Monday, April 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Life in the library

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

Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This week at the library; or, Eric Carle week

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tyson Hesse's Diesel: Ignition

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Life in the library

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

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

I am a cat by Galia Bernstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

This week at the library; or, More stuff happens

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life in the library

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

RFID is endlessly entertaining.

Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans and Vince Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: What is baby gorilla doing? by Christena Nippert-Eng, John Dominski, and Miguel Martinez

I have to admit that I don't really like apes or monkeys. I usually avoid them at the zoo and generally don't read books about them. I can't really explain this - maybe because they look human and so it bothers me to see them in cages? Not really sure. Anyways, I put aside this weirdness of mine because kids love books about apes and monkeys and our schools do various animal/nonfiction units that involve these animals.

Nippert-Eng did a great chapter book on Gorillas, so she popped up again with a new book on my radar and I was surprised to see a board book. But it makes sense, since it's basically a nonfiction for very, very young listeners showing a baby doing normal baby things - it's just a gorilla baby!

Set against white and pale green, yellow, and other light-colored backgrounds, baby gorillas are shown doing various actions, just like a human baby. Each page includes one pastel word describing the action. One spread shows a small gorilla SCRATCHING while the facing page shows a gorilla CLIMBING a log. The cover gorilla repeats the pose TASTING something. Other actions include feeling, smelling, reaching, smiling, and more. The final spread recreates all the different actions and words.

The back of the book shows how the original photos were edited to show the babies against a plain background and explains that the gorillas were not posed, but photographed in their zoo habitats.

Verdict: Unless they have weird feelings about apes, parents, babies, and toddlers will all enjoy seeing an animal both alike and unlike themselves enjoy the same activities they like. Skillfully photographed and with a great layout, this is a board book that will fly off your shelves.

ISBN: 9781627794794; Published 2017 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Teagan White

Lucy the field mouse loves winter. She loves her cozy winter hat, exploring the snow, building snow mice, and her newest and most exciting discovery, ice skating! But she misses all her friends, who refuse to leave their cozy tunnels and burrows. So Lucy tries bringing winter to them, but indoor snowball fights are a failure and every time she tries to bring snow inside it just melts. It will take some hard work and careful consideration for Lucy to figure out a way to share winter with her friends in a way that they can all enjoy.

Teagan White, best-known for her cute woodland illustrations not only in books but also on fabric, stationery, and more, shines in this cozy woodland tale. The indoor scenes are set against a dark brown, almost black background while the outdoor winter scenes nestle against a soft cream. Delicate seeds, twigs, and other natural creations are joined by tiny hats, cards, and dishes to create a mouse-sized world that children will adore.

Annie Silvestro's debut picture book, Bunny's Book Club, managed to be sweet without cloying and she's repeated that success here, writing a story that has all the sweet warmth of a cup of chocolate on a winter day whilst still giving a feeling of sharp breezes and leafless trees.

Verdict: This sweet story is the perfect addition to a gentle winter storytime or for curling up with a little one as you watch the snow fall. A delightful second effort, I look forward to many more books from Silvestro and White.

ISBN: 9781454916321; Published 10-3-17 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, April 9, 2018

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri

Usually, I'm far more interested in the contents of a book than its presentation. But this book combines so many beautiful elements - art, text, and the presentation - that it appeals to all the senses.

With stunning art created from dried plants and flowers, Ahpornsiri explores the beauty and wonder of the seasons. This reminded me of some of the Victorian botany exhibits or a nature diary. There's no particular organization of the information, it's just a lovely collection of information and art. The spring section includes information about birds nesting, seeds sprouting, life in a pond, and butterflies. Summer wanders through meadows with swallows swooping overhead, crickets chirping, wetland animals, and the glory of an owl at night. In autumn the leaves begin to fall, the clash of the deer rutting is heard, and the birds begin to fly south. Then winter comes with bare branches as the trees' life cycle slows, evergreens, winter berries, and hibernation.

