Saturday, September 22, 2018

This week at the library; or, I am busy

This week at the library
I had a dentist appointment on Monday. That pretty much characterizes the week with an extra side of plugged toilets. Next week, vacation!

Professional Development
  • Programming for 'Tweens by Amanda Struckmeyer, online class at UW-Madison, week 1
  • ALSC Webinar: Managing Children's Services: Program Evaluation by Laura Koenig and Amanda Yother
  • ALSC Webinar: Managing Children's Services: Employee Engagement by Krissy Wick and Sarah Wethern

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gods and Heroes: Mythology around the world by Korwin Briggs

I was skeptical when I received this - so many "global" mythology or history books are anything but. However, this encyclopedia truly includes a wide range of mythology, as well as amusing pictures, and a voice that's both light-hearted and respectful of various traditions.

An introduction talks about the origin of myths and how they are researched - and how little we sometimes know. There's a legend of designs that show what tradition the characters come from, as well as markers for gods, heroes, and creatures. There's also a quick glossary.

Back matter includes an index by type (god, goddess, etc.) and by tradition (Slavic, Sumerian, etc.) and a map.

The entries' content varies. Some retell stories of the various characters, some include research into the myth, others include how it affected the tradition or religion. Some sample stories include Hera's revenge on Semele and Io, Kintu's trip to heaven for a wife, and Nu Gua rides a gourd.

Greek/Roman mythology has 10 entries, Indian/Hindu, Egyptian, and Norse each have 8, China has 6. Other traditions included are the Americas, including North American Great Plains, Inuit, Inca, and Mesoamerican, Japanese/Shinto, Sumerican/Mesopotamian, Australian, Maori, Persian, West African, and Slavic.

The art fits in well with the tone of the stories; respectful but humorous. The characters are shown with the appropriate color of skin, artifacts, and against their native background. While the author glosses over some of the more egregiously sexual and violent aspects of the myths and throws in humorous pop-culture references, he does so in a way that feels to me like he's taking the myths seriously as a part of the various cultures and not using them to titilate or shock. One reviewer mentioned the complete lack of Judeo-Christian characters and I.... actually prefer that. Whether you consider that tradition to be mythological or not, in my community an encyclopedia that treated them as mythological would be extremely controversial, especially if directed towards children. Not to mention, it would have made the book waaaay too long.

Verdict: A great choice to get kids into exploring different mythologies; recommend to mythology and comic fans.

ISBN: 9781523503780; Published August 2018 by Workman; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Humphrey's big birthday bash by Betty G. Birney, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Humphrey is back in a special birthday surprise. Along with his new friend, Og the Frog, Humphrey is excited about the upcoming birthday party for student Kirk. He's really excited when he gets to go along! As the kids discuss Kirk's birthday celebration in the classroom and his upcoming party at home on Saturday, some of them notice that some birthdays are missing - Humphrey's, Og's, and Mrs. Brisbane's. Humphrey thoroughly enjoys Kirk's backwards birthday bash and even puts on a show for the kids. When he gets back to class, he tells Og all about it (even though they can't understand each other) and the two of them cook up a surprise for Mrs. Brisbane. But who will get the surprise in the end?

This is the eighth book in the series "Humphrey's Tiny Tales" an easier version of the popular "The World According to Humphrey" series which is now being extended with a new chapter book series starring the Og the Frog. I have really, really tried with these books and I'm just going to say it - I find them unutterably boring. They're just so.... bland. There are no real conflicts, no real plot, and the students are all reduced to stereotypes like "Please-don't-complain-Mandy-Payne". The introduction of Og the Frog is just exasperating - if Humphrey and Og can both understand the students, why on earth can't they understand each other?

Verdict: The line drawings are cute and these do have a steady, if not wildly enthusiastic audience, but they're definitely filler books.

ISBN: 9781524737207; Published September 2018 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Small Readers: Fox the tiger; Fox is late by Corey R. Tabor

I really liked Tabor's Fox picture books, although some of the plot lines felt a little weak. Turns out, they translate really well into easy readers and I can't wait to add this set to my library!

Fox tries out what it's like to be somebody else in Fox the Tiger. A tiger book with a looooong fold-out page makes him think it must be cool to be a tiger and with a little black paint he gets to try out his wish! After all, tigers are the best - they are big, fast, and sneaky! When the other animals see Fox the Tiger out on the prowl, they get into the fun with Turtle becoming Race Car, Rabbit becoming Robot, and so on. But when the rain washes away their disguises, how will Fox feel about being Fox again? The cheerfully colored illustrations are set against generous white space with lots of textured greens, oranges, and soft blues. This title comes in at a reading level of E, which is a nice intermediate level and kids will appreciate the humor and relative comparisons in the book as Fox realizes that while he admires tigers, somebody else might think he is the coolest!

Fox is late shows Fox's more mischievous side. He's late for a mysterious event and as he races to his destination he acquires a team of enraged animals. He's flipped his skateboard over Rabbit, used Turtle as a ramp, done a nose slide on Elephant, and so on. The animals finally catch up to Fox at his house - where it turns out he was late for the lunch he was fixing for his friends! All ends happily around the table. There are concept words and multiple repeated sentence with one additional word, for example, "Fox gets food. Fox gets fast food." The simpler text brings this in at a level D and it's a good introduction to the character's sly humor and naughty personality.

Verdict: This is a fun new series to add to your easy readers. With a light amount of humor, attractive illustrations, and a memorable character, it's sure to attract young readers.

Fox the tiger
ISBN: 9780062398697

Fox is late
ISBN: 9780062398710

Published 2018 by Balzer + Bray; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eraser by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Square, pink, pig-tailed Eraser is always cleaning things up. Her hard work isn't appreciated by Pencil, who takes credit for the things she fixes, or the other drawing and writing implements. She and her friends, Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, are left out of the games that Glue, Tape, and all the other "creative" implements play. When everyone leaves her out of a meeting, because it's for creators only, she determines to change the game and make her own creation. But things don't go so well and after Pencil's mean comments, she decides to leave.

Once off the desk, she discovers a whole other world - and realizes that she does create something - second chances! When she returns, she finds the other desk-dwellers, including Pencil, have realized how much they need her too. A wiser (and shorter) Pencil apologizes and working together they get an A+ on their project! There's no more division and Eraser forgives Pencil and invites him to join the whole group at lunch.

Weyant, who has partnered with Kang on a whole series of clever books that explore concepts like relative size as well as emotional intelligence, brings his humor and cartoon art to mix with Kang's silly puns and heartfelt story. Eraser is chunky and pink with big purple glasses, pigtails and a hint of bangs, skinny pink arms, and a wide smile that dims as she's continually left out. She's appropriately grubby from all her hard work. Pencil shows his supercilious character with haughty eyes and mean quirks of the eyebrows, but once he's been ground down a bit he's much more subdued.

