl to imagine them all as animals when things are chaotic) but the warm, loving family resonates throughout the story and the rich diversity is a welcome sight.

ISBN: 9781524789374; Published October 16, 2018 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 29, 2018

Now you know how it works by Valorie Fisher

Kids love to know how things work, but it's not often I find books that are just right for the preschool and lower elementary age that fills that need (and I'm not talking about the four-year-old who explained to us all how compasses work. I have no idea where they got that from.)

Fisher, whose playful photography will be familiar to fans of Everything I need to know before I'm five, does an excellent job of illustrating and explaining the inner mechanics of a fascinating variety of things. Readers and listeners will learn the inner workings of a toilet (along with diagrams of where the water goes and how the tank fills up again), how shadows work, with a simple series of yellow balls, arrows, and a green background; the more complex inside of a lightbulb, and how air pressure and straws work.

There are a total of 22 items explained in the book, from whistles to where garbage goes, from blenders to how pencils are made (and sharpened). Simple formulas and pictorial guidelines are given before the reader starts, including how to read the various arrows, and there is a pictorial glossary at the end of the book. The book is illustrated in blocks of background color, with photographs of vintage toys, and with simple diagrams of the insides of various tools and machines.

Verdict: This is a must-have for any school or library that serves preschool up through 2nd grade; curious kids are sure to spend plenty of time investigating the contents and adults may learn a few things as well!

ISBN: 9781338215458; Published September 2018 by Orchard Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, October 28, 2018

RA RA Read: Easy Readers for the absolute beginner

With the advent of four year old kindergarten in our town around 2014, I saw an increasing emphasis on kids reading at a younger age. Regardless of whether or not this is developmentally appropriate (it's not in my opinion and that of many educators) we continue to get more and more parents and caregivers asking for easier easy readers.

This is how our easy readers are grouped or "leveled".

The most often asked-for easy readers are ones for emergent readers - those with just a few words per page. Think the BOB books which, yes, we do have! In fact, we have a whole shelf of boxes of little paperbacks. I am currently purchasing large classroom sets from Scholastic of their guided readers, which I'll sort into small tupperwares to add to our checkout. Some other popular box sets include:

Boxed Sets
  • BOB Books
    • Set 1, ISBN 0439845009
  • Learn to Read with Tug the Pup
    • Set 1, ISBN 9780062266897
  • Biscuit Phonics Fun
    • ISBN 9780061432040
  • Guided Science Readers
    • Level A, ISBN 9780545650922
More simple easy readers are listed below. Not all are strictly leveled readers or leveled at an emergent level, but they're what appeal to both children and caregivers at that level - and I feel there's nothing wrong with reading together!

Easy Reader Series
  • Berenstain Bears
    • The Big Honey Hunt
    • Bears on Wheels
    • Big Bear, Small Bear
    • Old Hat, New Hat
  • Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Little Lizard by Melinda Crow
  • Clara and Clem by Ethan Long
  • Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
  • Cat the cat by Mo Willems
  • Silly Lilly by Agnes Rosenstiehl
  • Brownie and Pearl by Cynthia Rylant
  • Trucktown by Jon Sciesczka
  • Various by Jan Thomas (originally published as picture books, now being repackaged as easy readers)
Easy Reader Imprints/Publishers
  • National Geographic Pre-Readers
  • My First I Can Read (check these - not all are truly emergent readers)
  • Bullfrog Books
  • I Like to Read from Holiday House (I feel that some of the illustrations in this are a bit odd)
Picture Book Authors
  • Eric Carle
  • Donald Crews
  • Lois Ehlert
  • Denise Fleming
  • Jorey Hurley
  • Nancy Tafuri


Saturday, October 27, 2018

This week at the library; or, October can end now!

Happening at the library
  • Monday 12-8
    • Discovery Playgroup
    • Paws to Read
    • Books for Bedtime
    • 12-3 Manager's Meeting
    • 5-8 information desk
  • Tuesday 10-6ish
  • Wednesday 8:30-1, 3:45-8
  • Thursday 10:30-2:30
  • Friday 8:30-3:15
    • Closed for staff work day
  • Saturday 10-2
I heard back Monday morning that our volunteer was available again and Paws to Read has resumed! She brought five adorable kittens - one was super adventurous, climbing to the top of chairs, investigating walls, and finally settling in to a windowsill where she could watch the traffic. Another hid under the sink and refused to come until it was time to leave. So a variety of personalities there. Last full week of craziness, also working on finalizing plans through the end of the year, next year, and a list of data on staff work day which took longer than I'd expected so I didn't get to the other stuff I'd planned. There were snakes and they were awesome as always.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Epic Fails: Wright Brothers: Nose-diving into history by Erik Slader and Ben Thompson

This is a new, nonfiction series that combines cartoons, black and white photos, and brisk, humorous prose to tell the stories of famous failures.

