Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mouse by Zebo Ludvicek

An adorable little gray mouse, with big ears and a shy, charming smile, generously shares her cherry with a mischievous letter M. Who promptly eats the whole thing! What can M share with mouse? Only himself....which transforms him into an N with a Nod, and a Nibble. As mouse and M play together, M changes to a Z, L, C and more.

The art is simple, just the black letter with white eyes and mouth, and gray mouse with her pink ears and checked bowtie. M is often part of the words of his half of the story, and sometimes those words are shown in a light gray font. The mouse has cheerful red dialogue and gradually the two share their words until they end with the sweet sentiment that there can't be a mouse with an M.

The art is clever and the story ingenious. It doesn't quite have the appeal of the other alphabet books I've used in storytime or recently reviewed - Trasler's Caveman, McDonnell's Little Red Cat who ran away, or silly favorites like Kelly Bingham's Z is for Moose - but it's quite a good debut effort. It's not quite an alphabet book, with the consonants moving in random order as the M transforms and there are some mildly creepy moments, when the mouse first starts eating the M for example.

Verdict: If you need more quirky alphabet books, consider this a good addition to your collection. Otherwise, stick with the staples.

ISBN: 9781101996362; Published 2017 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, January 15, 2018

Finding the Titanic: How images from the ocean depths fueled interest in the doomed ship by Michael Burgan

Interest in the Titanic is never-ending, but it wasn't always that way. Interest in the major disaster was quickly eclipsed at the time by the events of World War I and only briefly revived by the 1958 movie, A Night to Remember. Not until Robert Ballard's discovery of the wreckage in 1985 did it become a subject of fascination to the general public. This fascination was largely fueled by the images brought up by Ballard and later excavators and creates the focus of this book.

The story begins with the story of the Titanic and then moves into Ballard's expedition and later discoveries. However, while there is a thorough exposition of Ballard's methods, feelings, and work, there is an extra focus on the technology used to capture images and the subsequent improvements made in the undersea robots used to film the wreckage.

Burgan covers the controversy over how the wreck should be handled and the discussion around the collection and use of artifacts. There's also new evidence about the causes of the sinking and additional discoveries made about the wreckage. Burgan goes into additional discoveries and scientific advances made by Ballard, including the real reason he was able to discover the Titanic - he was searching for Navy submarines that had wrecked in the area.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and resources as well as sources, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: A worthy addition to your Titanic resources for young fanatics, add this to get the latest information and a unique perspective. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780756556402; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, January 14, 2018

RA RA Read: Cozy Mouse Stories

This is adapted from a list I made for several specific families at our library. They like cozy, old-fashioned stories, the readers are young but very fluent and eager readers, and the parents are looking for stories with limited or no fantasy elements, no frightening adventures, and an emphasis on family.

Series

  • Heartwood Hotel by Kallie George
    • This new series is already a firm favorite. It's the story of Mona the mouse, who, having been orphaned and lost in the woods, finds a new home and family at the Heartwood Hotel. I love that she works as a maid and her life doesn't magically become easy and comfortable. The descriptions of tiny details and food are lovely too.
  • Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn
    • This British series features a mouse couple and their adventures in the woods and in various houses. The one drawback is that the individual titles aren't available in the US, you have to purchase big collections of 3 stories at a time. However, for eager readers this is not a hardship!
  • Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
    • Most people are at least vaguely familiar with this classic, but fewer realize there's actually seven books in the series! Availability can be an issue here and my library only owns the first title, but we have a lot of small libraries in our consortium and I've been able to find all of them.
  • Poppy and Friends by Avi
    • There's a little more peril in this series, with a tyrannical owl who is eventually killed, but kids who are ready for some more adventure will enjoy it.
  • Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
    • If you're only familiar with the Disney movies, these are very different! Miss Bianca is an elegant mouse who belongs to a diplomat's son and writes 18th century verse. She, Bernard, and a third mouse venture to the Black Castle in their first adventure to rescue a Norwegian poet. Her adventures are sometimes macabre and one, involving evil dolls, is rather frightening. The villains are also quite Dickensian. However, they are beautifully written and exquisite gems. The first title, The Rescuers, has been reprinted but you'll have to hunt for the others.