Many tiny details add humor to the story; when she leaves the desk, Eraser packs her luggage (including extra paperclips for her hair) in a mint tin. Tape and Glue decorate all their friends with pipe cleaners and buttons, joining together for a rousing rendition of kumbaya and prompting Eraser to sigh that they can "get anyone to stick together."

With bright, clean colors, a humorous story, and a strong message of cooperation, appreciation for everyone's efforts, fixing mistakes, and trying again, this is sure to be a hit both in storytime and in the classroom. There's a great event kit available at the author's website and I'm thinking this would make a great lesson plan for our storytimes and charter school, paired with some other writing books, encouraging kids to create - and erase, draft, and sketch - their own stories. I'll post a lesson plan for that here when I get it put together!

Verdict: Sure to be as popular as Kang and Weyant's other titles, this upbeat story about working together and getting a second chance is a great addition to any school or library collection. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781503902589; Published September 2018 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 17, 2018

Food fight! A mouthwatering history of who ate what and why through the ages by Tanya Steel

I'm going to be honest - I did not like this book. I expected to like it, I requested it to review, and I wanted to put it down within the first couple pages. Your mileage may vary.

After a quick list of safety tips, the book jumps into the history of food. The chapters cover the prehistoric era, ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, medieval times (England and a little Europe), Mongols and the Silk Road, Renaissance (Florence and a little Europe), American Revolution, French Revolution, Industrial Revolution (England), World War I (USA and a little England), Great Depression (USA), World War II (USA), the sixties (America), and a future imagined life on Mars.

Each chapter starts with a one and a half page "bite-size history" giving a general overview of the time period. The chapter also includes a number of features - A day in the life, featuring a common or lower-class person, Spicing things up, which has additional facts, Menus of the rich and famished, focusing on what the upper classes and wealthy people ate, Yucky habits of yore, and other statistics and factoids. Each chapter ends with two recipes adapted from the time period and a "Popcorny" quiz that reviews the chapter.

There are lots of photographs, cartoons, photoshopped animals waving spoons and wearing chef hats, quotes from kids who tried the recipes, and more. So what's not to like?

Well, did you notice the distribution of geographical areas covered? It's really a history of Western (primarily British) white people through the ages, not of the world. There are a lot of facts and information glossed over and left out, like the continents of Africa and South America for starters. There are only a few brief sentences mentioning the contributions of Native Americans and African slave labor to the food we eat today, not to mention Mexican influences. There's no mention at all of the Caribbean sugar trade and accompanying slave trade.

The chapter on the Great Depression doesn't mention African-Americans or Latinos at all and the opening cartoon shows a black man serving a white man and boy at a bread line. I'm.... really, really skeptical that would have happened? The review of Roosevelt's New Deal and how it revived the economy leaves out completely the fact that it mostly was open only to whites. The chapter on the sixties has space to mention the new trend of vegetarianism, but not a single mention of migrant crop workers and the work of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

Finally, the "Yucky Habits of Yore" fact blips were blatantly prejudiced. The first one, in the prehistoric age, says "Early humans ate what was available, including insects! Mmm...cicadas?" Completely ignoring the fact that many cultures today eat bugs and insects, it's purely a cultural thing whether or not you find it gross, and implying that said cultures are primitive early humans is just... I have no words. In the chapter on the Mongols, this same section lists the following as yucky facts "In the 1230s, the Mongols built a fountain that spouted fermented mare's milk.; Mongol soldiers might drink their horses' blood or milk if they were thirsty.; The Mongols believed animals had to be killed in the shadows so the sun wouldn't see it happen. They didn't want the earth to know about the sacrifice either, so they made sure not to spill blood on the ground." The other "yucky habits" are things like the Romans cleaning plates with urine, colonial people pooping at the dinner table, or kids in factories having to eat dirt that got on their food. Hmm, interesting that the only cultural practises described as "gross" were those of non-white, non-Western peoples and ones that are still in use today.

This could have been interesting. The author had a lot of fun facts and National Geographic does a great layout. But it didn't live up the hype and the overlooking of major historical events, the experiences and contributions of non-white, non-westerners, and poking fun at other cultures was extremely off-putting.

Verdict: I don't recommend this book.

ISBN: 9781426331626; Published September 2018 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, September 15, 2018

This week at the library; or, Everything old is new again

What's happening
I don't even want to think about Monday. It was both extremely busy and extremely...weird. I had a disappointingly small turnout for book club and we had to postpone anime club to next week. The parking lot is not yet done, I have several huge projects on hand, and I am just tired. I went home early on Friday to listen to webinars, organize grants, and lay out the long-term plan for the children's area.

Professional Development
  • Latest must-have graphic novels for fall; Diamond, Lion Forge; Papercutz; Scholastic; Viz
    • Updated Scholastic graphics guide
    • New manga from Viz
  • Managing Children's Services: Strategic Planning in the Youth Services Department (ALSC)
    • Megan Egbert; Kelsey Johnson
  • Let the wild rumpus start! Child-led play in public library programming
    • Carissa Christner "Anjiplay"
    • Take-away - more loose parts, less plastic and "pre-set" toys
  • Re-reading Power of Play: Designing early learning spaces by Dorothy Stoltz

Friday, September 14, 2018

Snowy owl invasion by Sandra Markle

Sandra Markle introduces her latest wildlife investigation with a startling discovery in 2013; snowy owls in... Maryland? Why were snowy owls, an Arctic bird that rarely migrate south, suddenly showing up in large numbers in Canada and all down the east coast of North America? To solve the mystery, Markle takes readers through the life cycle of the snowy owl, from breeding season to the importance of lemmings. The snowy owl irruption (an unusual migration pattern) had no definite cause, but various scientists advance different theories such as an unusually large amount of lemmings resulting in a larger number of snowy owl hatchlings surviving and causing increased competition. Heavy winds and storms were another possible cause.

Whatever the reason, the snowy owl irruption of 2013/2014 gave researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study these usually elusive predators, but the snowy owls' arrival in new hunting grounds also caused problems, both with local animals and humans. One snowy owl in particular, given a transmitter during the irruption, added a great deal of knowledge about snowies due to its extensive round-trip migrations, stretching all the way down to Maryland and back to the Arctic. A final chapter discusses the future of snowy owls, the possible impact of climate change, and more of the discoveries made due to the irruption.

Back matter includes an author's note, discussing how the Markle worked with scientists, notes, glossary, additional resources, and index.