The authors tell the story of the famous Wright brothers, starting from a massive crash at Kitty Hawk and moving through many set-backs, failures, and discouragements until they finally succeeded. The authors include stories of the brothers' early life, their financial struggles, the wider context of scientific research (and not-so-scientific research....) into aviation, and graphic stories of their struggles, experiments, and setbacks.

Pop culture references may eventually date the title, but they definitely make the story pop. Ha. Couldn't resist. The authors include the influence of the brothers' sister, Katharine, and hilarious accounts of their dangerous and uncomfortable experiments, how nutty people thought they were, and simple and understandable explanations of the science involved.

Verdict: This is a fun new series that's sure to appeal to fans of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, the Who Was series, and any kids interested in history, science, and humorous stories. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250150561; Published 2018 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bea Garcia: Tale of a Scaredy Dog by Deborah Zemke

Bea Garcia is back in her third book. By now, readers will know that she is in second grade, loves to draw, is sort-of friends with super-smart Judith Einstein and definite enemies with next-door-neighbor Bert.

In her latest run-in with Bert, Bea and Bert are supposed to interview each other for class. Bea just writes "GRRRR" for all his answers and Bert scribbles untrue things about her, so she crumples up the paper. This gets the two of them in trouble - they have to interview each other's families over the weekend. Bert's mom isn't bad, but it turns out that Bert does have a pet... Big Kitty! And Bea's pet dog Sophie, is so scared that she runs away, chased by that mean cat!

Bea is miserable, especially when they find Bert's pet but not hers. But with some help from her friends and family, maybe Sophie will come home after all.

This is a notebook novel for younger readers; 1st-2nd graders are the ideal audience. Zemke's scratchy black and white pictures decorate each page, sometimes taking over a whole spread, sometimes confined in individual panels. Bea is a relatable character; she loves to draw, Spanish phrases and words are sprinkled into the text, she finds her little brother Pablo annoying but still loves him anyways.

As an adult, I find Bert's mean behavior bordering on bullying and the clueless adults, who keep trying to push them together, a little annoying. Yes, sometimes Bea is not as nice as she might be to Bert, but he is really nasty to her! Her parents aren't particularly sympathetic either, trying to make her be "nice" to a kid who's basically pretty nasty. I'd separate them completely instead of trying to make them work together, but I'm not a teacher or a parent.

Verdict: This is a popular series in my library, especially for kids who would like to read popular notebook novels but aren't quite old enough yet. I also appreciate the inclusion of a Latina character.

ISBN: 9780735229389; Published July 2018 by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Small Readers: Fly Guy and the Alienzz by Tedd Arnold

It's been quite a while since I've actually read a Fly Guy book - I'm usually more busy buying more copies as they fly off the shelves!

This latest adventure makes Fly Guy the star of his own movie! After a brief introduction of Fly Guy and his owner, Buzz, the story begins. Buzz is making a movie - he cuts out backgrounds and draws titles and then sets up his phone for a camera. Fly Guy and Buzz are shown first as puppets on sticks and then, as the story progresses, they morph into themselves as their imagination takes over. They battle with the aliens, finally rescued by Fly Girl. But what about Buzz? The aliens still have him on their ship! Looks like there will have to be another story...

Arnold's familiar illustrations, with huge, bulging eyes, earth tones, and simple shapes will be immediately recognized by readers who have read his other titles. The text is bold and with a font that uses small seraphs. It's an intermediate easy reader for my library, usually recommended to kids in 2nd grade. This one will be more challenging because of the switch in perspectives from the puppets to the actual characters, but kids who have read other Fly Guy titles and have some fluency are likely to pick up the nuances fairly easily.

Verdict: Fly Guy is a pretty basic requirement for any easy reader section - the only question is how many copies you need to purchase.

ISBN: 9780545663182; Published April 2018 by Cartwheel/Scholastic; Purchased 3 copies for the library

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The day you begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

For some reason I thought this was a new baby book - but it's really about new beginnings anywhere, especially in school.

A diverse array of children, centering on the girl on the cover, are shown entering new situations or groups in which they feel left out. In gentle, poetical words, Woodson addresses readers directly - maybe they feel out of place because they look different than the other children, like the girl on the cover. Or, like a new boy in school, they speak a different language. Their food is different, their economic situation is different, they are shy or uncertain of how to enter into a group.

But each one of the lonely children begins to find their own voice. They think about their strengths and unique qualities, about the things they can do, and as they share they find things in common and the children become friends.

With Lopez' dazzling and colorful illustrations, this is not just a good first day of school book, or a celebration of differences, it's a warm and encouraging tale for kids who are taking the first steps in trying something new, whether that be learning a new language, attending a new school, or adjusting to changes in their family.