A final note from the artist explains her art process, followed by a brief glossary. This isn't a book that students will read for research; it's a lovely exploration of the beauty of the seasons, with delightful wordplay and lyric descriptions of the natural world. Although sometimes the art can have a little bit of sameness about it, with repeating patterns of pink, red, green, and brown, there are many pages of art that stand out with stunning effect; the delicate lines of the heron, recreated on the front cover; the glowing beauty of the owl and other night creatures, set against a black background; and the cheerful colors and patterns of the mushrooms, to name a few.

Verdict: This is too long for a storytime and not a research-type book. Nevertheless, it will find an audience among young and old readers who enjoy beautiful language and art and will fall in love with its evocative exploration of the seasons. It would also make a great tie-in book for a program on creating art with natural materials.

ISBN: 9780763698980; Published March 2018 by Big Picture Press; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

This is, I think, my favorite spread. You have to see the book to get the full beauty of the art though!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

RA RA READ: Graphic Kitty (and other) Cuteness

Several years ago I had a sudden influx of Chi's Sweet Home-obsessed girls in the summer and put together this list of read-alikes with some help from my friends at the GNLIB listserv. Note these are only titles owned by my library - I don't include titles that aren't available to my patrons (and rarely ones at other libraries in our consortium because so many kids aren't able to grasp the concept of holds).

  • Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Konata
    • This series is complete and currently being published in omnibus editions; there are two additional series, Fukufuku Kitten and coming out soon, Chi's Sweet Adventures. It's a simple manga in color, detailing the little adventures of a kitten and his new family. I have had one parent object to the use of the word "piss" but I just explained that this series comes from a culture with different cultural standards (and didn't tell them that pretty much the entire first three books are all about house training and Chi's name actually means "peepee") and found them other cute cat books instead. There is also an anime series, which I put in teen, and an AmazonPrime series.
  • Miss Annie by Frank le Gall
    • There are, sadly, only two volumes of Miss Annie's adventures. They are similar to Chi's Sweet Home, being about a kitten growing up, but they are a little more serious as the kitten encounters the sometimes sad and dangerous world outside her home and the pictures are more in the European art style, rather than manga.
  • My Pet Human by Yasmine Surovec
    • This is a heavily illustrated beginning chapter book. It's sweet and adorable and very similar to Chi's Sweet Home. There is one sequel, My pet human takes center stage, and Surovec has written several picture books and little comics in a similar vein.
  • Fluffy Fluffy Cinnamoroll by Yumi Tsukirino
    • These are about midway between Hello Kitty and Chi's Sweet Home. They are about little cloud dogs in a baking shop. There are five volumes and they are still (last time I checked) in print. They are an original manga, so they go from right to left, but kids don't seem to care about that.
  • Happy Happy Clover by Sayuri Tatsuyama
    • This is a five volume cute manga very similar to Cinnamoroll, but it's about bunnies in a magical forest.
  • Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma
    • This doesn't have animals, but it's got the cute factor in spades. There are 13 volumes of this manga.
  • Binky by Ashley Spires
    • Binky is cute in a more quirky/icky way. He's a "space cat" that battles aliens (bugs). The art style is less cute and more funny. There are additional titles as well as the original "Binky" series.
  • Hello Kitty by Jacob Chabot et. al.
    • This isn't really an animal story, but it has the cute factor. It's a little younger than most of the kids who want this series, but it's worth trying.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

This week at the library; or, Back to work

The basement before
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
    • Worked 10-6:45
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-6
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers
    • Worked 11-6
  • Friday
    • Maker Workshop: Sewing Machine (1 of 3)
    • Worked 10-6
Wednesday morning programs are done until summer (except for the big collaborative party coming up in a few weeks). No outreach in April, except one LOTG visit. Now is the time to prepare!