Verdict: For readers not yet ready to tackle the more demanding Scientists in the Field titles, Sandra Markle's excellent nonfiction investigations, many framed as mysteries, offer a tantalizing look at real scientific research as well as interesting stories about animals. The large format of the books, which allows for the break-up of text with photographs and additional information, may discourage some close-minded teachers, librarians, and parents, who see them as "picture books" but they will be doing their students and readers a great disservice. Recommend this to kids interested in science, animals, and those who need samples of how research works.

ISBN: 9781512431063; Published 2018 by Millbrook; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hedgehog needs a hug by Jen Betton

There are a lot of picture books that set out to be cute but end up just being creepy, mainly featuring animals or kids basically stalking or harassing others under the name of “crushes” or “cuteness”. I was very impressed then that Betton manages to write a sweet, gentle book about physical affection while still respecting personal boundaries and sending a clear message of consent.

Hedgehog wakes up on day feeling very blue. He’s sure he’ll feel better if only he can get a hug, so he sets out to find one. He asks Rabbit, but she’s got a cold and scampers into her burrow. Raccoon pleads garbage breath and disappears into his log; Turtle doesn’t even wake up. Fox is the only one willing to give him a huge, but she’s got an ulterior motive - and Hedgehog doesn’t feel bad about giving her a mouthful of spikes, even if he’s still blue and longing for a hug. Finally, Hedgehog meets a friend who also wants a hug: Skunk. Will he take a chance and give her a hug?

Hedgehog is careful to ask permission of every creature, and even though he’s sad and disappointed that they won’t give him a hug, he doesn’t get mad or blame them for being afraid of his prickles. He doesn’t accept a hug from Fox, no matter how much he wants one, because he knows she doesn’t really care about him, she just wants to eat him!

The lush mixed media illustrations - watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil - are delightful. Glowing green forests with smudged in plants and soft yellow shafts of light are the background for Hedgehog’s quest. He is a sweet little creature, with a spiny brown back, soft cream front, and pink nose, ears, and paws. Splashes of color - the rich red of Fox’s coat, dark blue and green shadows as Hedgehog crouches under a bush, and rich green-brown of Turtle’s shell - shine through the story

Verdict: A truly lovely and beautifully written debut picture book. I look forward to many more titles from Betton and strongly recommend this one for use in storytimes or one-on-one reading.

ISBN: 9781524737122; Published 2018 by G. P. Putnam/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 10, 2018

What do they do with all that poo? By Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Allison Black

The science of poop seems to have been a popular theme in 2017 and of course it’s still garnering interest. Kids are interested in poop. This is just a thing.

This latest book on the odoriferous subject combines humor and science to present the science of poop to the youngest readers. In rhyming text, the story starts out with a series of animals and their digestive remains. “Giraffe poop looks like marbles as it drops a long, long way./Panda poop is full of bamboo. Pandas eat and poop all day.” After showing the poop of a number of animals, from bats to penguins, sloths to lions, the book pauses for a full spread asking “So what do zoos do with all of that poo?” The second half of the picture book is dedicated to where all that poop goes. Zookeepers, scientists, truck drivers, and gardeners, all in a variety of races and genders, shovel, compost, recycle, and dispose of all that poop. The book ends on a humorous note, with monkeys tossing their poop at the reader.

Each page, in addition to its simple, rhyming text in bold lettering has a longer paragraph in smaller text offering more information. So the main text reads “A wombat’s poo is cube-shaped, so it isn’t very roly.” While the longer text explains that wombats are territorial and how their droppings help them mark their territories. This is a format I have found very accessible to a wide range of audiences and readers and I’m always thrilled when I see the double levels of text like this.

The art is created in bright, bold digital images. The wombat is a rich golden brown, surrounded by a frame of her own square poop and set against a grass-green background. The scene of the mailman delivering poop samples to the scientists looks almost like a scene from a Little Golden Book, with bright, sharp images and lots of square and round packages and containers. This is echoed in the round and square poop samples as well. One of my favorite images shows worms working their way through the ground in a cut-away, underground scene. The top has a bright blue sky and some stylized zucchini plants while the bottom shows a rich mixture of compost, with smiling pink worms working their way through their tunnels, leaving behind little, round brown poos.

The only drawback is some confusion in the final scene. Indeterminate monkeys (with tails) are shown throwing poop and the additional paragraph explains that chimpanzees with the best-aimed poop are “the smartest and most sociable”, suggesting poop-throwing as a step towards using tools. Chimpanzees are apes, not monkeys, and don’t have tails. Also, I’m pretty sure they do use tools. Despite this quibble, it’s overall a well-researched and fun book, age-appropriate and not too gross despite its chosen subject.

Verdict: A delightful and informative choice for a poop-themed storytime (go on, I dare you!), classroom use, or hilarious one-on-one reading. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481479868; Published June 19, 2018 by Beach Lane Books; Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media; Donated to the library

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cybils Nonfiction History

This is just for me. Our new social media guru/literacy evangelist (who once upon a time was chair of the easy reader/early chapter category), Terry Doherty, is making all sorts of coolness happen this year, including a Goodreads group for Cybils. I'm working on adding our finalists and winners to the bookshelf and it's hard to do for nonfiction because the category has shifted over the years. So I made myself a timeline and in case you're as obsessive about data (and clueless about time math) I thought you might enjoy it.

2006 - Cybils begins

  • Fiona Bayrock is the first category organizer for Non-Fiction Picture Books  - Winner - Egg is quiet.
  • 2007 - Lightship by Floca
  • 2008 - Frogs by Nic Bishop 
  • 2009 - Day-Glo brothers by Barton (I joined Cybils as a panelist for easy readers/early chapters - I'd forgotten that! I thought I'd started in nonfiction!)
  • 2010 - Extraordinary Mark Twain (I was on Picture books that year, which explains why a biography won lol lol)
  • 2011 - I feel better with a frog in my throat by Carlyn Beccia (this was the year I joined nonfiction as a panelist! I remember Fiona was an awesome organizer)
2012 - I take over as Nonfiction Picture Book Chair
  • What a year this was! I met many amazing panelists who would continue to be involved with Cybils and was even pleased that a biography, Mrs. Harkness and the Panda, won! (They were some Very Persuasive panelists and judges!)
2013 - category changes to Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • I realized that this category didn't necessarily work well as a format (like graphic novels or easy readers) and switched to audience instead. We still only had one winner, like Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction (it was Fantasy back then!) and the winner this year was Look up! Bird-watching in your own backyard by Cate.
  • 2014 winner - Feathers by Melissa Stewart
  • 2015 winner - I, Fly by Bridget Heos
2016 - category split - Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction
  • Changing from format to audience had worked well, but I felt the middle grade titles were getting neglected in favor of the younger, elementary titles. I had originally intended to just split what I already had, but the teen nonfiction category was interested in splitting also and I gave them the middle grade name, taking "juvenile" for my upper grades.
  • Elementary winner - Giant squid by Fleming
  • Juvenile winner - Some writer! by Melissa Sweet
2017 - Category name returns to Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • A new organizer had taken over the teen nonfiction and graciously returned the middle grade notation to me, as we discussed what changes we wanted to make for the coming year. I (hope) this will be the way things go for quite a while!
  • Elementary winner - Hatching chicks in room 6 by Caroline Arnold
  • Middle Grade winner - Two truths and a lie by Laurie Ann Thompson and Ammi-Joan Paquette (fun trivia fact - Laurie has been on nonfiction panels in the past!)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