Verdict: I predict this one will be a favorite choice for teachers at back-to-school functions, but I hope it gets pulled out frequently in many different situations so kids can fall in love with the illustrations and be encouraged and inspired by the text.

ISBN: 9780399246531; Published August 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 22, 2018

Eavesdropping on elephants: How listening helps conservation by Patricia Newman

I've really liked Newman's science titles for middle grade readers in the past and her latest is no exception. Featuring a popular large animal, elephants, this blends science and conservation, mystery and career advice, to give kids a window into the lives of elephants and the scientists who study them.

The book opens with the subsonic rumblings of elephants and the beginning of the Elephant Listening Project in 1984 as biologist Katy Payne transitioned from listening to whales to the seemingly similar sounds of elephants.

Over the years, Katy and other scientists worked to research infrasound, sounds too low for human ears to hear. As readers follow Payne and her assistants on her journey, they'll learn more about the science behind different types of sound and they'll meet many different elephants (for fans like me there are bongos too! I love bongos.).

The project encompasses developing technology, encroaching poachers and habitat destruction, and the accumulation and organization of thousands of hours of data as the scientists worked to make sense of the elephants' sounds. As the years passed, new scientists Liz Rowland and Peter Wrege came on board and the goal of the project began to shift from researching elephant sounds to helping them survive. Then they made a discovery - they could use the sounds of elephants and their scientific interpretation to keep them safe, monitor their health, and advise governments on protecting them.

The book ends with a chapter reflecting on the long history of research into elephant sounds, especially forest elephants as shown in this book, and their current vulnerability, the many challenges they face, and how continued research into infrasound could help. Throughout the book there are QR codes that will allow readers to listen to some of the sounds described. Back matter includes links and suggestions on getting involved, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading (books and websites), index, and acknowledgements.

Verdict: For readers who love animals and want to get involved, kids who are fascinated by science, and all those elephant lovers, this is a great book to expand their knowledge and help them learn that there's a lot more to elephants than just "big." Recommended.

ISBN: 9781541515710; Published August 2018 by Millbrook/Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, October 21, 2018

RA RA Read: Scary Stories from Beginning to End

Interest in scary stories waxes and wanes, but it's always there. Over the past years I've gotten more and more requests for scary stories for younger listeners and readers, which is always tricky. "Scary" is very individual too, much like humor. However, here are my favorite recommendations to get started.

Scary Picture Books
  • Bone soup by Cambria Evans
  • The Monster and the Tailor by Paul Galdone (OP)
  • The Book That Eats People by John Perry
  • Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
  • Cinderella Skeleton by Robert San Souci
Easy Readers and Beginning Chapters
  • Eek! Stories to make you shriek by Jane O'Connor
    • All the other books in this series are out of print
  • Scary Tales by James Preller
  • Ghosts! Ghostly stories from folklore; In a dark, dark room by Alvin Schwartz
Middle Grade
Young Adult
  • Through the woods by Emily Carroll (GN)
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Series)
    • Not so much horror as dark fantasy; these are being republished fall 2018!
  • Natasha Preston
  • Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (Series)
    • Multiple related and unrelated series and manga adaption, which I don't think is scary at all.
  • Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith (Series)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

This week at the library; or, How time flies

Happening this week at the library
Professional Development
  • Programming for 'Tweens by Amanda Struckmeyer, online class at UW-Madison, week 5 (final week)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trapped in a video game by Dustin Brady, illustrated by Jesse Brady

There's not a high level of literary quality in this book. In fact, the writing is kind of awful. I intend to buy multiple copies and I expect it to fly off the shelves.

Jesse isn't interested in video games (this is never explained) but he gives in to his friend Eric's mysterious text message to go over to his house... the next thing he knows, he's IN a video game, with Eric! Eric clearly thinks this is the most awesome fun ever - they're fighting aliens, jumping from level to level, and if they get shot they just go back to the beginning of the level. But then something goes wrong and they're trapped. Will they figure out a way to escape? Are they the only people trapped in the game? Oh, yeah, and a booger is a major plot point.

The black and white digital cartoons reminded me of the many, many, many minecraft books I've bought and there's a lot of white space on the pages. Eric appears to have darker skin and hair. The action moves fast, it's violent but only aliens are killed, and video game fans of pretty much any game are sure to grab this off the shelf. There is some slight character development between Eric and Jesse, surrounding their friendship, but it's not an integral part of the story.

Verdict: This is one of those titles that lures reluctant readers and kids who normally prefer a different media, like video games, to books. It's not great literature and the sketchy plot, rapid action, and choppy prose are likely to make English teachers wince, but hand it to your Minecraft, Super Rabbit Boy, and video game fans in general and watch the reading love grow!

