Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Small Readers: Noodleheads see the future by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss; illustrated by Tedd Arnold

I recommended Noodlehead Nightmares, the first book in this series, last year and then didn't think much of it again (other than eventually purchasing a copy for the library). Then in November of 2017 I pulled the first book for a book club pick. As soon as I said "the author of Fly Guy" there was an immediate rush and the kids were fighting over the Noodleheads! Reluctant readers were giggling over it, and sad faces were shown me when I ran out of copies. I've since ordered more copies and am looking forward to sharing the sequel with these eager readers.

The Noodleheads return in this second book and they're ready to help! First, they try to help Uncle Ziti build a wall. But they can't get their hands off to give him a hand, and when he tells them it's a piece of cake they set of in search of cake. When they discover their mother looking into the future and picturing a garden, the two decide to help her with her garden so they can get some cake. But "digging a garden is hard work!" so they decide to collect firewood instead. While in the woods, they run into their friend Meatball who turns out to be able to see the future! Or is he just after their firewood? Fortunately, he's a good guy in the end and gives them some acorns to grow their own firewood. Meatball is such a good friend, even if he can't see the future! Or can he? Fortunately, it all ends with delicious cake.

Arnold's trademark illustrations, featuring bulgy eyes, humorous characters, and a cracked pattern in the backgrounds (like Alison Jay's work - I don't know what the technique is called, but it looks cool) will quickly grab the attention of Fly Guy fans. The integration of fool stories from around the world (sources in the back) shows that these tales are just as funny now as they were when they were first told and a whole new generation will enjoy practicing their reading with some silly noodleheads.

Verdict: I'm going to buy some additional copies to meet the need, now that the kids have discovered how much fun these Noodleheads can be.

ISBN: 9780823436736; Published 2017 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna, the very first chicken by Douglas Rees, illustrated by Jed Henry

Heh. This is a funny book.

A giant tyrannosaurus terrorizes the jungle, snapping at dinosaurs, looking for breakfast. He's big! He's scary! He's about to meet something even more terrifying...

EDNA, the very first chicken.

She doesn't see why she should run away from this big bully! She's got her own breakfast to get. "BEWARE MY DEADLY STOMP AND LONG, SHARP TEETH." Bellows Tyrannosaurus. "Beware my pointy claws and many feathers," snaps back Edna. Alas, the dinosaur pays no heed to the warning and snaps up what he thinks will be a tasty mouthful... only to discover that Edna isn't fooling around! She may be small, but she's tough, clever, and brave and no tyrannosaurus will get the best of her!

Henry's colorful pictures show a herd of brightly colored dinosaur, and an adorable, big-eyed chicken who's got spirit to match the biggest dinosaur!

Verdict: A funny story about how size doesn't matter! Also of note is that Edna is female and T. Rex is a guy (-:) I plan to thoroughly enjoy reading this one to audiences, complete with roaring and trying to talk over a mouthful of feathers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781627795104; Published 2017 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, January 29, 2018

Chomp! by Brady Barr

This collection of fascinating facts and interesting information from National Geographic packs a big bite. Brady Barr, a herpetologist, branches out and measures the bite force of a number of animals. The book is divided up into different types of bites - grippers, slicers, crushers, and gulpers. Each chapter includes spreads on a variety of animals including interesting facts about them, focusing especially on their bites and methods of feeding. The book also includes a number of narrow escapes experienced by Barr during his adventures and family portraits that cover a number of different species in crocodilians, sharks, and snakes.

The book is written in a brisk, racy style, interspersing exciting stories about being chased by hippos and bitten by turtles with eye-popping photos of animals, most with mouths looming wide! Kids will learn about the bite force of a shark, a human, a snake, and a hippo. How hard can an animal with no teeth bite? What happens if you get bitten by a real dragon? These and more questions are answered throughout the book.