the basement after
  • cleaned off the mounds and mounds of books and other work on my desk
  • organized the basement, working on summer activity bags
  • planned programs and put out various fires
  • gazillions of holds and remote collection requests to handle
  • sewing machine maker workshops

Friday, April 6, 2018

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight by Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer, illustrated by Elise Gravel

[Originally published in June 2014)

I must admit that I've never read any of Wendy Mass' books. I know, I know, she's HUGELY popular and I recommend her books all the time, but that's actually part of the reason - I don't feel a need to read really popular books, as long as I feel comfortable recommending read-alikes. Anyways, I was a little doubtful about this new beginning chapter series she co-wrote. She's tried a lot of different genres with, to judge from the reviews, varying success and I wasn't sure how she'd do with a beginning chapter series.

Archie has been waiting eight years, eight months, and eight days for permission to go with his dad, a taxi driver, on the night shift. But once they set out, he discovers his dad's route is a little unusual - they're driving out to outer space to pick up a fare! Not only that, but turns out Archie has the magic touch to be the new navigator. If that excitement wasn't enough they get  caught up in some galactic intrigue and the story ends with Archie looking forward to a whole new life as navigator and junior space-crime fighter.

This is the introductory book to the series, so it's a lot of set-up and not quite as much plot as I'd hoped for, even in a beginning chapter book. There are a couple inconsistencies in the plot, most notably at the end where Archie cheerfully agrees to dump his entire life for the night-shift, but he's somehow still going to school? However, minor quibbles aside, this is a really fun beginning to what promises to be a decent series. The black and white art is cartoony without being silly and the story has a nice blend of humor, adventure, and surprise. It's also not too urban, which is a consideration for me, since most of my patrons have never seen a taxi.

Verdict: I'm always looking for great new beginning chapter book series and this is a good start. It's got all the elements that will appeal to this age group - humor, something a little quirky, and a plot complex enough to challenge but not enough to be confusing. It's also nice to see a dad featured in a positive way. Recommended.

Revisited: I've used these with great success in book clubs and the whole series continues to be popular. Still a good choice - the latest in the series came out in May, 2017. The original hardcovers are out of print, but they are still available in paperback and prebound.

ISBN: 9780316243193; Published 2014 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Ben Franklin's in my bathroom by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Mark Fearing

Candace Fleming, author of several excellent picture books and some really superlative biographies, combines her sense of humor and historical research in a new series of light-hearted, illustrated middle grade fiction; History Pals.

The first title features ten year old Nolan and his seven year old sister Olive. Nolan is struggling with his parents' separation and divorce - his dad has gone to live in London. Olive is an imaginative little imp and doesn't fall in line with Nolan's efforts to not bother his mom and help her come up with the next idea for her series of bunny books.

Almost immediately, things start happening. Nolan discovers a strange package on their doorstep, which has an old radio. He fiddles around with it and...suddenly a strange man appears! Nolan can hardly believe it, but apparently the man really is... Benjamin Franklin! Franklin is delighted by the many exciting inventions he sees - some of which he pioneered himself! Swimming pools (Franklin gives a dazzling exhibition of swimming skills), the fire department, public libraries, junk food, toilets, he's curious about everything. Olive immediately enjoys Franklin's company and decides he's her best friend. Both share a child-like enjoyment of everyday activities. Nolan is not so pleased with this strange incursion. He's worried that things will go wrong, that his mom won't get her inspiration, that the snooping neighbor will find out what's happening, in short he's just worried!

Disaster strikes when Franklin gets a little too curious about the fire station and snoopy Tommy steals the radio. If Nolan can get Olive to agree to send Ben back - can they even figure out a way to do it?