ISBN: 9781449494865; Published 2018 by Andrews McMeel; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Owl Diaries: Eva's big sleepover by Rebecca Elliott

I am not an infallible judge of books. Evidence of this is my review of Owl Diaries when it first came out, back in 2015. I felt pretty "meh" about the first book, Eva's Treetop Festival. I'm here with the ninth book in the series and I freely admit that I was wrong.

In Eva's latest adventure, she is excited about her first sleepover. But when she takes her hatch-day shell to school for show and tell, she's upset by a careless comment from another owlet. Now she wishes she didn't have to invite Sue - but when Sue turns down her invitation she feels differently. With the help of her friends and family, will she be friends again with Sue and will they all have fun at her sleepover?

The story is in diary format on lined pages with a plethora of brightly colored illustrations. I'm sure all the kids have memorized which owl is which, but other than trying to remember that Eva is the one with the pink head and big blue circles around her eyes, I can't keep them straight. It's not as challenging as the more substantive Branches titles like Dragon Masters or Eerie Elementary, but it's a little more challenging than Boris. It is easy to follow the text and speech bubbles and the text is bold, if not large.

Do I still think that it's pretty stereotyped and formulaic? Yes. Does the endless drama give me a headache? Absolutely. Do kids love this to the point of literally fighting each other for copies? Oh yeah.

Verdict: I am now buying at least 4 copies of each new title and separating students (and siblings) as they each want their own copy! It seems to exactly hit the sweet spot for 2nd grade girls (I haven't run into any boys willing to read them) and they eagerly await each installment.

ISBN: 9781338163070; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Purchased 4 copies (paperback) for the library

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Small Readers: The Itchy Book by LeUyen Pham

This is part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series; each title is introduced with popular characters Elephant and Piggie in a brief exchange and finishes with another comic interlude with the pair. I was surprised to realize I hadn't reviewed this one, since I must have read it 20 times last spring with class visits!

Piggie introduces the story by asking Gerald if he likes books that make you "feel things" and when Gerald confirms that yes, he does, the story begins! We first see a black and grey stone with "dinosaurs do not scratch" carved into it and a turtle sleeping below the words. A bespectacled orange-brown dinosaur, dressed in blue t-shirt and white shorts, reads the stone and is surprised to learn something new... when a triceratops happens along. When they start to scratch, the first dinosaur points out the stone and the fun begins... naturally, once they've been forbidden to do so, more and more dinosaurs show up with a desperate need to scratch! The first dinosaur is strong though - nothing will make them scratch! Not grass clippings, ants, itchy sweaters, nothing! Only one thing can make them scratch... when the turtle finally moves and the rest of the carved words appear!

Elephant and Piggie finish the story with some funny words about scratching - and friends. Pham's colorful art is sprinkled with speech balloons in different colors, including some comic panels. This title fits well into the Elephant and Piggie series, even though it's much more colorful, including backgrounds and lots of details. Emerging readers may find it difficult to follow, with the many different colors and some variety in fonts, but readers at approximately a first grade, beginning level will have no problem. It also makes a great read-aloud!

Verdict: While not a top pick for actual reading mechanics, this is certainly a top pick for fun! Beginning readers are sure to enjoy the continuation of Elephant and Piggie's adventures as well as Pham's artwork and silly story for their own merits.

ISBN: 9781368005647; Published May 2018 by Hyperion; Purchased 2 copies for the library

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Read Scary: Bone Soup: A spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Tom Knight

Capucilli, author of Biscuit and many other titles, turns out a cheerful, if rather gross, Halloween book. In a play on the classic "Stone Soup" story, Naggy, Craggy, and Scraggy Witch have nothing to eat but a bone - so they decide to make bone soup! They carry their cauldron and bone to a town and begin knocking on doors. With cheerful exclamations, "Piff-poof! It's no trick." they request help from the various monsters, ghosts, and ghouls they meet and add to their bone water, eyeballs, crunchy lizard tails, dead leaves, and more.

Just when the monsters are getting restless, a little monster supplies the final, magic ingredient and they all settle in to enjoy a bewitching and "bone-chillingly delicious" treat.

The final page includes a recipe for Naggy Witch's Bone Soup (it can be made with a turnip or ham bone and a variety of vegetables) and a note from the author on the origins of the story and how she chose to reinterpret it.

This isn't the first reimagining of Stone Soup for Halloween; Cambria Evan's 2008 title, Bone Soup was a more straight-forward reimagining of the tale with a wandering, round-faced monster interesting a variety of monstrous villagers in whipping up a batch of "bone soup" after they refuse to feed him or bring out their delicacies. This title is more text-heavy but lighter in feeling, with no hints of a trick, just sharing amongst monsters. While both are reviewed as not scary, I still wouldn't use them with a toddler or preschool audience, especially where there are concerns about Halloween celebrations. Save this one for elementary students who can sit through a longer story, are comparing folktale versions, or want to try out a little cookery on their own.