National Geographic books are rarely a hard sell. Kids love the bite-sized pieces of information and the popular topics and exciting presentation make them sure winners, especially with reluctant readers. But parents and teachers are often looking for more cohesive narratives and challenging text. We could go into a discussion about expository vs. narrative here, but there isn't time and anyways Melissa Stewart has already covered this. But this book meets the desires of both with the interspersed narratives of the author, talking about his experiences, what he learned, and why he made these scientific (and sometimes dangerous) experiments.

Verdict: A popular topic with plenty of information and great examples of both narrative and expository nonfiction. Sure to fly off your shelves, this is available in both paperback and library bound.

ISBN: 9781426328398; Published 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, January 28, 2018

RA RA Read: Folktales in storytime

I used to periodically see blog posts lamenting the death of folktale picture books. I haven't seen too many recently - I guess they've just accepted their demise. I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, I do wish more kids enjoyed folktales. They're rich in cultural history, language, and are just fun! On the other hand, they are usually too long to use in storytime and most kids won't sit still for them.

I have improved the circulation of our folktale collection by moving it into the picture book neighborhood (which includes "Nursery" tales and Mother Goose, princess stories, and Bible stories). I have also created displays of picture books, movies, and chapter books based on folktales, frequently do a folktale-themed outreach to the four year old kindergartens in November, and I've done a big Fairy Tale Adventure program several times. I don't expect them to ever have the circulation numbers of contemporary picture books, but I do have a slate of titles that I recommend to parents and teachers and which work well in storytimes, especially with preschool and kindergarten.

When I read folktales, I don't read word-for-word (well, I rarely do that for anything). I add in my own words and interjections, additional repetition if I sense the kids losing interest, or cut longer passages. Sometimes the kids will be absorbed and I'll go straight through; more often I'll adapt it to my audience.

Jessica Souhami
  • I don't remember where I encountered these folktales - it was fairly recently, within the last ten years. They have clicked really well with my audiences. The repetition, humor, and simple illustrations make them perfect choices for storytimes.
    • No Dinner
    • Foxy
    • Sausages
    • Honk, Honk Goose
Margaret Read MacDonald
  • A classic storyteller and folktale writer. I haven't found that all of her stories work as well with storytimes as some have claimed, but these (Squeaky door especially) are perennial favorites.
    • The Squeaky Door
    • Give up Gecko
    • Fat Cat
    • Old woman and her pig
Individual titles
  • Rabbit's Snow Dance by Joseph Bruchac 
    • I use this every year and the kids adore it. There are several parts they can join in on.
  • Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice Harrington 
  • Monkey by Gerald McDermott
  • Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Divakaruni
    • This is the same story as Souhami's No Dinner. It's a colorful, hilarious version.
Flannel Boards

Saturday, January 27, 2018

This week at the library; or MAKE ALL THE THINGS

Trying out the Makedo
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Staff Meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
    • SRP Workshop
    • School snow day. Storytime cancelled. Took the morning off for extra hours worked last week. Workshop 45 minute drive from 1-4.
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Very Hungry Caterpillar Yoga (2 sessions)
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Friday
    • Teens Game On
    • Worked 3-4 hours, prep for Maker Faire etc.
  • Saturday
    • Outreach event - Mini Maker Faire
    • Worked 7:30 to 5pm
Projects completed or in progress
  • Finished teen pop-up maker space
  • Finished school age pop-up maker space
  • Refilling and adding to circulating maker kits in progress
  • Started working on April - May schedule and programs
  • Started working on summer plans

Friday, January 26, 2018

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

[This review was originally published in 2009. It has been updated and revised.]

Other cats lounge around all day, doing nothing, empty of purpose. Not Binky. Binky has trained. Binky has prepared. Binky is now...a Space Cat! His mission is to go....Outside. Ordinary cats cannot go Outside. Only Space Cats. All his life, Binky has prepared for this mission; and he has defended his humans from evil aliens, namely, bugs. Now, he is ready for the ultimate mission! Or is he?