Authors

  • Henry Cole
    • Although better known as an illustrator, he has written several chapter books featuring small animals. These tend to be cozy stories with a philosophical bent. They don't fly off the shelves, due to a combination of the quieter plots and length, but they're perfect for this specific reader's advisory request.
  • Robert Lawson
    • This is an older author and many of his books are out of print. There are also several instances of troubling racist depictions in some of his more famous titles. However, I prefer to mention these and let parents discuss them with their children. He had a series of historical fiction featuring animals around the time of the American Revolution and some of them are still in print. He has many other titles that are out of print.
      • Rabbit Hill; Tough Winter
      • Ben and Me; Mr. Revere and I

Titles

  • Song of the Christmas Mouse by Shirley Murphy
    • Out of print. A library in our consortium still owns it though.
  • Christopher mouse by William Wise
  • Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  • Abel's Island by William Steig
  • Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  • Evergreen Wood by Alan Perry
    • This is a retelling of Pilgrim's Progress with mice. It's out of print and not very easy to find, although it is inexpensive online.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

This week at the library; or, Jumping in(to the melted ice)

What's happening
This is my desk area.
As you can see, I have started outreach again. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday selecting materials, placing holds, and packing boxes for several large remote collections. Almost 300 books checked out and 200 holds still to come in! The hamster died. I spent over three hours at Walmart, I'm repackaging and organizing our teen pop-up maker space and adding a second, school-age, set of materials as well. Ms. Pattie did Winter Wigglers this week. I gave her my dance sets and some dance party books and she made streamers with the kids and employed hula hoops in some way. I was mostly gone so I didn't get to see! Thursday I was up to 400 books and counting on this one remote collection request. Despite a very noisy book club, we still had something of a discussion about Girls Who Code and Women Who Broke the Rules. I got several kids to check out Stranger at Green Knowe by comparing it to One and Only Ivan. By Friday I had hit 500 books checked out to one school! More outreach. My intern did her first teen program.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Isadora Moon goes to school by Harriet Muncaster

Isadora's mother is a fairy and her father is a vampire. She has a great life - she loves her fluttering wings and being awake during the day, she does NOT like red drinks (especially tomatoes) and taking baths in the pond. Then her parents tell her she must go to school. Vampire or fairy school? They decide she must try both. At fairy school Isadora tries to wish for carrot cake - her favorite - but gets a giant carrot. She's not allowed to wear her sparkly black tutu in dance and as a result fails miserably. Finally, she picks unlucky (and poisonous) toadstools for her flower crown! Maybe she really is a vampire and not a fairy at all. At vampire school, she finds out that she can't fly in fast formation like the vampires, she hates the tomatoes and other red food they all eat, and her beloved pink rabbit toy lets everyone's bats escape. Isadora is miserable - where does she belong?

After she talks to some of the human children outside their gate, whom she's never dared approach before, Isadora wonders if she's something unique and special - herself. Perhaps there's a school that will be just right for her?

Isadora and the other fantasy creatures are all white, the human children a diverse group. The illustrations are all in black, white, and gray with pink wash over the fairy scenes and pink accents when Isadora is with the vampire side of her life. The message about diversity and what it's like to come from two different cultures is emphasized, but I have mixed feelings about it. Her parents are, to put it mildly, clueless about Isadora's miserable experiences and both stick strongly to wanting her to go with their side of the family, although in the end they approve of her choice. It's nice to see the humans shown as accepting of differences and a good place for Isabella to celebrate her differences, but the message seems to be that if you're biracial there's no place for you in either heritage and you have to find a new place for yourself.

Verdict: I might be (probably am) overthinking this. It's a cute and funny story with adorable illustrations and a friendly, cheerful message. The vocabulary is a little advanced for a beginning chapter book, but I can definitely see kids enjoying this. So, a nice addition to your library if you want more beginning chapter books but not necessarily a good choice for diversity.

ISBN: 9780399558214; Published 2016 by Stepping Stone/Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

When I was picking fantasy books for my 5th grade and up book club, I wanted to make sure I had a variety - both in diversity and in type. So, I picked out some scary books as well. As it turns out, I had all 5th graders, none of whom enjoy scary stories. But that didn't stop me from reading them for myself!

I saw a panel with Ellen Oh at ALA and she sounded very funny - so I was curious how she worked out as a writer of scary stories. I don't read a lot of scary stories. This one was definitely chilling; although it didn't bother me as an adult I can see kids being freaked out by it. Which, if you're a kid who likes to be freaked out by scary stories, is perfect!

Harper is miserable. She isn't happy about moving to their new house, she has a vague feeling (egged on by her older sister) that it's all her fault, but she can't remember anything after her stay in a psychiatric hospital where she was severely injured. Now there's something odd about their new house. As Harper slowly regains her memories and watches with increasing worry her younger brother's strange behavior, more and more frightening phenomena begin to happen. Harper must find her inner courage, be honest with old and new friends, and embrace both her heritage and her power if she's going to save her brother - and herself - from a deadly danger.

SPOILERS

Harper's hidden memories and dark past are due to being possessed and injured by powerful ghosts - ghosts she was unable to fight back against without the care of her grandmother, who has embraced her Korean heritage of shaman, unlike Harper's mother who refuses to recognize the spirit world. The growing possession of her younger brother by an evil ghost and the support of a new friend enable Harper to overcome her fears, embrace her power as a spirit hunter, reconnect with her grandmother, and help her family.

There are casual references to Harper's Korean-American heritage and the conflict in her mother who has rejected anything she can't personally touch or see. Harper encounters casual rudeness and racism and also encounters similar instances even among ghosts, who fear and dislike her grandmother's ghostly companion because she is African-American.

Verdict: This spinetingler grows its story slowly, piling on the supernatural danger and fear until it all comes to a dramatic climax. Recommend to readers who enjoy stories like The Books of Elsewhere and other creepy stories.

ISBN: 9780062430083; Published 2017 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Small Readers: King & Kayla and the case of the missing dog treats by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

When I picked up the first title in this series, I was immediately won over by sweet and funny King and Kayla. My library kids were equally entranced and it's been quite a while until I was able to get my hands on the latest title - in fact, I had to borrow another library's copy because mine is checked out again!

King is very excited when he smells Kayla making peanut butter treats. He LOVES peanut butter treats! Unfortunately, they aren't for him - they're for Jillian's new puppy, Thor. And Kayla won't even let him lick the bowl! She says the dough is bad for dogs. Even worse, while they're all playing outside someone steals three of the treats. At first, Kayla blames King, but when she smells his breath she knows he's innocent. While Kayla and Jillian are working hard on figuring out the mystery, King has found some of his own clues, like a funny smell. Can they discover the thief by working together?

Meyers' cheerful and simple pictures are a good match for the brisk text. Easy readers don't want busy or extensive pictures, since the kids are still focusing on comprehending and learning the text. The mystery is simple but fun and lays out the steps of investigating from figuring out the problem to listing the clues. The added humor of King's knowledge and Kayla's obliviousness will tickle kids' funny bones.

Verdict: I'm planning to buy more of these so I can get enough together for a book club. Highly recommended, sure to fly off your shelves.

ISBN: 9781561458776; Published 2017 by Peachtree; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sarabella's thinking cap by Judy Schachner

Sarabella is quiet in class and often loses track of her work - she's simply too busy with the dreams and thoughts that flood into her mind. Her parents and older sister tell her not to worry, as they pursue their own creative endeavors, but Sarabella's teacher keeps sending notes home reminding her to focus. Finally, Sarabella figures out a way to express what she's thinking to everyone with a marvelous thinking cap showing the flood of ideas and pictures that occupy her mind.

The mixed media illustrations glow with the flood of images from Sarabella's mind; some softly colored, others sparkling with light, and more that are what I think of as "Victorian clip art". In the end, her thoughts explode out of her mind and onto paper, impressing her teacher and classmates and earning her the shy friendship of another thoughtful child.