Verdict: A fun addition with activities to your Halloween collections; purchase where Evan's Bone Soup and other ghoulish treats are popular.

ISBN: 978148148608; Published July 2018 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 15, 2018

The monarchs are missing by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Say "butterfly" to a kid or adult and odds are good they will immediately think of a monarch butterfly. These gorgeous orange and black insects are known for their amazing migrations across the US to Mexico, the iconic pictures of trees covered in monarchs, and their distinctive striped black, white, and yellow-green caterpillars. But, like so many other creatures, the monarchs are in danger. In the winter of 2013/2014, historically low numbers were recorded at the wintering grounds in Mexico. Hirsch goes on a journey through the history of monarchs up to present-day scientists to solve the mystery.

Hirsch takes readers through the discovery of the monarchs' unique migration patterns; one large group, those to the west of the Rocky Mountains, migrated to California. Those east of the Rockies seemed to simply disappear. At the same time, small villages in the mountains of central Mexico welcomed floods of mariposas every year, without knowing where they came from. Finally, in the 1970s, scientists discovered the monarchs in a forest high in the mountains in Mexico. Hirsch continues through the scientific discoveries of the monarch's life cycle and migration, ending with their slow decline, beginning in the 90s.

Scientists discovered multiple factors affecting the monarchs; climate change and local habitat destruction was making the Mexican oyamel forests no longer a safe haven for the monarchs. Changes in weather patterns in Texas have also affected the monarchs. Milkweed was disappearing from the fields and tropical milkweed was disrupting the monarchs' migration patterns and possibly giving them diseases. Is there hope for the monarchs, threatened by many different elements? Hirsch explores the measures being taken to save monarchs, how readers can get involved, and the continuing work of scientists to protect these dazzling insects.

Verdict: This is an excellent introduction to a complicated scientific problem, one that kids can easily get involved in. A great point to start research or a school project, this is sure to be popular with teachers and students alike.

ISBN: 9781512452501; Published 2018 by Millbrook; Purchased for the library

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cybils 2018 Nomination Suggestions


If you're like me, you read a ton of children's books - but it's hard to remember that great book you read last November when it comes time for Cybils nominations! So here are some suggestions to jog your memory. Nominations are open Oct 1 - Oct 15.

Elementary Nonfiction
  • Baby animals eating by Suzi Ezsterhas
  • Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins
  • Living in South Korea by Chloe Perkins
  • Let's hatch chicks by Lisa Steele
  • Seed is the start by Melissa Stewart
  • What makes a blizzard by Zoehfeld
  • Bowhead whale by Karpik
  • Bonkers about beetles by Owen Davey
  • Prickly hedgehogs by McGuinness
Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • To Pluto and beyond by Elaine Scott
  • Kids' guide to the American Revolution by Kathleen Krull (could be junior nonfiction)
  • You wouldn't want to live without simple machines
  • Hidden women by Rissman
  • Trash vortex 9780756557454 
  • Girls think of everything (new, updated edition) 9781328772534
  • Bat citizens by Rob Laidlaw
Junior/Senior High Nonfiction
  • Streetcar to justice by Hearth
  • In harm's way by Iain Martin
  • Deep dark blue 9781250128522
  • Locked up for freedom 9781467785976
  • Extreme survivors by Ridley
  • My shot by Donne 9781534412286 
  • Fierce by Raisman 9780316472708 
Board Books
  • Dirty birdies (9781585363896)
  • Go baby, Go dog (9780807529713)
  • Goodnight Pepe and Millie (9780807564837)
  • Mrs. Peanuckle's tree alphabet (9781623369439)
  • Rabbit (9781682973318)
  • Sip chew yum (9781680522822)
  • So far up by Strasser
  • This book (9780807578810)
  • Walk and see ABC (9780763696238)
  • Walk and see Colors (9780763699178)
  • Water (9780807505175)
  • Where's the unicorn 9781536206968
  • Cement Mixer's ABC
  • Dump Truck's Colors
  • 1 grumpy bruce by Ryan Higgins
  • Walk in the forest 9781680522365
  • Happy dog 9780312524890 
  • Jungle gym 9781585363902
Fiction Picture Books
Easy Readers
  • Mighty Truck on the farm by Chris Barton
  • Mouse loves spring by Lauren Thompson
  • I wish I was a gorilla by Sandra Markle
  • Luna and the lost shell by Cari Meister
  • Snowy surprise by Kallie George
  • Marigold fairy makes a friend by Dennis
  • Much too much birthday by J. E. Morris
  • Jump by David McPhail
  • See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
  • Croc and Ally by Derek Anderson
Early Chapters
  • Unicorns and germs by Asia Citro
  • Logan the puppy by Jane Clarke
  • Whoooo done it by Jacobs (9781481499620)
  • UFO spotted by Hilde Lysiak
  • Royal Island by Alexa Pearl
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Pup called trouble by Bobbie Pyron
  • War below by Marsha Skrypuch
  • tbh, this is so awkward by Lisa Greenwald
  • Digging for trouble by Linda Fairstein
  • MVP summer by Iva Palmer
Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
  • Stinky Cecil in mudslide mayhem by Paige Braddock
  • Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans
  • League of Lasers by Mike Lawrence
  • Bolivar by Sean Rubin
  • Robots and Drones by Scott
  • Meteorite or meteor-wrong by Shaskan
  • George Washington by Fred Van Lente