This week at the library; or, Now it begins again

My dahlias are doing pretty well!
Happenings this week
  • Monday - closed
  • Tuesday - no programs
  • Wednesday - no programs
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Outreach - 4th grade book tasting
School started on Tuesday and it was a day of beginnings for us as well - new aide and teen services intern also started on Tuesday. The parking lot is fully under construction. Finishing summer reports and planning for outreach visits, training new staff, and other stuff. I am not even going to think about the state I left my desk in. It's bad.

(partial) list of all the books I took to fourth grade
Updated booktalking cards for all grades

Friday, September 7, 2018

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

I really disliked the first book in this series, Cosmic Commandos, because of how unpleasant the characters were. However, fortunately you don't need to read the first book to follow this second title because I really enjoyed this one!

Zoe, a robots genius, loves to watch classic monster movies and hang out with the robot she created. Her parents would like her to make some "real" friends, but the one time she tried, way back in elementary school, it was all a fake. The girl was just pretending to be her friend. Devastated, Zoe refuses to reach out again and isolates herself in her new, high-tech school for gifted kids. Her parents are busy with her triplet brothers and Zoe is all alone, just the way she wants it. But one day, frustrated by her parents and teachers trying to urge her to make friends and secretly lonely, she picks up a ring, wishes the monsters in her movies were real and that night, in the midst of a storm... a real kaiju (monster) shows up at her window! She's finally got a friend, exactly the one she wanted.

But things get complicated fast - her new friend Chomp has got family and friends of his own and they're very, very hungry. Can Zoe save the city and her friend on her own? And if she can't, will she be willing to not only ask for help but also trust other people and kids?

Zoe, a short black girl with a riot of black curls, stomps through the story in her signature blue overalls and goggles. She would like to have friends, but is too scared to reach out and determined to do everything on her own, without the help of well-meaning adults and the kids she doesn't trust to be sincere in wanting to spend time with her. Her parents are worried about her, but exhausted and preoccupied dealing with rambunctious toddler triplets, shown exuberantly flinging food, dashing through the house naked, and generally created chaos. It's refreshing to see a black girl who is not only interested in but excels in science and technology. Zoe doesn't need a helpful (white) friend to teach her social skills; she's got a kaiju monster and a disaster on her hands that forces her to befriend some of the other kids in school who have already learned to work together; she eventually teams up with her teachers, Mr. Nakajima and Ms. Mahnken, and four kids from school, two white boys and a dark-skinned boy and girl. But in the end, she might need even more help - from her parents?

Verdict: This is full of monsters, robots, exciting action, lots of color, a nice environmental twist, and some heart-felt moments of learning to ask for help and open up to friends, even when it might be scary or painful. Sure to be a hit with HiLo fans and kids who love monsters and robots.

ISBN: 9780735231245; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Warren & Dragon: 100 Friends by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Mike Malbrough

Warren has a problem. Actually, Warren has a lot of problems. The shy 2nd grader has moved to a new town, is starting 2nd grade in a new school, and has no friends except his toy Dragon. Warren doesn't think he needs any friends besides Dragon, even though his Hobbes-like dragon friend gets him into trouble. But his sister Ellie, popular and outgoing, has challenged him to make 100 new friends. Can Warren make one new friend, let alone one hundred?

Light pencil drawings show a worried white boy, his bouncy blond twin, and a snarky, pudgy dragon with a long tongue and a penchant for marshmallows and trouble. Warren slowly becomes friends with the new neighbors, a very different family from their previous neighbor, Ms. Reilly, "an older white woman who didn't have any kids." The new family is black, has two moms, a teen son, a baby girl, and a boy named Michael. Their parents would like Michael and Warren to be friends, but Warren doesn't want to be friends with a little kid - Michael is a whole year younger than him, starting 1st grade.

After some disastrous events at school, when Warren takes Dragon's advice and fails to make any friends, he eventually realizes he needs to make some compromises to make friends - and maybe Michael isn't so little after all.

While it's nice to see the diversity offered by Michael and his family, it would have been even nicer to see the minority kid as the main character and not, yet again, the sidekick. The story is told completely from Warren's perspective and his often humorous narration shows his imaginative inner life contrasting with his lack of self-confidence both at school and at home. Several blurbs and reviews compare this to Calvin and Hobbes and while the basic idea is the same - a stuffed toy that is "real" only to the boy who plays with him - the execution is worlds apart. Warren is young, not old, for his age and definitely lacks Calvin's gleeful mischief. He's more like the overly anxious and worried Alvin Ho than the gung-ho Calvin.

Verdict: A mildly humorous addition if you need more beginning chapter books, but not a necessary purchase.

ISBN: 9780425288443; Published 2018 by Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Noah's Park: Snack Time by Sam Williams

I've only seen Sam Williams as an illustrator, but his cute, sweet illustrations are very attractive so I was interested in picking up this board book series when I happened upon it. "Noah's Park" features a handful of cute little animals in various activities at, you guessed it, a park.

There are six characters; a pink-faced piglet, puppy, bear, golden-furred... other bear? I can't decide what that one is. A panda and a fluffy-looking purple snail (yes, it's a fluffy snail. Williams makes it cute, trust me).

The opening spread has a layout of the park on the left and a gatefold on the right. The front of the page shows the characters and then folds out to show them all lining up for a boat ride. They put on their "safety vests", collect their lunch boxes, and sail away. There's a scene of feeding ducks, lunch under a striped awning that looks a little like a carousel, and a trip back in the boat.

The simple text narrates the events, "Time to go home. Let's clean up and sing a good-bye tune." and the pictures are very cute. There's not much to the plot, but this isn't unusual in a board book.

Verdict: A cheerful and colorful addition to your board book collection. Not a necessary purchase, but a good filler.