The book is illustrated with spot caricatures by Mark Fearing and short comics illustrating important experiments and moments in Ben Franklin's life. A final chapter (in Nolan's voice) talks about the truth behind the comic stories of Ben's life with humorous interjections from Olive. There is also a short bibliography and some web sources for more information.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. The thing is, I'm always a little leary about giving kids fictionalized history, especially when it's this quirky. Does this really give readers a genuine picture of historical figures? Especially when a lot of readers may not even know who Benjamin Franklin is in the first place (seriously, half of my book club kids didn't know who Martin Luther King was.... the week before MLK day... um...). Franklin is an easier personage in some ways to introduce in this fashion. As an inventor, scientist, and eccentric, his attitude of child-like curiosity is mostly believable and the time period he's supposedly brought from (1784) while putting him in his 70s, does date after he stopped supporting slavery. Fleming also includes some of the more serious aspects of Franklin's life, like his quarrel with his son. I can't help but wonder how she's going to handle some of the more controversial aspects of other historical personages though - and I feel that it's somewhat disingenuous to simply ignore Franklin's probable reaction to seeing people of other races (not to mention women) in a modern setting.

Verdict: In the end it's funny and I really like Mark Fearing's illustrations. The history is woven smoothly into the story along with just enough bathroom humor to make readers giggle. I'm not sure this has a definite audience - it's a bit too historical for the Wimpy Kid set and too light for the history buffs. However, the wacky sense of humor will probably appeal to readers of the Treehouse series by Griffiths and probably Captain Underpants. It might click with readers who enjoy fiction/nonfiction blends, such as Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales as well. It's probably not an ideal introduction to Benjamin Franklin, but combined with other sources it will hopefully get kids interested in learning more and will provide an amusing read with a touch of education.

ISBN: 9781101934067; Published September 2017 by Schwartz & Wade; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Life in the library

Toddler to mom "I have candy?"
Mom "there is no candy!"
Me "umm.... I'm eating peppermints"
Toddler "Want peppermints!"
Me "sorry, the last one is in my mouth"

*life is full of disappointments*

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Dirty Birdies by Jennifer Sattler

My colleague, who does most of our toddler and younger storytimes, has really loved several of Jennifer Sattler's picture books. She's going to be thrilled when I reveal my new discovery to her - board books! How did I not know she had made board books?

This latest title features a group of delightfully silly birds, some counting, and a lot of mess.

The story begins with a wordless, rainy day spread. The long-legged, yellow-spotted blue bird of the cover peers into the picture. Turn the page and enthusiastic splashing in the puddles makes "1 dirty birdie." One by one the birds join the count: painting, exploring, digging, and snacking. Then the five dirty birdies get a bath, dry off... and one birdie catches sight of a butterfly fluttering across a puddle. Dirty birdies are back! The final spread includes searching and counting questions like "How many spots are on the first dirty birdie?"

Sattler's cheerful pictures are detailed enough to make looking for colors, spots, and textures interesting but not so detailed that they confuse toddlers. The book is a sturdy rectangle, about 6x4 inches.

Verdict: A delightful choice for a toddler storytime, if your group is small enough to enjoy it. Otherwise recommend it to all your parents and caregivers who have their own "dirty birdies" at home!

ISBN: 9781585363896; Published February 2018 by Sleeping Bear Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

If I had a horse by Gianna Marino

I'm always eager to see a new book from Marino; her wide and varied repertoire has included such a wide range of art and story that I never know quite what to expect. In her latest book, readers will find a dreamy, stunningly illustrated ode to the love between a child and horse. "If I had a horse" the story begins, and goes on to imagine the wonderful adventures and slowly growing friendship of child and animal.

Swathes of color spread across the pages, showing the slow approach of a shy child and a horse, mane and hair both blowing in the wind, until they ride together across the landscape. There are no identifying details, only a changing panorama of colors. When the horse bucks the child off, swirls of blue, green, and yellow show anger; when they approach a new herd of horses the peaceful colors of a glowing sunset spread across the grasslands. The story ends with the fearless child, standing on the horse's back, arms outspread and hair flying in the wind, as the two friends surge across the page in deep purples and violets, set against streaks of blue and lavender.