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week at the library; or, October

My office, glimpsed dimly in the distance, after Tuesday's
cardboard program and before we put the spoils away
Happening at the library
Ugh. 80 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday spent all day (after storytime in the morning) working on the budget. I got one account absolutely even, one within six cents (and that's good enough) and the third I am just guessing. For the fort night on Friday (not Fortnite, as I must have explained a million times) I told people to bring flashlights and blankets and they could hang out in the library with their kids after we closed at 6 until 8pm. A local mom came in and did bedtime yoga at 6:30, some of the 4K teachers and my colleague from the school brought in snacks and helped out, and I had a bunch of glow sticks I bought on clearance. The legos were still up from Free Lego Build and I brought out the building things from our school-age maker space. It was a relatively easy program and people really enjoyed it - we had about 50. I also had some extra sheets and lengths of cloth for those who forgot to bring blankets.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Two dogs in a trench coat go to school by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack

This author started with a picture book series, Snappsy the Alligator, which I personally disliked, even though everyone else seemed to be gushing over them. But this middle grade series, now THIS is funny. I laughed the whole way through.

Sassy and Waldo are Very Good Dogs. They keep the house free of squirrels, patrol for lost bits of food, and make sure their boy, Stewart, is happy. But Stewart isn't happy! Every day he has to go to this terrible place called School and he comes home smelling both bored and anxious. Sassy and Waldo decide they must do something! So, after several failed (and hilarious) attempts, they find an old trench coat, Waldo reveals that he's learned to speak from watching television, and they're off to school.

Waldo and Sassy introduce themselves as a student named Salty and they quickly decide that Stewart is a confusing boy because school is wonderful! Meaty lunches (why don't they get lunch?) fun projects, and a nice guy who wants to be their friend. What could be better? But Stewart's been hiding some secrets and there are a lot of surprises about school that Waldo and Sassy aren't expecting.

Black and white cartoons sprinkle the pages of this quirky story that will make you laugh and leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Waldo and Sassy are absolutely dogs and their explanation of squirrel mythos is hilarious. The teacher worried about spies, the bully who's not really a bully, it just made me laugh and keep smiling after the book was over.

Verdict: For kids who want a funny read, fans of Stick Dog, and anyone who wants a laugh break. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781338189513; Published May 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Owen and Eleanor move in by H. M. Bouwman, illustrated by Charlie Alder

Two very different families learn to live together in this new beginning chapter book series.

Eleanor is not happy about moving; they have to share a house with another family (it's a two-level duplex), she had to leave her treehouse behind, and her fish, Scrumpy the Fourth, died on the way. When she meets Owen, she's intrigued; he's homeschooled, has some cool ideas, and is very excited to have a new friend his own age right there! Eleanor decides he's just the right person to help in her plan... to run away back to her old home.

It's very rare to find children's literature where faith is included in the story; not as a proselytizing tool or the focus, but as an everyday part of life. There are almost as few books that include homeschooling! Eleanor's family is black and conventionally religious; Owen's family is white and have a more general spirituality. The kids ask matter of fact questions - that's not the way we pray, why are you homeschooled - and talk casually with their parents about religious ideas. It doesn't overshadow the main plot of the story, which is quirky Eleanor's determination to bury Scrumpy back at her old house (and move back there) and Owen's worries about keeping his new friend. Black and white sketches, mostly of various items, are scattered throughout the book.

Verdict: This stands out as a well-written book with a strong sense of diversity and inclusion. The humor and plot will also appeal to young readers who will be able to recognize their own concerns and trials throughout the story. Definitely fills a gap in beginning chapter books; strongly recommended.

ISBN: 9781506439723; Published 2018 by Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Small Readers: A Windy Day by Spencer Brinker

This is a new series/imprint from Bearport, a prebound, series nonfiction publisher. They have a lot of high-interest, low-reading level books, and although my preference is always for their animal titles, which are very popular in my library, I'm always willing to take a look at what else they're working on. This easy reader series is called "Bearcub Books" and the series is "Weather Watch." I received a copy of the title A Windy Day for review.

Each photographic spread shows something blowing in the wind and has two short sentences. On the top left, against a yellow rectangle, it says "Today is windy." On the bottom right, against rectangles of varying colors, each sentence starts with "I see" and then names the item in the picture - long hair (the mane on a horse), a flag, a leaf, etc. The opening and closing sentences vary slightly, "Look! It is windy." and "Look around! What can you see on a windy day?"

Each page is numbered, on a small yellow circle. There is a brief table of contents, a section of "key words" which list the five items seen and a thumbnail of the photograph, an index that includes each item, and a sentence about the author. A page of "teaching tips" is also included. A search of the publisher website gives the lexile of the book - 140.

It's a very basic title and I'm always looking for more basic easy readers, but it's not very... interesting. Which wouldn't necessarily matter when I'm bulking up easy readers, but I'm not going to shell out $17 on one title that will have limited interest.

Verdict: If you have the $$ and need more of this type of series nonfiction, or if you're a school library and need sets on nonfiction topics like this, it's a perfectly acceptable options. It's not one I'd really consider for the average, small-medium public library though.

ISBN: 9781684029990; Published 2018 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Eduardo Guadardo, Elite Sheep by Anthony Pearson, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

Eduardo Guadardo is about to graduate from the FBI. That would be the Fairy-tale Bureau of Investigations. Eduardo may look cute and fluffy, but he's going to be an elite sheep and he's going to get there on his own! He's passed all the tests and now he's getting his very own case! Eduardo explains what's going on to the audience as he reads through his dossier - Mary Sawyer, daughter of a wealthy farmer, is in danger of being kidnapped! Eduardo is on the case, in control, and ready for everything.

Except that witch. And the troll. And that speedboat. And... maybe Eduardo does need some help after all?

SPOILERS
In a delightful flipping of events, sweet little Mary reappears in a pantsuit, clipboard in hand, and kindly but firmly explains to the deflated sheep that just having skills isn't enough - he has to have teamwork as well! Once Eduardo realizes he's still got things to learn - and a team to be part of - he's ready to be junior agent to Mary Sawyer and they start their first case together; hunting down some lost lambs!

This over-the-top reimagining of Mary had a little lamb is sure to tickle the funny bones of children, whether or not they know the original story. There have been a plethora of "fairy tale mystery" movies in the past few years and my colleague has had a really positive response from another nursery rhyme mystery book, Levinthal's Who pushed Humpty Dumpty? and of course there's Dosh Archer's "Urgency Emergency" easy readers, so there's quite a few titles in this area, but there's definitely room for one more, especially one as funny as this.

Verdict: A great title to read to storytime on its own, to a classroom to teach them about the formation of plot, mystery, and fractured fairy tales, and to emphasize the importance of teamwork. The contrast of an arrogant young male who thinks he knows everything and the seasoned ability of a woman at the top of her field doesn't hurt either! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781503902909; Published October 2018 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 8, 2018

Do not lick this book* (*It's full of germs) by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost

This is a most unusual interactive book and I can't wait to read it with the kids!

The endpages are covered in... green spaghetti? Hmm, weird...

Ah, the story begins. Meet Min. Min is... a microbe! Microbes are everywhere and if you look really, really, really closely at the book, you'll see her, sitting between the threads of paper.

Readers will go on a wild ride with Min and her friends through a microscopic examination of the world around them (That green spaghetti? It's cloth!). Pick her up on your finger and visit your teeth, your clothes, and more!

A final page explains more details about microbes and what the cartoon characters in the book really look like, magnified.

I sometimes feel that if I get parents (and teachers) coming back to me saying "WHAT did you read in storytime??" my work is done. This definitely fills the bill. It's a fun way to learn about microscopes, microbes, and learn how important it is to brush your teeth! The pictures are hugely magnified images of teeth, cloth, paper, and skin, interspersed with simple but humorous cartoon illustrations.

Verdict: Use this with toddlers and preschoolers as well as grade schoolers; It's a fun way to learn about microscopes, microbes, the importance of brushing your teeth, and the cool stuff that's all around us every day! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250175366; This edition published 2018 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, October 6, 2018

This week at the library; or, Back to work

Happening at the library
There was torrential rain on Monday night (as I was trying to haul 75 holds to my car....) and then it was nearly 80 degrees on Wednesday. I am very disappointed in this weather. It is not at all autumnal! Worse than that, it's delaying the parking lot which is still not done and is causing problems for not only our programs but it's wearing on everyone's nerves, patrons and staff alike.