ISBN: 9781481442633; Published 2016 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in the consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Don’t eat that! By Drew Sheneman

The author of Nope! Returns with another laugh-out-loud adventure, featuring a hapless bear and bossy camper. Released into the woods, a zoo bear yawns and scratches, little knowing what is in store for him. Meanwhile, Gertie, a small blonde dressed in generic scout clothes, is out watching birds and making bad jokes. Then Gertie sees the bear…

He’s trying to eat a rock.

Clearly, there is something wrong.

Loudly and enthusiastically (with a few bad jokes) Gertie sets out on her new task, looking forward to earning her Wildlife Buddy Merit Badge. Unfortunately, this bear is really clueless! Even Gertie can’t help him! Or can she? It will take a lot of understanding and some compromise on both sides before they find something for the bear to eat.

Cartoon panels follow the goofy storytline, with plenty of disgusted, helpless, and annoyed expressions on the faces of both bear and Gertie as they try to negotiate the woods.

Verdict: A funny story that will click with older preschoolers and younger elementary students, especially if they’re learning about what bears eat.

ISBN: 9781101997291; Published 2018 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 3, 2018

Belle's Journey by Rob Bierregaard, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

This is the first children's book written by scientist Rob Bierregaard, but it's an excellent effort, not dumbing down the material nor making it too fanciful. After an introduction, explaining his work with ospreys, Bierregaard (Dr. B.) tells the story of a young osprey named Belle. After her parents' mate and raise their brood, Belle is tagged by Dr. B. and a colleague with a transmitter. Some local children become interested and follow along on her journey as she slowly explores her world on the coast in Martha's Vineyard and then sets out on her long journey - all the way down to South America. After many adventures, some imagined, some real, Belle arrives at her destination and spends the next few seasons maturing. Finally, she returns to her birthplace and Dr. B. imagines the new family she will raise.

Garchinsky's watercolor and crayon illustrations add color and depth to the story, while expanding the imaginative aspect of the tale. Although Dr. B. did not personally see all the events of Belle's journey, as he explains in the introduction, these are things that many migrating ospreys encounter and Belle might be likely to have experienced. The real-life Belle had not yet mated, but the imagined courtship and nest-building is typical of ospreys.

The back matter includes a discussion of the anatomy and behavior of ospreys, recommendations for dealing with injured wildlife, and more resources to find out about ospreys and other birds.

Verdict: This reminded me somewhat of narrative nonfiction of my youth, following a single animal through a cycle of their life. However, it's thoroughly modern in that it refrains from anthropomorphizing Belle and Bierregaard is clear about which parts of the journey apply to the "real" Belle, which are extrapolated from her transmitter, and which are actual events that happened to her. Readers who enjoy narratives and also have a strong interest in animals will be interested in picking up this book. Hand to fans of Jean Craighead George and Jim Arnosky.

ISBN: 9781580897921; Published 2018 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, September 1, 2018

This week at the library; or, Taking a break

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

No programs or outreach this week. I only have about six hours on the information desk, although many staff are gone on vacation or at outreach for the county fair so I expected (and was not disappointed) to be interrupted frequently.

Projects for this week
 - finishing staff scheduling through December
 - planning upcoming programs and outreach
 - working through nonfiction inventory list, claims-lost list, figuring out if there is actually any budget left (there isn't)
 - supervising the last aide standing in repairing the depredations of summer and a week of volunteers shelving
 - researching grants for a Little Free Library in a low-income area outside of town. Mostly trying to find out who to ask about zoning. (didn't actually get to this)
 - school newsletter, contacting teachers, following up on various discussions
 - refilling, cleaning, and redoing maker kits and storytime kits
 - placing holds, sorting, and packing hundreds of books for the start of school

It's all worth it when I can help teachers get the year started with their classrooms looking like this!
Our schools have AWESOME libraries, but of course they are crazy busy, esp. since they teach classes
pretty much all day. So I'm happy to supplement! This school just had their library redone and I'm guessing it's
not ready for browsing yet, so I filled in!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Panda Camp by Catherine Thimmesh

Finally, a new panda book! It's a bittersweet addition to my library collection though. I remember as a child the excitement and interest in endangered pandas and how cute and exotic they seemed, how we watched videos of newborn cubs, and how they were almost like celebrities! Fast-forward through the years, and panda-fever has caught on again. Elementary school kids beg me for panda books, kids make panda pillows in sewing class and panda designs in perler beads. But are pandas in any better state, twenty years (ok, maybe closer to thirty) down the road? Sadly, it seems not. Is this a species that will ever exist successfully in the wild? Will they even survive in captive breeding populations? For that matter, should scientists devote time, effort, and money towards saving this rare and endangered species when there are so many other urgent crises at hand?

Thimmesh addresses these and other concerns, while still supplying plenty of cute panda pictures. She focuses on a specific program in China which is focusing on reintroducing giant pandas to the wild. This program includes a careful isolation of pandas from human (and shots of humans dressed in giant panda costumes) as well as a summary of the challenges and difficulties faced in the breeding of giant pandas. A chapter is included on the difficulty and controversies around saving large animals like the pandas, tigers, or polar bears whose habitat may no longer exist.

The narrative ends with the "success" of the panda breeding program - in 2016 pandas were removed from the threatened species list and reclassified as "vulnerable." However with less than 2,000 pandas left in the wild, how long will that continue? Will the reintroduction of pandas continue to change the ecosystem or will their habitat loss continue? Thimmesh concludes with the often-familiar list of "what you can do", a glossary, sources, and index.

While this narrative touches only briefly on larger concerns of conservation, ecology, and environmental concerns, it's also the first narrative nonfiction book on giant pandas I've seen in quite a few years and will fill a gap in library collections. It's aimed at a younger audience who may not be ready to think critically about environmental concerns but are at a point where they are gathering knowledge and thinking about how they can affect their communities on a smaller scale.

Verdict: Well-researched and written in an accessible style, this is sure to fly off your shelves to panda fans as well as providing a starting point for students wanting to do more in-depth research.

ISBN: 9780544818910; Published 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Inside the mystery package....

It's the complete collection of Brambly Hedge! It's being published in October! I'm so EXCITED! It will take all my willpower not to keep this for myself, but I will have to remind myself that I have the original miniature books in my collection plus this is a much better format for library circulation. And I think I need to watch all the movies again... (they're only on region 2, sorry!)