Reviews on this title are mixed, some thinking the story is a good celebration of creativity and differences in learning style and others calling it flawed. I have a different perspective - is this book really needed? There are plenty of books featuring white kids and their quest for creativity and self-expression. The mild reproaches of Sarabella's teacher for not focusing in class and her small, private worries are easily resolved by the end of the story. Her parents have occupations that allow them plenty of leisure time for painting and playing music and Sarabella has her own (spacious) room with plenty of art materials at hand. Her classroom is carefully diverse and has a more normal classroom size - about 20 kids - than most picture books depict. There's a variety of skin colors and races, a girl in a hijab, a boy in a wheelchair, and the child who attracts Sarabella's attention at the end is black. So, what I want to know is, why are we not hearing the story of another child in her class? Why is the little black boy, who appears to have the same fertile imagination, not the featured protagonist instead of the little white girl? It's not necessary to make every picture book an "issue" book, but why not feature a family where the parents are busy at work and the child uses their imagination to amuse themselves? Or a family with more limited resources where the child uses their imagination to create without all the art supplies easy to hand? Basically, why retell the same story over and over when there are other stories waiting to be told?

Verdict: It's a perfectly acceptable story of creativity and imagination with pleasant and sometimes unique illustrations, but it's a story that's been told to exhaustion. I'd pass on this and look for something new to add to my picture book collection.

ISBN: 9780525429180; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, January 8, 2018

What makes a monster? by Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand

Keating returns with another humorous and thought-provoking picture book in her new series, "The World of Weird Animals." In the first book, Pink is for blobfish, she explored unusual pink animals of the world. Now she looks at animals considered monsters either because of superstition, fear, or their unusual appearance. Each spread includes a photograph of the animal in action, a funny cartoon, a description of the animal, and an additional section on the animal's unusual ability or appearance. A sidebar includes stats about the animal - name, species name, size, diet, habitat, and predators and threats.

Animals listed include the honey badger, Portuguese man-of-war, horror frog, cordyceps fungus, prairie dog, assassin bug, goblin shark, and finally, humans. The final pages include funny but thoughtful sections on deciding what makes a monster - are the creatures listed in the book acting according to their natures? Are they truly monsters or are they just surviving the best they can? There is also a glossary.

While this book certainly will catch the attention of kids who enjoy "weird animal" factoids and creepy photographs, underneath the humorous exterior it encourages kids to think about why they're scared of, or dislike certain animals. Do we focus on saving cute animals more than those that are weird-looking?

Verdict: A fun and interesting look at weird creatures around the world as well as a good start for critical thinking about why we behave the way we do. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780553512304; Published 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Purchased for the library

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2017 Library Data and Reflections: Programming and Outreach

The statistics octopus. She grasps all numbers in her tentacles.
So, this year. Sigh. It was a very busy summer, but the numbers didn't necessarily reflect that. It was just weird overall. It felt like we had lower attendance at a lot of things, but overall our attendance was about equal to 2016. I did start a lot of new stuff, but I'm planning on getting it all under control and changing some things next year, now that my staffing situation is, I hope, more or less sorted out.

Programs
  • 348 children’s programs; 11,531 participants
  • 19 teen programs; 508 participants
Storytimes and Early Literacy Programs for ages 0-5
  • 165 programs; average 30 attendees; 4,942 total participants
  • 7 special events for ages 0-5; 836 attendees
Family and School-Age Programs
  • 22 bookclub meetings, average 9 members, 207 total
  • 19 Lego Club meetings, average 26 attendees, 485 total
  • 10 Mad Scientists Club meetings; average 33 attendees; 327 total
  • 12 Messy Art Club meetings; average 32 attendees; 387 total
  • 8 Maker Workshops; average 11 attendees; 91 total
  • 6 special events for families; 650 attendees
Outreach (an estimate, not including numerous school visits, author visit, and participation in school outreach events, which is included in total programming)
  • 76 programs; 1963 total participants
Stealth and Drop-In Programming
  • A total of 671 children and teens participated in SRP
  • We offered 92 stealth activities and drop-in programs, with a total participation of approximately 1865
Pop-Up Maker Space
  • 52 teens participated in our pop-up maker space activities
While our overall programs and attendance were about equal to last year, and the attendance mostly averaged out, there were some changes. After school clubs overall dropped a little; the attendance was very uneven but mostly lower. Fewer outreach visits, kids involved in more activities after school, and inconsistent marketing hit us pretty hard there.