Professional Development

Friday, October 5, 2018

Life according to Og the Frog by Betty Birney

The author of "The world according to Humphrey" series branches out to include the story of a new class pet. Og the Frog. Og was caught in a pond and brought to school; at first he lived with a mean bullfrog, but now he's been moved to Room 26 where he has a weird, furry neighbor named Humphrey.

Og enjoys life in the new classroom at first; he's got plenty of time to make up songs and poems, Humphrey seems nice (even if he can't understand the weird little guy) and after a trip home with the teacher they figure out his favorite food - crickets! But then the class starts arguing about sending him back to the pond; does Og belong in the classroom or in the wild?

I personally find the stories of Humphrey and the classroom kind of, well, boring. Nothing much really happens and the kids all feel like stereotypes (the one who complains, the one who asks questions, etc.). The teacher also feels very... scripted. Also, as Ms. Yingling points out, it's weird that Og understands English but not Humphrey. But! Kids really like these. They're not as popular as, say, Captain Underpants, but they circulate steadily and are good filler for lower-level chapter books, one step up from beginning chapters.

Verdict: Fans of the series will happily read the adventures of a new class pet; Purchase where Humphrey is popular.

ISBN: 9781524739942; Published July 2018 by Putnam/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Tiny Geniuses: Fly to the rescue! by Megan E. Bryant

A lot of history/fiction blends have been coming out recently, and this is a new beginning chapter series in that vein.

Jake has really, really tried in science class. But, once again, he's failed a quiz. And this time his parents threaten to make him quit baseball! The only thing that's left to do is make a wish in the Wishing Well. Rumor has it that if you throw in your most precious possession, your wish will come true. Jake doesn't want to throw in his most precious possession (what would it be anyways?) but he does have a whole set of Heroes of History figures...

The next thing Jake knows, he's got a miniature Amelia Earhart and Sir Isaac Newton in his bedroom. When they're not marveling over paperclips or arguing over women's rights, they're willing to help Jake out with his science fair project - which just might let him pass and stay on the baseball team. But will they really be able to help or will Jake's science fair project just get him an even bigger F in science class?

An afterword tells the reader a little more about the two historical figures. This is a fun mix of science and fiction, but I'm not sure I'd be happy handing this to a kid. Both historical figures are necessarily caricatures, their personalities and accomplishments shown in broad strokes without some of the more complex details of their lives. Jake's school felt cartoony as well - do any teachers mark papers with big red Fs anymore? There's also a stereotypical bully. For that matter, how many schools still do a science fair? Jake's idea was cool, and his decision to use his own work and research and not that of Earhart and Newton was a nice conclusion.

Verdict: Not my top choice; this will appeal to fans of Ben Franklin's in my Bathroom and Magic Tree House fans, but it's not what I'd choose to introduce readers to these historical figures.

ISBN: 9780545909518; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Small Readers: Croc and Ally: Fun, Fun, Fun! and Friends Forever by Derek Anderson

Croc and Ally are two friends. They are the same and they are different. They are both male, they are both green, they are both reptiles. But Croc is short, grumpy, and prefers that things stay the same. Ally is tall, goofy, and likes to try new things.

In other words, this is a very, very typical "odd friends" easy reader, following the Frog and Toad pattern. In Fun, Fun, Fun! Ally takes Croc swimming, even though he does not want to get wet and would rather read, takes Croc to pick out a new hat (he prefers his old one), and the two face off against a Scary Bug together. In Friends Forever, Croc trades their old sofa in for two chairs so he can have some space (it doesn't work), Ally tries to cheer up Croc when he's grumpy, and the two search for the moon, with Croc finding a substitute so Ally can sleep.

Anderson's cartoon illustrations are bright and cheerful; the main color scheme is green, with Croc and Ally's backs a darker, greenish brown while Croc's stomach is a light green and Ally's is a bright yellow-green. There are lots of different shades of green in the grass, open areas, and backgrounds. Their adventures take place outdoors, which adds a goofy dimension to the story. When they are trying on hats, all the hats and furniture sits in a clearing amidst the grass. When they go to bed their beds and dresser drawers are plopped down in the middle of the clearing with no walls or roof to their "house".

There's no level placed on the book, but I would put it one step past beginner. There are more complicated words like "friend", "surprise", and "grumpy", but also lots of repetition. The text is bold and set against the clear light blue of the sky or the greeny-tan of the ground.

Verdict: These are light, amusing fare that makes a good filler for easy reader sections. I am a little frustrated that they are both male and that, once again, the more introverted character is constantly being bugged out of his "grumpiness" but this is a really common formula for easy readers and I've mostly just learned to live with it. An additional choice if you need to bulk out your easy readers.

Friends Forever: ISBN: 9781524787073
Fun, Fun, Fun: ISBN: 9781524787103

Published 2018 by Penguin Workshop; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library