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Ciao, Baby! In the park by Carola Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Told from the perspective of an adorable baby with brown skin and slightly curling hair, this is a sweet adventure in the park. Nonna says “ciao!” and Baby gets packed into the back seat of a bike and they’re off. They settle onto the grass on the park - it appears to be early spring, based on the flowers, dandelion clocks, and grass but still chilly as Baby and Nonna are wearing sweaters and boots. They see a squirrel and Baby goes to meet it, “Scrunch, push. Scrunch, scoot.” but the squirrel takes off. Baby waves, “Ciao squirrel!” This doesn’t discourage Baby, who repeats their actions with a grasshopper and pigeon before it’s time to go home

Tobia’s illustrations are charming, showing a green oasis in the grey city and softly realistic drawings of the creatures Baby meets in the park. This has a little more of an urban feel than I usually purchase for my board books, but I love the idea of encouraging caregivers to take their babies outside and it’s nice to have a book with a darker-skinned baby who could easily be Hispanic (I’m guessing not because of the ciao, which I believe is Italian?).

Verdict: A sweet, sturdy board book which would make a good addition to your collection if you want more outdoor board books.
ISBN: 9780763683986; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Mystery package!

I got a special package today. What could be inside?

Bubbles by Kit Chase

Kit Chase writes sweet and friendly books about a group of little animals who have everyday adventures, squabbles, and joys.

In this latest book, a sweet little kangaroo and a shy koala bond over the simple delights of bubbles. The friendly yellow kangaroo, with soft red cheeks, is blowing blue bubbles. When she sees some yellow bubbles, she follows the trail to discover another creature blowing bubbles - a koala!

But when Kangaroo tries to talk to Koala, Koala hides in the tree. Kangaroo starts to leave, but then the bubbles start again. The yellow and blue bubbles join into a delightful green bubble party. But then the green bubbles make a monster! Will Koala come down from the tree to help their new friend?

Chase's soft watercolors make these cozy stories come to life with red-cheeked little animals and light touches of pastels against a white background. Friendly little Kangaroo, bouncing up and down in her eagerness to make a new friend, and shy little Koala, nervous around this new bouncy person, are adorable. It's nice that the characters didn't default to male pronouns, as usually seems to happen. I was a little disappointed that Koala ended up talking - it would have been a nice, unique ending for them to continue their non-verbal communication, and would have definitely added to my audience as I have a large population of special needs kids and would love to read a book about how you don't have to be verbal to be friends.

Verdict: A sweet little story about friendship. An additional purchase, especially if you have fans of Kit Chase.

ISBN: 9780399545740; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 27, 2018

Titanic's passengers and crew by Alex Giannini

This is part of a recent series from Bearport called Titanica. Each book covers a different aspect of the Titanic, its construction, the great tragedy, and its rediscovery. This particular title is an overview of the passengers and crew.

The book begins dramatically, with a young man, Jack Thayer, leaping into the water as the Titanic sinks. He was one of the few survivors. The story then turns to the beginning of the fated voyage; the luxurious cabins and wealthy passengers of 1st and 2nd class and the more cramped quarters of 3rd class. There are statistics on the origins of the passengers and crews and brief biographies of famous passengers, from John Jacob Astor to Millvina Dean, the youngest passenger (and survivor) on the ship.

As well as dramatic stories of survivors and those who perished, the book also includes graphs and statistics on survivors, showing in bold detail the huge loss of life among the crew and 3rd class, as opposed to the 2nd and 1st class. It touches briefly on the aftermath of the disaster and some of the future lives of the survivors. Back matter includes a glossary, brief bibliography, and links for further information.

Verdict: The Titanic is always a popular topic and this is a great introduction for younger or struggling readers who aren't able or ready to read the many award-winning titles on the subject. As soon as I saw it I was sure it would be popular; we put them straight up onto a display with a model Titanic, along with the poster that came with them and they have been checking out regularly ever since. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781684024315; Published 2018 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library; Purchased additional copy for the library

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It's Cybils Season! I suggest you consider applying to be a judge, preferably in my category.

Once the excitement of summer reading is over, it's Cybils season! If you have been living in a hole without internet, you may not be familiar with Cybils. It's the thirteenth year of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award (I think - I am not good at time math) and it's awesome.

There are a lot of children's book awards out there. They recognize literary quality, contribution to the genre and canon, and much more. Cybils is different. It's the only award that recognizes both child appeal and literary quality and the process is very transparent. You, the public, nominate books. Parents, teachers, librarians, and authors with public review platforms (aka bloggers) choose the best. Along the way, we review, discuss, and promote children's literature.

How can you get involved? At the least, you can nominate! Nominations will open October 1. However, if you'd like to dip your toes into the water of judging, now is the time to apply to be a judge! You can see the call for judges here. How to decide what category to apply in? As a general rule of thumb:
  • The most time-intensive categories are those with high numbers of nominations, first-round panelists. You'll be reading and discussing a LOT of books. Middle Grade Fiction, Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade, Speculative Fiction YA, and YA Fiction tend to have the highest number of nominations.
  • Categories for younger genres and more specific fields tend to have fewer nominations, but can require different approaches; fact-checking for nonfiction, early literacy for easy readers, discussing both art and text for graphic novels, etc. Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction, Poetry, Junior/Senior High Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, and Easy Readers/Early Chapters. It helps to know about the genre and audience for these categories but they also tend to have about 100 or fewer nominations.
  • Finally, there are a couple categories that defy categorization - Picture Books/Board Books has a ton of nominations and you'd think you could zip through them, but no! We are an award with professionalism! Think of all the careful consideration of art, text, and audience! Poetry is another outlier.
If you don't have the time to read through a ton of books, second-round judge may be for you. These people take our finalists, announced at the end of the year, and choose the best of the best. There's less reading - but more intensive discussion.

Finally, I suggest you consider my category - Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction. We create  a finalist list for both age groups and then choose the best for each category in the second round. Nonfiction is on the rise with a ton of amazing books coming out, an emphasis on nonfiction in schools and libraries, and recognition that nonfiction is an amazing reading experience that goes beyond just learning facts. Join me in my quest for world domination through, ahem, I mean, it's really awesome to discuss nonfiction with a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I guarantee you (and the children you teach, parent, or write for) will be all the better for the experience.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

This week at the library; or, and now I'm sick

  • Monday
    • Management meeting happened without me. I worked from home on reports and went in about 2 hours late, got through some of the piles on my desk, covered the info desk 5-8pm.
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-o-rama
    • I was supposed to have an outreach today but thankfully it was cancelled.
    • I took the pee-soaked cushion cover to the dry cleaners and went in to work around 10. I had a project to finish, but my head was hurting so bad I went home a bit after five and finished it at home.
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Worked 11-7. ish.
  • Friday
    • Worked 2-5. ish.
  • Saturday
I developed a lovely sinus infection over the weekend, which just tells me I should never take any time off. My temp staff are leaving this week, and I am very grateful the outreach I was going to do on Tuesday didn't pan out because I was not up to it. Also placed approximately 400 books on hold and I really, really, really wish the blanket hold option worked in our OPAC! (I'm not exaggerating. 250 for an outreach coming up in September, 100 for a book club, and 50 misc.)