I increased several smaller programs, working with our English-language learning families through the school and starting several initiatives; the Library on the Go in the summer and extending our pop-up teen maker space. I also started the basics of a school-age pop-up maker space at the very end of the year.

I took off from outreach for the fall, in order to have the time to deal with major staff changes and planning life-size Candyland; this affected both our circulation and our overall program attendance, in my opinion.

Our summer reading registration decreased, but it's not as straight-forward as just counting the numbers, since I've changed how we count registration and participation.

Plans for next year
  • I'm booking outreach visits January - March and already have a slew of visits planned. In April and May I'll change over to field trips only, although I'll probably make exceptions for the school and daycare that are located outside of town. I have about 5-10 visits a week booked right now.
  • I'm also getting more involved in outreach events at the schools; I'm participating in their first Maker Faire and a 4K family night in January and also have some additional collaborations with the EL staff planned.
  • I'm also continuing to spend more time on remote collections, supporting the school curriculum and increasing our circulation
  • I plan to make some tweaks to the summer reading program; a lot of families prefer to just do 1,000 books before kindergarten instead of signing up for an additional program for the younger kids. I also hope to expand Library on the Go in the summer, then offer both field trips and outreach visits September - November.
As I expand outreach and related tasks, I'm going to need to cut back and change the way I offer programming. I'm increasing "event" programming, specially on Saturdays, and focusing more on smaller events during the week. Meanwhile, I'm handing more of the everyday programs over to my staff and colleagues.
  • My school colleague will be continuing to offer toddler storytime, an evening storytime, baby storytime, playgroup, and collaborate on special programs.
  • I've handed most of the Winter Wigglers events over to her and my associate. My associate will also be focusing on garden/outdoor programming in the summer.
  • I will be continuing our after school club programs through April then going on hiatus until next September. I'll probably have a few more drop-in craft and lego programs, but in the summer I'll be focusing on maker workshops, Library on the Go, introducing more Friday/Saturday programs. I'll also have my book clubs during the school year.
  • I'm offering a few more maker workshops during the year and trying to do roughly one Saturday event per month. This means I often work two Saturdays a month, although my director does try not to schedule me on Saturday rotation if she can, but with our staffing it just works out that way.
I've handed most of the marketing over to my associate; I send out newsletters and flyers to the schools and create handouts on outreach visits. My associate is also taking over a lot of the stealth programming and activities in-house, as well as displays.

With a new teen intern, we're jumping into teen programs full-tilt, building on the good start my temporary associate made last semester. The plan is to offer 3 programs a month, Middle School Madness, Anime Club, and Teens Game On! They're all going to be casual and, hopefully, require minimal planning and work. They'll have to since my intern only has 8 hours a week and I don't have time!

To pack all of this in, I have to make sure I'm taking reasonable breaks. I will only be doing minimal outreach visits in April and May; most classes will be visiting me. The only programs I will be doing myself in May will be my three book clubs. I won't be doing any programs in August; my associate will probably do some gardening/outdoor things and I'll have drop-in Craft-o-rama and Free Lego Build, which anyone can set up. In December I don't do any outreach and just have the three book clubs and Life-Size Candyland. We did very well with our big holiday programs in November so I'll probably continue that. Overall, I'm moving towards more drop-in, casual programming.

2017 Library Data and Reflections: Circulation and Collections

The statistics octopus. She has tentacles.
This past year was... something. Yeah, that's what we'll go with. Now, as I gather the remains of the year and my tattered organization back together again (ok, it's not that bad, I'm just really tired) and start thinking about next year I find that it IS next year. So, here we are.

Circulation

  • Total: 130,066
  • Overall, circulation increased from 2016 by about 900
  • Areas with notable changes
    • Juvenile nonfiction increased by about 3,400
    • Picture books decreased by about 2,000
    • Juvenile fiction increased by a little over 4,000
    • Children's (dvds) decreased by almost 4,000
    • I added a whole collection, Library on the Go, in the professional location about 450 titles.


Collection Size
  • Total: 26,966
  • Overall collection size decreased by about 800
  • Areas with notable changes
    • Picture book collection decreased by about 500
    • Children's (dvd) collection decreased by about 100
    • Young adult fiction decreased by about 200
    • Board books decreased by about 80
    • Juvenile fiction increased by about 1,000
Collection Reflections
  • We struggled with falling circulation last year. My department was the least affected, also in light of our rapidly increasing circulation over the past nine years I don't really feel this is that big of an issue. 
  • I weeded a LOT of the juvenile nonfiction, but also added an equal number so the collection size stayed about the same. I also increased usage there with my school visits and remote collections. I've put aside a significant amount of the budget to continue to grow this collection in 2018.
  • Our picture book collection has not been comprehensively weeded since I switched to neighborhoods in 2014. The size had ballooned to an unwieldy 6,000. I made a valiant effort to weed it, and got it down a bit, plus I didn't add a lot of picture books and I significantly weeded the tub books at the end of the year and haven't purchased replacements yet. We also saw a drop in picture book circulation since I didn't do any of my regular outreach in the fall. I think fines are an increasing problem in this area as well. I am going to be vigorously advocating for fine free picture books, tub books, board books, and easy readers. I'm also going to do some more weeding and focus on buying in this area.
  • Young adult didn't fit on the shelves. I had to do an emergency weed. We also had a decrease in circulation in this area. It's difficult to promote this one, so few teens are able or willing to read for pleasure. Our cataloger is going to work on purchasing some younger materials, more middle school age range, and hopefully our teen intern will have some good ideas.
  • Board books were compressed into a smaller area and there's basically a table in front of them. So, yeah, that's an issue. I'm going to move some of the toys to a different spot so there's more space and see what I can do about getting a smaller table so they're more accessible.
  • Juvenile fiction did well overall, but I may need to do some weeding as well as focus on keeping up with a lot of series to keep it going at its present height. I've also worked on purchasing more copies of popular materials for the summer.
  • Dvd circulation dropped by 4,000. I'm conflicted. On the one hand, I don't really want to encourage more use of dvds. On the other hand... so I did a major weed right at the end of the year - only about 100 of that showed up on the stats, but it's probably 3 or 4 times that. I'm removed scratched, gross, and icky movies (we reused a lot of cases so even some new movies look awful). I'm cleaning out duplicates - it was all very well to have 7 copies of Frozen, but we don't need that many now. Well, maybe 4. I'm purchasing additional copies of popular series (Paw Patrol. Blech.) and replacing worn but still popular titles. We'll see how it goes. I think it's a combination of more people using netflix and streaming services and those who can't afford those tend to run into the barrier of fines. So, we'll see what happens.

Friday, January 5, 2018

This week at the library; or, New year

What's happening
  • Monday - closed for holiday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday - school resumes
  • Thursday
  • Friday
Things I was doing
  • Working on weeding project with movies
  • Completed December and yearly reports and statistics, including resetting everything for new year
  • Outreach. Just got a whole slew of new bookings for next week, but happily realized that the big outreach program I agreed to appear at isn't until the following week (after freaking out about it some)
  • Ordered supplies and materials
  • Teen intern started this week (I mean, intern for teen services, not that she's a teen). 
  • Also followed up on incident reports and other annoying but necessary tasks.
Bookaneers choices highlighted
  • I had a small and rather quiet group at book club. Which was surprising since they are usually bouncing off the walls! Hippopotamister by John Green was the big hit, with all but one copy being grabbed off the shelf. Wedgieman was a close second and several kids took Zoey and Sassafras as well.

Under-the-bed Fred by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Colin Jack

Leo, a skinny white boy with messy brown hair, has a problem. There is a monster under his bed. He just knows it! Launching himself across the room, he huddles in bed all night...until one night the need for the bathroom is just too much and he TALKS to the monster. Turns out, the monster's actually pretty nice, even though it's his job to scare Leo. Once they've started talking, Leo helps the monster pick a name (Fred) and even takes him to school to introduce him to the other kids. Fred shows off his scary skills, even using them to take revenge on a mean neighbor kid who comes over for a playdate and breaks Leo's toys. Leo and Fred end the story as friends, even if Fred doesn't always quite understand things!

The layout and art of this story reminded me of Princess in Black. Jack's pictures are colorful and have a slick, digital shine to them. Fred is a looming, rather messy brown monster who looks a bit like Sully from Monsters Inc. The book is a slightly oversized hardcover with simple, bold text and vocabulary suited to younger grades.

Verdict: This fills a need for beginning chapters with a younger feel for very young, fluent readers - kindergarten through 1st grade - who still like the humorous, innocent stories. It would also make a fun read-aloud. A fun additional choice, if not a necessary one.

ISBN: 9781770495531; Published 2017 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Thursday, January 4, 2018

They didn't teach THIS in worm school! by Simone Lia

The publication releases for this sounded funny, so I went ahead and requested it (accidentally twice). When it came I had doubts. Too much text? Too introspective? Too European? But ultimately I think it is quite funny, although it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Marcus the worm lives a normal life, in his normal tunnels underground. But one day he meets Laurence. Laurence is, well, let's just say he looks like a rather small, plump chicken. Yes, he's a pigeon. And Marcus is in a can with Laurence about to eat him! It's at that moment that Marcus' life changes. Instead of resigning himself to his fate, screaming all the way down Laurence's beak, or even trying to squirm away, Marcus says good morning. Things move on from there and Marcus finds himself flying across the French countryside with Laurence. Laurence firmly believes he's a flamingo and has a dream of traveling to the Lake Nakuru National Park, in Kenya, to be with his fellow flamingos. He's never had the courage (or the navigational ability) to fulfill his dream but with Marcus at his side, it's time to soar!

At first unwilling, Marcus goes along because he has no choice. But after the two make some marvelous discoveries, have some close calls (I KNEW squirrels were evil!), and learn a little more about each other, both have an epiphany. Having arrived at a zoo a few miles away from their home, Marcus realizes that he's had new adventures and experiences he might never have had without Laurence and they have become true friends. Laurence realizes he's not really a flamingo, but that's ok - and because he decided to listen to a worm, instead of eating him, he's managed to fulfill some of his dreams instead of just staying home and thinking about them.

Lia's cartoons are sparse, but add an amusing dimension to the quirky story when they appear. In the galley I received for review they are in black and white, but the finished book will be in two colors - I'm guessing that it will go along with the cover, Marcus as a pink curve and Laurence a plump, gray and white pigeon with squiggled feathers. Of course there's also the crazy squirrel, mean mole, and all the other odd characters they meet along the way.

Verdict: At almost 200 pages this is a little long for a beginning chapter book and a little short for most middle grade readers. It won't appeal to every kid, but the odd, quirky characters and dry sense of humor are sure to find at least a few fans. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 9780763695361; Published February 2018 by Candlewick; Galley provided by publisher (and LT Early Reviewers) for review

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Small Readers: Bramble and Maggie: Snow Day by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend

This series has been chugging along for several years in our library. It checks out regularly, is a strong favorite in book club, and a go-to for kids looking for intermediate books between easy reader and early chapter and those who like horses. I was surprised and pleased when I realized this was a new addition to the series.

Maggie is getting ready for the big snow storm. She knows that Bramble's thick coat will keep her warm but she and her family are checked everything they might need, like water and food. Right before the storm hits, Maggie runs out to check on Bramble and finds that her door is stuck a little bit open. She decides she's smart enough to stay in her stall and hurries back to the house. At first, Bramble does stay inside - those snowflakes tickle! - but eventually she starts feeling cramped. So she sets out to explore the storm! Bramble enjoys her solitary ramble, investigating tracks in the snow and staying warm and cozy under her thick coat. But when Maggie wakes up the next morning, not only can't they get their door open but she sees out the window that Bramble is missing! While Maggie and her dad try to get out of the house, Bramble also wakes up and starts searching for some food. With a little quick thinking on Maggie's part and some help from Bramble, soon not only is Maggie family out and about but they're helping their neighbors to dig out as well. The story ends with a cheerful gathering of neighbors and lots of love for clever Bramble!

Friend's cheerful spot illustrations show humorous Bramble and her best friend Maggie enjoying their adventure in the snow as well as their friendly neighbors. A heart-warming adventure for both horse-lovers and those who like a good winter story.

Verdict: A fun addition to a popular series, sure to please your intermediate readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763673642; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The little red cat who ran away and learned his ABC's (the hard way) by Patrick McDonnell

There's a rather odd little book called Caveman: A B. C. story by Janee Trasler which is sadly out of print but an extremely popular book with my storytime kids, especially preschoolers. Basically, it's an abc story - you start with an "Acorn" and move on through the story as he meets a dinosaur and other creatures, they chase after the caveman, etc. It's really funny and it works great with the kids matching up the abcs. But.... it's out of print.

Now I have a new book that's just as good, if not better! The title page opens with an open door. The little red cat perks up on her cushion and decides to make a run for it...when she promptly encounters an Alligator! Then a Bear, then a Chicken... and so the story continues. Each page features a single letter, in a bold, black typeface, as the little red cat runs across Mountains, swings through the Jungle, stops at a Rest room, and so on. The story gets wilder and wilder until they encounter a Unicorn, share Valentines, Wave goodbye, and the little red cat gets a map with her home marked on it in an X. The last page shows the little red cat and a word for each letter of the alphabet (and yes, I got them all right.)

Verdict: McDonnell's cute cartoons are the perfect venue for this wacky adventure and it makes a great storytime read - wait for the kids to start yelling out the words as they figure out the matching titles and it will be great! I love Caveman, but some of the words are a bit strained and don't have the smooth flow of this title. For older readers, challenge them to create their own alphabetical story.

ISBN: 9780316502467; Published 2017 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library

Monday, January 1, 2018

Beauty and the Beak: How science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a bald eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

This unique story begins with the early days of an eaglet. Readers follow her through her first flight and leaving the nest to live on her own. Then tragedy strikes and she is shot by a hunter, shattering the upper part of her beak and damaging the side of her face. Rescued and taken to an animal rehab center, she was unable to drink, eat, or preen with her damaged beak.

Then science and technology stepped in to help. Working together, scientists managed to 3D print a beak and replace her damaged beak, enabling her to care for herself for the first time since she was shot. Beauty's story wasn't over though; she continues to live at the rehab center and requires some care but scientists are studying her slowly regenerating beak and continue to work on prosthesis for both animals and humans.

There is extensive back matter on the history of the eagle, a note from biologist Janie Veltkamp who helped write the book and works with Beauty the eagle, additional information about bald eagles, and their past endangered status and current risks and dangers. There is also a section for readers on what to do if they find an injured eagle or raptor and sources. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a spread with multiple QR apps to learn more as well as activities and ways to help birds in your own yard.

Although there is extensive text, I'd consider this in the picture book area as the story is told simply and clearly enough for a young child to read or listen to and understand. It includes enough science and technology to interest older readers as well, especially those who have an additional interest in working with wild animals. Really, you could buy two copies and put them in both places!

Verdict: An unusual subject told well and in an interesting way. A great addition to any library collection and sure to interest readers (I've already checked out a copy to my fifth graders doing nonfiction research!). Recommended.

ISBN: 9781943978281; Published 2017 by Persnickety Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Cybils Finalists Announced!

Check out the Cybils website for the announcement of finalists today! I am planning a more intensive blog post on awards in March, when I'll have had time to go through everything and purchase (plus that's the month we do award displays).