The panels are drawn in black, white, and gray with occasional small splashes of color. I admit that I still haven't quite figured out the ears. The deadpan delivery of both the art and text combine to add to the humor.

Why are cats so funny? We don't know. But they are. This book shows that, while ordinary cats are ordinarily funny, space-trained, alien-eating, human-defending, cuddle-loving Space Cats are even funnier!

Binky goes on to star in his own series, with a second series featuring the space cats (Fluffy strikes back) beginning in 2016. The years have flown by, but Binky is still funny and a popular choice for beginning chapter readers who like cats and my book club for younger grades.

Verdict: Hand this one to kids who like funny stories, cats, or both. If you have a small enough group, it would also make a hilarious read-aloud!

ISBN: 978-1554533091; Published August 2009 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

[update - the hardcover is now out of print, but Binky is still available in paperback and library bound editions.]

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Moon Princess by Barbara Laban

Full confession: I did not read all the book selections for my October Book Explosion meeting, genre fantasy. The kids (5th+) kindly informed me that I should start reading right away for the adventure genre the next month because I could explain better about the books when I'd read them. But I still have to make choices next year, so I'm trying to do both. It's, um, not working out amazingly well, probably because I'm also tackling books for several different Cybils categories as well as other projects. Oh well. I have gotten through a few!

There was only one copy in the consortium of Moon Princess, and nobody was interested in taking it. I collected it to read over lunch and I have to say - I'm glad none of the kids took it and I won't be using it as a book club choice again.

Shy Sienna has no friends but her magical companion, a sarcastic (and invisible) dog named Rufus. Her archaeologist mother disappeared in China and her dad doesn't want to talk about it. Then he comes home with news - they're moving to China. Before Sienna has time to process what's happening, she's installed in an apartment in Shanghai with a villainous Chinese housekeeper named Ling and the possibility of a mysterious friend, a boy named Feng. When she encounters her mother's lost invisible friend, a cat named Ming, the invisible friends, Sienna, and Feng set out to find Sienna's mother and her driver and assistant, Feng's older brother. Eventually they uncover a fraud in the temple and their missing family members, and the nasty Ling and corrupt monks get their comeuppance, as does Ling's dangerous crocodilian invisible friend.

The book is surprisingly stereotyped and racist, considering the author has lived in Taipei and studied the area. There is also a certain clunky turn of phrase that can be attributed to a less-than-stellar translation. However, it's glaringly obvious that of the actual Chinese protagonists one is a stereotyped villain, one is a helpless child who needs (white) Sienna to save him, and the others are clueless or corrupt monks. The mysterious doctor who helps them is another stereotype, that of a "wise elder" with little to no personality beyond his brief appearance.

The story dashes to a quick conclusion with no explanation of the origin of the invisible animals, why Sienna's father's job takes him to China (to the exact place her mother disappeared) or even a possible mention of the perhaps legitimate complaint that some of the local inhabitants resented her mother for apparently waltzing in to write a book about their own culture and history.

Verdict: It sounded good in the initial description I read, but it was disappointing in the end. Buy an extra copy of The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang instead. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9781338118551; Published 2017 by Scholastic/Chicken House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Mrs. Peanuckle's vegetable alphabet; Mrs. Peanuckle's fruit alphabet; illustrated by Jessie Ford


Rodale Press, well-known for gardening instruction, has branched out into children's books with mixed results. This series introduces fruits and vegetables to very small children in two board books. The fruit alphabet starts with the unusual choice of avocado. Colorful, busy illustrations and a busy layout of text in a collage format fills the pages with such fruits as jack fruit, ice cream (with fruit), a whole flood of fruits beginning with "p", ugli fruit, vanilla, elderberry, and figs. Some of the text simply lists fruits, other selections give warnings about not eating berries outside, and still others describe taste and texture.