Verdict: This dreamy story is the perfect wish fulfillment for a horse-loving reader and a peaceful read for calming down a raucous storytime. Accompany it with a painting program and encourage your audience to experiment with colors, match it with other stories about imagination, or just curl up with a child for a lovely bedtime story. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781626729087; Published 2018 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bats: Learning to fly by Falynn Koch

This entry in the Science Comics series introduces readers to the mysterious and fascinating world of bats.

Little Brown Bat is lost in the desert. He comes upon a group on a nighttime hike, viewing nectar bats. But when Little Brown tries to grab a few insects, the group flail and grab at him, damaging his wing. The ranger takes him to a wild animal hospital where he's cared for and transferred to a cage with lots of other bats who are being rehabilitated or cannot be released. As Little Brown slowly makes friends with the other bats, he learns all about different kinds of bats, what they eat and where they live, and the challenges that face them in the wild. As each bat tells their story, Little Brown (and the reader) learn about the many dangers that face bats and how we can help them survive - and thrive - in the wild.

An added dimension to the story is the dialogue between the vet, Rebecca, and Sarah, the teen from the hiking group. At first she seems indifferent, playing on her phone while her parents ooh and aah over the night-time creatures, but it's Sarah who tries to calm her parents down and gets involved after they inadvertently injure the bat. Sarah has several conversations with Rebecca about how she got involved in caring for bats and works with Rebecca and the wildlife group from taking Little Brown in to finally releasing him back to the wild.

This is Koch's first book (she also has a second Science Comic - Plagues - out from First Second at this point) but I'm sure I've seen her work elsewhere. Her faces are very distinctive, with slightly bent and discolored noses, which, it turns out, make great bat faces! She draws vibrantly and lovingly the weird, wonderful world of bats with all their unique attributes and habitats. I did find some confusion in all the pictures being flipped, showing the bats upright (instead of upside-down) but I can understand why it was done that way.

Verdict: There's enough of a story to attract readers who like narratives but this is primarily expository prose about bats. Readers who enjoy learning about animals and their rehabilitation will grab this one. Even kids who are nervous around bats may be talked around to enjoying this one - and maybe learning a little about these strange but wonderful creatures.

ISBN: 9781626724099; Published 2017 by First Second; Purchased from the library

Sunday, April 1, 2018

RA RA Read: Chapter books for Reading Aloud to Young Children

One of the frequently-asked questions at my desk is for chapter books to read aloud, usually to ages 4 to 6. This is a favorite question of mine; there are so many sweet chapter books that these special kids (when's the last time you met a kid who could sit still for a whole chapter?) will enjoy with their parents and I get the warm fuzzies thinking about the happy family memories they will be making. I find that older books tend to make better read-alouds, since they're often episodic in nature and don't have the more mature fantasy/action/adventure that's too complex or scary for younger kids. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments!