I haven't updated my Storytime Extras blog in, well, years since I use a pretty small selection of rhymes etc. However, I'm now training my associate to take over some outreach so I have been updating!

Years ago I saw a library that had a "menu of services." I think it might have been Abby the Librarian? Anyways, I wanted it. After much labor, I have my own quarterly newsletter, complete with sections on our services etc. I am very proud of it!

I also completed the preschool STEM calendar through December. If you want a publisher document you can adapt, email me at jwharton(at)

Now I have a WHOLE WEEK with no programs! Then school starts the first week of September and I have two outreach visits and book club.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Crash: The great depression and the fall and rise of America by Marc Favreau

This comprehensive look at the history of the Great Depression is a great way to introduce young readers to this period in US history.

A prologue briefly reviews the catastrophic effects of the Great Depression and then the story plunges into the state of the US in 1931, when the Great Depression struck. The book continues through the causes, analyzing Hoover's policies, the worsening economic and political situation, and the advent of FDR. Chapters are devoted to the powerful influence of Eleanor Roosevelt and the changes in policy organized by ground-breaking Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. The book seems to be rising to an optimistic high, with the successful policies of the New Deal and increasing confidence and economic stability.

But the downside is quickly shown in the onset of the environmental catastrophe of the dust storms, and the even more tragic effect of the Great Depression on the already oppressed African-American and Hispanic populations. Favreau speaks bluntly but sensitively about lynching and the deportation of Mexican workers, many of whom were American citizens. The rise of prejudice and anti-immigrant prejudice continues into the opening salvos of the United State's involvement in World War II and the end of the Great Depression.

Favreau reflects on the effects of the Great Depression and the delayed, but not forgotten, efforts by African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and women to achieve the safety and prosperity sought for by all Americans. The book is full of many firsthand accounts, personal recollections, and original documents. Back matter includes source notes, bibliography, timeline, index, and primary sources.

This is Favreau's first book for young readers and he does an excellent job of explaining a complex time period in history. Many of the darker aspects, riots, oppression, lynching, and prejudice are included to give a full picture, but in a way that is appropriate for young readers. There are a couple omissions; although Favreau gives a very balanced view of Hoover's administration, Roosevelt's seems to be presented through rose-colored glasses, with no mentions of any controversy beyond some acknowledgements of his lack of support for equality for minorities and women. The section on the dustbowl is also very brief, making it sound like the drought was the sole cause of the disaster, rather than years of damaging farming practices.

Verdict: A readable, compelling, and well-written overview; an excellent choice to introduce this time period to young readers and serve as a starting point for further research. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780316545860; Published April 2018 by Little, Brown; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Small Readers: Meet Woof & Quack by Jamie A. Swenson, illustrated by Ryan Sias

Picture book author Jamie Swenson branches out into easy readers in this sweet new series about two oddball friends. Woof, a curly brown dog, and Quack, a green-headed duck, are looking for something to do. Quack has a great suggestion; they should play fetch! There’s just one problem: Woof doesn’t like to fetch. What kind of dog is he anyways? It’s a good thing Quack is just as quirky a duck as Woof is a dog and loves to fetch. The two have a great time playing their own version of the game and ending in the most tasty way, with cake everywhere!

Sias’ fuzzy illustrations show a cheerfully smiling pair, with brushed charcoal outlines and bold, colored backgrounds. There’s no indication in the text of gender, but the brief publisher’s description on the back notes Woof as male, saying “his new friend”. No gender is given for Quack.

This is a level H title, which is on the more difficult side of the emergent readers I collect; the text is not as simple as an Elephant and Piggie comic, although it follows a similar format with two quirky friends and the text all contained in speech balloons. It includes more challenging vocabulary like interesting, would, and fetch. It would be suitable for a reader ready to start moving along from emergent-level titles to more challenging easy readers.

Verdict: Cute and funny, although this isn’t likely to have hordes of specific fans like Pete the Cat, Elephant and Piggie, or Fly Guy, it’s a perfectly solid choice to fill the voracious need for easy reader comics. Recommended.
ISBN: 9780544959514; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How to code a sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios

The Girls Who Code group expands into a picture book for the very youngest of coders in this latest offering.

After a quick foreword from Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, the story begins. Readers are introduced to Pearl, a biracial girl with a little spotted dog. She's ready for her last chance to build a sandcastle! All summer long things have gone wrong - cue a montage of a diverse range of kids and comic disasters - but today nothing can go wrong because Pearl has Pascal, a rust-proof robot. All she has to do is tell him to build a sandcastle and voila!

Or... maybe not. Turns out, Pascal needs to be given instructions in code and it's not as easy as Pearl thinks! Bit by bit, Pearl figures out how to get Pascal to build her sandcastle, meeting a variety of silly and comic mishaps along the way, as well as a diverse range of people on the beach.

A final two-page spread gives more information about code, written in simple language. This book can be read both as an instruction manual, working with young children to introduce coding concepts. It's also funny and amusing and, with some quick editing, could be a good storytime read-aloud. The diverse protagonists are a nice touch, although I noticed that the robot defaulted to male.

Verdict: A good choice even if coding isn't popular at your library; sure to be a fun summer storytime read.

ISBN: 9780425291986; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 20, 2018

Protest movements then and now by Eric Braun

This is part of a series from Smithsonian, under the mantle of Capstone, about protest movements. The other titles cover civil rights, environmental protests, and women's rights but this is just a general one.

Which, to be honest, was my first problem with this book. I'm not sure why it didn't designate in the subtitle that it's primarily about the 1960s, but apparently it's meant to be an overview of the formative protests of the 1960s. The book covers the changes in culture, economy, and the aftermath of the world wars that led to this decade being a pivotal moment for the United States. It addresses the reasons behind protests about civil rights, women's rights, the environment, and some nascent gay and lesbian protests, such as the Stonewall riots. The book covers the tools used in protest, from music and radio to marches and sit-ins and moving onto television. It ends with the results of the various protests and a chapter looking forward to the future and referencing current protest movements.

Additional information includes questions for discussion, additional resources, a glossary, websites, and more. Unfortunately, as well as many photographs and some archival material, the book also includes several typos and some clunky phrasing that seems due to punctuation errors.