The companion title, focused on vegetables, is very similar. A hot pink page features a yellow jicama with a smiling face and red mouth (incidentally, I take issue with the statement that it is "delicious eaten raw." not in my experience! Yech.) A light blue page features an explosion of smiling peas and a cute brown bunny. Tomatoes are included in this title, as they are in fruit, only to explain that they aren't vegetables. U stands for "underground" which has a variety of root vegetables and V is for "vegetable" which covers a range of vegetables from the book.

These are bright and colorful but not what I'd choose when looking for developmentally appropriate board books. The pages are crowded with words and pictures and most of the fruits and vegetables depicted will be unfamiliar to children in my small, midwestern town. The text is also often a higher level than will hold the attention of the average toddler. However, I plan to purchase these. I collaborate with a colleague on healthy eating programs and these are perfect choices to share with parents and children to expand their familiarity with fruits and vegetables. The colorful art and cheerful, friendly voice of the text are a bonus.

Verdict: These are samples of a board book that isn't necessarily aimed at the baby and toddler audience but can still be very useful in diversifying your collection.

Vegetables
ISBN: 9781623368708; Published 2017 by Rodale Kids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Fruit
ISBN: 9781623368722; Published 2017 by Rodale Kids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The secret of black rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

White-haired Erin Pike and her dog Archie live in a small, colorful house near a village. The main source of income is fishing and Erin would love to go to sea with her mom, but the legend of the terrible Black Rock keeps her on shore. Fisherfolk say it moves from place to place and crashes ships. But Erin is not afraid and continues to sneak onto her mom's boat. Then one day she is swept overboard - and meets Black Rock! It's nothing like what the fisherfolk think. In fact, it's alive and a haven for sea creatures. But can Erin save Black Rock from the fisherfolk when they come to destroy it?

While the text does not particularly shine, and ends rather abruptly with the sentence "After that night the Pikes built a small lighthouse on Black Rock, so it would always be safe from passing ships." the real star of this book and the reason I fell in love with it is the illustrations. Vibrant color splashes the pages, in the yellow of Erin's slicker, her red and yellow house, and the flashing fish that surround Black Rock. The rock itself, although first shown in various frightening guises in local legend and as a menacing black shadow in Erin's first encounter, slowly takes on a friendly look as Erin takes the chance to explore it and see it as a sentient being.

I'm really looking forward to using this in my book club for 1st - 3rd grade. The vocabulary will be a challenge for my younger readers, but it's one they can easily enjoy with a parent or older sibling. The art will spark all sorts of connections - we can focus on painting, creating layers, using glitter, and creating the same image from different perspectives. Of course, there's also the discussion it can spark - talking about facing fears, listening to others, and making new friends.

Verdict: Lovely art and plenty of food for thought, this is a strong addition to any picture book collection.

ISBN: 9781911171256; Published 2017 by Flying Eye Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, January 22, 2018

Hockey then to wow! created by Sports Illustrated Kids

I've previously looked at volumes in this series on Baseball and on Football and I am still not particularly happy with their presentation. So, it's a history of the sport with lots of photographs, interesting facts, and player bios. The breakdown of each spread is as follows.

The introductory material includes a comparison of the original sweater and modern jersey, table of contents, brief history, and a timeline of the changes in the rules. This is followed by several pages of history of equipment, skates, sticks, uniforms, etc. There are several pages on arenas and players (most of them are Canadian). The chapter on the players covers historical and current players, all in the NHL so either American or Canadian. Players with quirks, players with famous records, statistics on size, and length of career. A page on "hockey dynasties" analyzes the sport including coaches, strategies, the international scene, records and one spread (2 facing pages) on women's hockey. Then there are famous goals, team dynasties, and the Stanley Cup. The final chapter covers wacky antics by the fans and team players from growing beards to tossing things on the ice.

Did you miss that? Because I nearly did. ONE spread, 2 facing pages, on women's hockey. A WHOLE CHAPTER on people growing beards and throwing dead fish on the ice. The only other mention of women is in the spread on international hockey, which briefly mentions the Canadian women's hockey team. Every single reference to players in descriptions of strategy, rules, equipment, and traditions is to male players. Every timeline, every profiled player, all male. The publisher's description ties this book in to the centennial of the NHL. Fair enough, that makes sense they'd focus on NHL players. But nowhere in the book itself is this mentioned - it's titled and presented as a history of hockey. And women get 2 pages and a couple sentences out of 80 pages.

Will this circulate? Yes. Do I personally care about women's sports (or sports at all)? Not really. Does this book annoy me? YES. Would I be willing to spend money on books profiling male and female athletes and players equally? Absolutely. Would they check out? Maybe. While I have many girls who play and read about sports, the entertainment industry centered around sports is heavily male-centric, which influences what the kids read about and ask for. But if I don't even have the books to offer, we'll never know, will we?

Verdict: It's paper over board so it will fall apart fairly soon anyways. I'm still annoyed though.

ISBN: 9781683300113; Published 2017 by Time Inc/Sports Illustrated Kids; Review copy provided by the publisher

Sunday, January 21, 2018

RA RA Read: Stories without words

While I'm not an unqualified fan of wordless books, I do have some beloved favorites, both for personal reading and for storytimes, and some that I like to recommend for use in classrooms and for family enjoyment. I've included suggestions here to get you started in the wonderful world of wordless books, plus some tips on using them in storytime.

Wordless books for storytime
When I'm looking for wordless books for storytime, I look for larger formats and art, which the audience can see easily. I also like to find a clearly sequential storyline. When I read books in storytime, I have never stuck strictly to the words. Especially in longer books, I skip, substitute words if I've forgotten, interject comments, and ask questions. This is the same technique I use for wordless books, just expanded. Some of the questions I'll ask the kids:
  • What is happening on this page? What is this character doing? How do you think they feel?
  • What do you think will happen next? What do you think the characters are saying?
It's hard to remember, but younger kids especially need more time to respond to these questions. I try to always wait several beats longer than I would naturally, rephrase and repeat questions, and let the dialogue move naturally instead of worrying that it's throwing off the schedule. These are some of the books I've found work best in storytime:
  • Chalk by Bill Thomson
    • He has two other titles, Fossil and Typewriter, which follow the wordless format and work well too. I just use Chalk more often - the dinosaur and the exciting surprises in the story elicit a great reaction from kids.
  • Umbrella by Dieter and Ingrid Schubert
    • This is the story of a little black dog who finds a red umbrella and sets out on a marvelous journey. There's one iffy scene where the dog floats over a jungle and what appear to be locals throw spears up at him - I usually just skip this scene as my audience is too young to discuss it.
  • Stick by Steve Breen
    • This is not strictly a wordless book, but I mostly ignore the text so as far as I'm concerned it counts. It includes panels and tells the hilarious story of a little frog whose ambition (and sticky tongue) take her on a wild adventure. 
  • Inside, Outside by Lizi Boyd
    • This title, and the companion book Flashlight, are great for encouraging dialogue, comparisons, and talking about what we can observe in nature around us.
  • Hank finds an egg by Rebecca Dudley
    • The art is a little detailed on this one for larger reading, but the sweet story makes it a good choice. Hank, after finding an egg, works hard to return it to its nest. There is a second book, Hank has a dream, but I've found it doesn't work quite as well in storytime.
More wordless books (and authors)
  • Snow rabbit by Camille Garoche
    • This is a lovely book, illustrated with cut paper illustrations. It's not quite right for storytime though, as the details are harder to make out.
  • Tree house by Marjorie Tolman
    • An oversize book with reflective, philosophical pictures. Another good choice for a small group, classroom, or one-on-one reading.
  • Sebastian Meschenmoser
    • These titles are not exactly wordless, but they alternate brief text and dialogue with wordless spreads. I often read them without paying much attention to the words anyways.
  • Alison Jay
    • While most of her work is as an illustrator, she created a series of concept books and a few other titles that feature only her distinctive cracked eggshell art. The details and hidden pictures make them a better choice for one-on-one reading.
  • Suzy Lee
    • This might be the "best" wordless book author, purely from a literary (or should it be artistic?) viewpoint. Her exquisite titles transcend words and her skilled pen makes stories come alive without words. They don't always work well in storytime though and sometimes they're a little too high concept to really click with most kids.
      • Shadow
      • Wave
      • Lines
      • Mirror
  • Stories without words
    • This is an imprint from Enchanted Lion. They don't work well in storytime, as they're very small in format. Some of them are, frankly, too weird for my taste (or that of my patrons). But there are some that are lovely, funny, and popular.
      • Fox and Hen series by Beatrice Rodriguez
      • Giant seed and Ice by Arthur Geisert
      • Fox's garden by Princesse Camcam (Camille Garoche)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

This week at the library; or, My head hurts

What's Happening
Random thoughts
  • New week, new projects! Also, headaches. I blame the weather. 
  • Big project this week - getting the teen pop-up maker space back in order. When I get it updated it will be on the Read 'n' Play blog. 
  • Also baked a ridiculous amount of cookies for the bake sale, reorganized the play area, and got started on the school-age maker space. 
  • My headache went away on Thursday, just in time for the leg of my office chair to snap.... now I have bruises. Ow. 
  • Our big activity for Book Explosion was unboxing and the kids went wild about the new books!
  • The first outreach visit on Friday was to the special education school. Then I did three classes at a 4K. It was awesome (and I lost my voice from so much yelling!)
  • Only one kid at Anime Club - but I belatedly realized it coincided with the "Snowball Dance" at the high school, plus various other craziness.
  • It was really crazy, that's all I'm saying.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Beatrice Zinker upside down thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice does things a little differently. She likes to hang upside down, think upside down, and follow her own path! This was fine in second grade - she even got a certificate for her creative thinking. But now it's third grade. Her best friend, Lenny, has been visiting family in the Philippinnes all summer and when she comes back to school she doesn't follow their agreement to wear ninja suits! She seems to want to be best friends with a new girl, Chloe, who likes things just so. Beatrice's new teacher doesn't like her upside-down thinking either and Beatrice is wondering if there's anywhere for her to fit in anymore.

After many difficulties and misunderstandings, Beatrice comes to realize that she hasn't necessarily lost a friend, but she has to be willing to be accepting of differences, just as she expects others to accept her unique outlook on life. Although a friendly adult neighbor gently reminds her that friendships change and may not last, Beatrice knows she has successfully negotiated this change, at least, in her friendship.

Although this tackles the familiar story of changing friendship, it adds in a Dahlesque flavor of humor, with over-the-top characters, including Beatrice's family who, although disapproving of her odd ways are certainly weird enough in their own right. Orange and black cartoons sprinkle the pages and Beatrice's quirky behavior, while understandably annoying to adults, is sure to make readers giggle. At over 140 pages this is long for a beginning chapter book and will appeal most to readers who are fans of Ramona, Clementine, Junie B. Jones, and other slice-of-life stories. The additional illustrations and humor may also add a little more interest and I think my fans of Bea Garcia might be interested in trying this title.

Verdict: If you're looking for more books in this vein, this is an acceptable addition. However, it doesn't particularly stand out from the many, many beginning chapter books featuring spunky girls with friendship troubles and the diversity - centered solely in Beatrice's best friend (i.e. sidekick) is minimal.

ISBN: 9781484767382; Published 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; Galley provided by publisher at ALA 2017; Borrowed finished copy from another library in my consortium

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Elberti and Scott Wegener

I reviewed the first book in this series, Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, last year. I've since bought multiple copies (for use with classes and book clubs and not because the pieces have gone missing!) and I've had, to be honest, mixed responses from the kids. In general, the more reluctant and lower level readers enjoy it the most. As I'd suspected, fans of Magic Treehouse are a big audience. The more fluent readers I've offered it to haven't been as interested - the brief story seems to not be of much interest to them (I also had one complain that the different-sized fonts made it confusing, but I put that down to an episode of extreme sassiness at book club that night).

So, the next title is out now (or will be in about five days - I've ordered it so that counts as out to me!). I had a galley and a finished copy from the publisher and have already preordered two more copies.

This book focuses on Victor Dowd, a member of the Ghost Army of World War II. This was a tactical deception unit, which focused on misleading the German army. Their history was only partially declassified in the 1990s and there's been a recent surge of interest, especially in children's literature.

The story focuses mainly on the movements and tactics of the unit, only using Dowd as a generic framing device. Having never seen combat, like most of his unit, they are moved into the aftermath of D-Day and spend several exciting, dangerous, and miserable months using all their artistic ability and imagination to mislead the German army. Confused orders, mistakes, and unexpected dangers befall the unit, but they finally triumph in the final invasion into Germany, their tactics saving the lives of thousands of American troops.

Additional information about the unit and their tactics is included throughout the book. An envelope pasted in at the beginning includes codebreaking clues; a sheet of red vellum, a coding wheel, and several other clues. Readers can follow clues throughout the book (explained in a sealed section at the back) to find the secret message. I freely admit I skipped that part - I've never had any patience for clues.

On the one hand, I always have a lot of kids wanting WWII information and this is a new and interesting story. On the other hand, I was disappointed - I had hoped to see more minorities in this series, not just another white soldier. Several of the illustrations, including a "photo" of soldiers at the end show what appears to be an African-American man. In the photo he's simply labeled as SG. I want to know more about him! Did he really exist? What was his name? How did an African-American end up as part of a unit when the army wasn't desegregated until 1948?

Verdict: This is a fast-paced and interested work of historical fiction. It will definitely grab the interest of Magic Tree House and World War II fans who aren't ready for more intense fair. I'm a little disappointed by the questions I was left with after the story, but that will just get kids to do a little research on their own, hopefully. (I still want to know who SG is though!). I've had no problem with the pieces disappearing - you can still enjoy the story without them and if you circulate the -Ology books these have fewer pieces and less issues in my experience so far.

ISBN: 9780761193265; Published January 23, 2018; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library; Two copies purchased for the library

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Dogs by Dr. John Hutton, illustrated by Doug Cenko

This quirky little book was an unexpected hit for me and I look forward to introducing it to my patrons, especially in baby storytime.

Each page in this little board book encourages dialogue about dogs. In bold, colorful panels, the dogs bark, lick, and run across the pages. One spread, showing the smiling yellow dog from the cover, asks "What color is this dog?" and answers "It's yellow. Yellow and furry. Let's say yellow, furry dog!" A dalmatian pops up in the corner to add "I have spots!"

I've seen a couple different board books that encourage dialogic reading with children, but this one does an excellent job of creating a book that babies and toddlers will love, pointing to dogs and parroting the words, while encouraging parents to dialogue with their children in a simple, non-patronizing way.

The back cover adds some simple early literacy tips from the author, a pediatrician. I'm definitely going to be looking up more "Dr. Books" to add to our collection and use in storytime. The only slight drawback with this title is the small format, about 4x4 inches. I'd love to throw this up large on a projector or slideshow to use with a group, as I don't have the funds to purchase multiple individual copies for each attendee. I'll have to suggest it to my colleague though, she sometimes has more funds.

Verdict: A great addition to your board book collections and, if you have the funds, would make a perfect bulk purchase for storytime.

ISBN: 9781936669457; Published 2017 by blue manatee press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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.
  • The Great Mouse Detective by Eve Titus
    • This is another adapted Disney movie, but there is actually a whole series of charming stories about a mouse who, taking after Sherlock Holmes (he is Basil of Baker Street after all) solves a variety of mysteries. Aladdin recently republished them and they are now widely available again.

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

  • Adventures of Henry Whiskers by Gigi Priebe
    • This is a new title, possibly it will be a series
  • 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