Beginning Chapters and Newer Titles
  • Sprout Street Neighbors by Anna Alter
    • This makes a good peaceful read-aloud with five short stories about some quirky neighbors.
  • Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
    • This has never worked well as a beginning chapter, much to my dismay; the family-centric story, focused on everyday events, seems more suited to a picture book than a chapter book. Which makes it just right for a child who still loves picture books to listen to!
  • Jenny and the cat club by Esther Averill
    • These are charming - and that's a good thing in this genre.
    • There is an excellent collection from the New York Review of Books but there are other editions as well.
  • Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
    • This is a big compilation of three books. The length makes it daunting for actual readers, but they are fine for reading aloud. Slightly twee perhaps, but not too bad.
  • Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
    • Because of the length and copious illustration, a lot of people think of these chapter books as beginning chapter books, but they're actually quite complex. They do make hilarious read-alouds though, especially if your listener is old enough to appreciate the snarky humor.
    • There are multiple sequels as well as picture books
  • Welcome to Silver Street Farm by Nicola Davies
    • This story is about a group of friends who have an urban farm/rescue. It's got some line drawings, is fairly short, and includes lots of animals, which is always a positive.
    • There is only one sequel available in the US but there are several paperback sequels available from the UK.
  • Three tales of my father's dragon by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
    • This is my favorite go-to for a read-aloud. This is actually a collection of three books, each one with short chapters, lots of black and white illustrations, and the perfect blend of action, humor, and repetitive detail for young listeners.
  • Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
    • The illustrations really sell this for younger kids as a read-aloud. And, of course, remember that both boys and girls will like this story of a princess who fights monsters! (not at all scary monsters, by the way)
  • Digby O'Day in the fast lane by Shirley Hughes
    • This is the first in a rather British series. It's a sweet, friendly story and great for the really young children, since it's copiously illustrated.
  • Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers
    • This one is a little older, but it's a nice blend of fantasy/adventure that's not too perilous and emphasizes child-like concerns - being brave, missing your parents, etc.
  • Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
    • Younger kids won't pick up all the snarky humor of this, but parents will which makes it fun for all ages. I actually read these aloud to a friend as we drive places!
"Classic" is a totally subjective term of course, and this is in general a rather old, traditional grouping, but it's what generally springs to my mind when people ask for classic chapter books, especially for read-alouds. It's usually what people in my small town are looking for too, so that works out well. I wouldn't say that every library should have every one of these titles, but they're handy to be aware of if your patrons are likely to request "classics".
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
    • A classic about a family that is expanded with penguins. It makes a nice read-aloud that has held up surprisingly well over the years. Ignore the horrible movie.
  • The wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    • Oz books make great read-alouds because each chapter is nicely divided into a different adventure and there are all sorts of weird creatures and funny jokes for the adults. There are some mildly scary moments that may upset sensitive adults and some outdated/racist language that I would just skip over until the kids are older and can discuss it.
  • A bear called Paddington by Michael Bond
    • There's been renewed interest in this classic bear because of the recent movie, but I've been recommending these for years. Each chapter is a new, funny adventure. They're sweet and silly with a scattering of black and white illustrations.
  • The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
    • Just imagine if your chicken hatched....a dinosaur! This delightful story includes excitement, humor, and dinosaurs all in a small-town, friendly atmosphere.
  • Rabbit Hill and Tough Winter by Robert Lawson
    • These classic stories are a little outdated in language, but they make good read-alouds for kids who like a good animal story. I would pre-read if you're not familiar with them and skip the racist language until the kids are older and you can discuss it.
    • Tough Winter is out of print
  • The Children of Noisy Village and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
    • These are both very different series, but I recommend both. Noisy Village is a family/rural story with simple, fun tales of life on the farm. Pippi Longstocking is anarchic and silly - if parents are ok with that, they will enjoy it along with their children.
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
    • This is one of the few classic stories that I recommend in abridged format. Of course, most modern editions you pick up will have the changes put in by Lofting's son, but without them there's a really unpleasant chapter with the African Bumpo wanting to become white. There are still stereotypes in the book, but it's pretty much across the board because basically Dolittle doesn't like ANY humans. But it's still a magical story of a man who can talk to animals and the strange adventures he has with them. I recommend skimming it first to decide which parts to cut out and which to discuss, depending on your audience.
  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
    • These are one story per chapter and contain wonderful word play and repetitive sentences. Be aware of some racist language in unabridged versions and I would recommend cutting out the poetry.
  • Winnie the Pooh and The house at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
    • Yes, this list is rather heavy on the British. So, on the one hand this was one of my very favorite childhood read-alouds and it really only works as a read-aloud - by the time kids are able to read the books for themselves they've usually outgrown them. However, kids who have been raised on the Disneyfied pap known as Winnie the Pooh may have trouble picking up the very British humor. I leave this in here just for myself though.