It's an interesting look at protest movements, but it's not cohesive in its subject and tries to cover too much, at one point discussing civil rights and then jumping to women's rights movements, talking about legislation passed to protect the environment and then giving statistics on unemployment and and discrimination. The issues covered are very complex and the book is too brief to really do justice to them. The contemporary protests covered at the end are an interesting addition, putting the changes into perspective over time, but they also mean the book is likely to become outdated quickly, especially as the current administration repeals legislation and the long-term effects, if any, of protests from the early 2000s begin to show.

Verdict: As an introduction to the topic, something that readers might pick up to help them narrow down a topic, it's an acceptable choice, or would be if it had additional proofreading and the errors were removed. Unless you have a very generous budget though, it's an additional purchase at best since it will quickly become outdated.

ISBN: 9781543503852; Published 2018 by Smithsonian/Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, August 19, 2018

RA RA Read: Read-Aloud and Easy Nonfiction

I've been working over the years to encourage more easy nonfiction in storytimes, as picture book selections, and just in general. Some years it goes by the wayside as I focus on other things, but this fall we're reviving several nonfiction-based programs for younger kids and so I'm revisiting this list.

You'll probably quickly notice that when I say "nonfiction" I almost exclusively mean "science and animals", as I put into the title of this post. When I "read" nonfiction in storytime, it's always a dialogue with the children. Often we end up reading very little of the actual text as we discuss the art and concepts presented. Narrative nonfiction is a whole different bundle of twigs and I have strong feelings about picture book biographies anyways.

  • David Adler
  • Jim Arnosky
    • A classic nature writer. Every Autumn Comes the Bear is a storytime favorite, but I've used many other titles - Bayou Babies, Racoons and Ripe Corn etc. to great effect.
  • Dianna Hutts Aston
    • Her series of books, gorgeously illustrated by Sylvia Long, have my favorite "layered" text; bold, simple sentences to read aloud, and more dense text for additional information. A Seed is Sleepy, An Egg is Quiet, etc.
  • Nic Bishop
    • He's not only a stunning nature photographer, he's quite a good writer too. His books are easily adapted to reading with small children. We use Snakes, Lizards, Butterflies and Moths, Frogs, and Marsupials on a regular basis.
  • Nicola Davies
    • A huge variety of books, focusing mainly on animals. Her "Flip the flap and find out" series is a mainstay of my outreach programs and we can spend an entire program just discussing the events in What Happens Next? I've also used Dolphin Baby and I'm looking forward to trying a program with Tiny Creatures
  • Suzi Eszterhas
    • These simple stories feature one animal's life cycle from birth to adulthood. They are adorable and make excellent read-alouds. I especially love Brown Bear because...bears.
  • Steve Jenkins
    • This is one of the most prolific nonfiction authors for young children. I've used his books in flannelboard matching games like What do you do with a tail like this? and another favorite of mine is Down Down Down.
  • April Pulley Sayre
  • Cathryn and John Sill
  • Melissa Stewart
    • My favorites are her weather/habitats series - Under the Snow, When rain falls, Beneath the sun.
  • Susan Stockdale
    • Her simple, rhyming stories work really well with toddlers as well as preschoolers. I love her latest, Stripes of all types, and I've used Fabulous Fishes for many, many storytimes.
A Small Selection of Narrative Nonfiction

Saturday, August 18, 2018

This week at the library

What's happening
I don't have anything to say. This summer has been really rough, things keep happening, and I am exhausted. I took an extra four hours off on Friday so I had the day off and I basically slept all day. Saturday was quiet, broken only by my coughing.

We Explore Resource List: Fall/Harvest

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hidden Women by Rebecca Rissman

There have been several books and a popular movie featuring these mostly forgotten African-American women. Capstone's title is part of their narrative nonfiction series, Encounter, and introduces readers to a variety of women from the history of the space race.

From the exciting first moments of the story, when astronaut John Glenn insisted on Katherine Johnson checking the numbers for his flight into space, each of the women is profiled and their contributions shown. Rissman sets the stage for the women who started out as "human computers" and then continued to be involved in science. Miriam Mann, a talented mathematician, fought against segregation in small ways as she developed the math to support space flights. Mary Jackson spoke out against racism and became part of the staff working on wind tunnels and an engineer in her own right. Dorothy Vaughan managed the human computers in West Area Computing, where the African-American women were segregated, but she also worked to keep her staff relevant and learning so that they would continue to have jobs as computers took over the work they had been doing. Annie Easley was a mathematician who also became a computer programmer. Christine Darden was part of the second generation of African-American women working at NASA, but still faced discrimination. The story ends with an encapsulated view of the moon landing, more information about Katherine Johnson and the use of her math in future flights, and a final reflection on the contributions and futures of the women featured.

Although none of the women were acknowledged at the time, they had a major role not only in the space race and development of computing but also in the battle of African-Americans and women against prejudice. The epilogue talks to several women involved in NASA about their experiences, how sexism and racism has improved -and how it hasn't. Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, critical thinking questions, and resources.

Verdict: This is a good choice for middle grade readers who aren't up to handling the more complex and intense books written on this subject but are still interested in history and science. It did feel a little disjointed, jumping from one woman to another, but the episodic nature may make it easier for kids to read.

ISBN: 9780515799641; Published January 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The wish fairy: Too many cats! By Lisa Ann Scott, illustrated by Heather Burns

Brooke, a black girl, is playing in the meadow with her cat Patches when she rescues a dragonfly… and it turns out to be a fairy! Calla the fairy has blue skin and an adventurous nature; she’s ventured just a little too far from her home in Fairvana. Now that Brooke has saved her life, she must grant her seven wishes.

After careful though, Brooke wishes for one hundred cats. If one cat is awesome, more cats must be even better, right? Wrong. It’s fun at first, especially when her friend Izzy comes along, but she quickly discovers some problems. First, her own cat, Patches, has disappeared. Then there’s feeding and taking care of all those cats… then she makes an unpleasant discovery about where they came from! However, despite these drawbacks she and Izzy have fun. They clean out their savings to buy food for the cats (no endless supply of money here), talk Izzy’s parents into letting her keep one very friendly stray cat, Pumpkin, and make an extra trip to the library to pick up some books on taking care of cats. The story ends well with a nice set-up for the next volume, as Brooke plans her next wishes.

Black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout the book mostly focus on cute pictures of cats, but there are some sweet pictures of fairies, along with some gentle lectures on real friendship as the girls discover Calla’s social difficulties. I was thrilled to discover a beginning chapter book where the minority is the main character - NOT the friend or sidekick and she seems to be prominently featured in all the succeeding books as well.

Verdict: For fairy lovers this will be a great fill-in series, with an added fillip of diversity.

ISBN: 9781338120974; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium