Thursday, May 31, 2018

Craftily ever after: Making the band by Martha Maker, illustrated by Xindi Yan

Emily, Maddie, Bella, and Sam are four friends with a fun clubhouse. In that clubhouse, they love to make things and each friend has something they're good at. Maddi Wilson (African-American) has a sewing machine in her corner, Bella Diaz (Hispanic) has a coding computer, Emily Adams has a section for carpentry, and Sam Sharma (Indian, male) is into painting.

Their introductory project in the story is making brushbots, but their real challenge comes when their school announces a talent contest. The four friends want to work together, but although they are good at making things, they don't do anything that qualifies as a talent. Or do they? They figure out they can use their making abilities to make a band and, after several disasters, they have a successful and fun evening at the talent show with a standing ovation to finish.

Cheerful black and white line drawings show a diverse group of students who, despite various disasters, remain cheerful and upbeat. Their handmade instruments are cute and clever and instructions for making your own cereal box guitar are included at the end.

While the characters are not very well fleshed-out and there is quite a bit of wishful thinking going on here, especially in the kids being able to do all of this with minimal adult supervision or intervention, it's fine for a beginning chapter book.

Verdict: A nice range of diversity and ties into the current trend of making things. Sure to be popular where you have kids who enjoying crafting and creating.

ISBN: 9781534409118; Published 2018 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: This Book by Kathryn Madeline Allen, illustrated by Lizzy Doyle

Bright, colorful pictures illustrate a plethora of things in this cheery little board book. Spreads contain letters, numbers, shapes, colors, opposites, animals, fruit, and vegetables. The final spread shows everyone and everything together in party mood.

The pictures are bright and exciting; a yellow one, pink two, and purple three, all with eyes, juggle colored balls. A blue elephant tromps across the page. A cheery orange carrot, complete with eyes and tongue, lifts smiling green peas on a yellow bar. Bugs dance with against a purple background with a checkered disco ball above.

The book is a sturdy square, about 5x5 inches. Although there is no plot, this is still a delightful choice for babies and caregivers. Little ones can enjoy pointing out the different concepts while older toddlers will want to talk about what the different creatures are doing.

Verdict: A fun addition to your board book collection.

ISBN: 9780807578810; Published 2018 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rhyme crime by Jon Burgerman

Burgerman is a popular artist who originated in the UK and now lives in the US. This is his second picture book. I had never heard of him.

This turns out to be a very sad thing, because his latest book is hilarious and now I need his first one too, Splat.

A shadowy hand steals across the page and snatches.... Hammy's hat! But it's not just gone - it's replaced with a cat! All through the book a wicked thief is committing rhyme crimes, replacing things with their rhyming equivalent. Cake is replaced with a snake, a house with a mouse, and, hilariously, a smile turns into a crocodile! But when an orange is stolen, the thief is stumped. There's no rhyme for orange! The thief is taken to jail and that's the end of the story - and the rhymes. Or is it?

Burgerman's art reminds me a little of the Little Miss and Mr. Men series. While there are some recognizable animals, most of the characters are sort of blobby and twisty characters. One puffy pink character has a trunk and snout, another looks a little like a blue owl without a beak, and there are several pig-like creatures.Their backgrounds are blazing neon yellow, blue, pink, and green.

Verdict: The broad splotches of color and garish creatures are a little blinding, but pull them farther away from the reader in a storytime and this is perfect. A great book for silly giggles, practicing rhyming, and just having fun! Recommended.

ISBN: 9780735228849; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 28, 2018

The girl who drew butterflies: How Maria Merian’s art changed science by Joyce Sidman

There’s been a recent resurgence of interest in Maria Merian and her life and studies well repay that interest. Sidman combines her interest in poetry, the natural world, nonfiction, and butterflies to create a unique and satisfying biography of Merian that explores her life, time period, and the science of the creatures she studied.

The book begins with a glossary of butterfly terms, including the words Merian used. It is illustrated with historic engravings, original maps, photographs, and Maria Merian’s own art. It includes a narrative introduction and a final chapter putting Merian’s life into context. Plentiful back matter includes a timeline, sources, bibliography, author’s note, and index. The book is beautifully made and arranged, bringing the artistic fervor of Merian’s own accessible science books to the reader.

The bulk of the text is arranged like a butterfly’s life cycle. It begins with the egg, hatching, and the first instar (stage of a caterpillar’s life) which detail Maria’s youth until her marriage. She was born into an engraver’s family and, when her father died, her mother remarried a painter. Her interest in butterflies and other insects never waned and neither did her love of art. But she was also a dutiful daughter, helping in her fathers’ business, learning household duties, and all of the things a young woman of the 1600s would have learned. By the sixth chapter, she is eighteen and marrying. Eventually she separated from her husband and took her daughters to live in a religious community. Later they officially divorced and he remarried. She then moved on to Amsterdam, which offered her the opportunity to support her daughters and continue her pursuit of art and science. At the age of 52, when she would have been considered elderly, she traveled with her younger daughter Hannah to the Dutch colony of Surinam, there she expanded her research into the insects, amphibians, and plants of the colony, returning only when she became ill. She died at the age of sixty-nine, leaving behind an exquisite legacy of beautifully illustrated books detailing the life and habitats of her beloved caterpillars and butterflies, as well as a volume on Surinam which modern scientists believe to be the only record of a number of extinct species.

Sidman uses her skill with words to weave together not only the facts and story of Merian’s life but also the wider context of the world in the 1600s, pausing to consider the horrific slave and sugar trade in Surinam, the role of religion in Maria Merian’s world, and the numerous scientific facts about caterpillars and butterflies. Many quotes from Merian’s own work are included, as well as illustrations from her books.

Verdict: While a biography of a medieval woman fascinated by caterpillars may not seem like a popular choice, Sidman’s skill in writing and excellent mix of science, story, and history, not to mention the beautiful layout of the book, will make this a popular choice for readers with only a minimal amount of booktalking needed. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544717138; Published 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in the consortium; Purchased for the library

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Library in a Box

We had a large amount of children's books left over from the booksale and I used them to start this outreach I've had in my mind for a while.

My associate covered paper boxes in duct tape and masking tape, I made a sign, and the boxes were packed!

I used donations, leftovers from the booksale, and weeded books to put together the boxes. I also added calendars, flyers, and Read and Grow or Reading Explorer folders. All of the books have a sticker on them that says "Read and share!" and a reminder to visit the library.

Basically, it's a Little Free Library, but it's curated. Each box is set up to fit the needs of the location and we'll be visiting and refilling each month. I've been filling shelves in the basement with books to add as needed. Right now I have three locations and a fourth in progress. These include our two 4k/preschools that are also year-round daycares and summer care locations and a family salon. The fourth location I am working on is a sort of club house by a lake in a rural area.

I have a long list of potential places, but these are the criteria I'm looking for:

  • Outside of town (not in walking distance of the library) but still within the environs of Elkhorn
  • Places that are regularly open all year round (I am thinking about schools, but later)
  • Community locations where kids and families gather
  • Ideally locations that target low-income and underserved families
I've tried a couple locations that didn't want a box, which was disappointing, but I haven't given up. I'm hoping to purchase sturdier boxes next year and continue to expand the program. This is primarily an awareness program; We don't get any circulation from this, but the flyers, labels, and reading folders will hopefully bring people in to the library.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

This week at the library; or, Serious Field trips begin

Packing in the 2nd graders for Michael Hall-themed field trip.
One student old me it was the "best field trip EVER!" and it
did go really well!
Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Management meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • OPtions board meeting
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • First grade field trip
    • Worked 10:30-6:45
  • Friday
As you can see, my field trips started this week. I did a lot of "stop and talk" tours, because of the large size of many of the groups - I walk them through an area, then sit them all down and talk, then walk some more. I also added a short tour onto the 1st grade field trip, because some of the teachers are very used to having a tour as part of their visit and so prefer that. All the kids also got summer reading bookmarks (and summer reading bags, especially the 2nd graders who needed something to put all their creations in.

Other big projects included my associate repainting our magnetic chalkboard wall (it was never really magnetic) and all my aides being out so no one to shelve, clean the gerbil cage, etc. I am also still going through my huge donation and planning summer programs, finalizing Library on the Go schedules, and so on.

On Friday, in between my huge field trips, I sent endless and complex emails to staff and teachers arranging next week's massive field trips (there are a lot of them) and yeah, that's about what I did. Also, I've just remembered I left the laminator on.

Friday, May 25, 2018

How to be a supervillain by Michael Fry

A lot of kids got into The Odd Squad a few years ago, so I picked up Michael Fry's latest series, part of the Jimmy Patterson imprint. I was not impressed. First, it's one of those "nobody is writing books that kids/boys actually like so we had to do it!". Um, that is incorrect. Also, your premise that kids should write books for kids is flawed, since Michael Fry is an adult. Second, it went on and on and on for way too long.

So, the premise is that, after too much property damage and injured civilians, the superheroes and supervillains have made a Truce. Basically, all the fights are scripted (like wrestling matches) and anyone who deviates gets catapulted into outer space. Into this sad state of affairs enters Victor Spoil. He's the twelve-year-old son of two washed up super-villains and a constant disappointment to his parents because he's, well, just really not good at being evil. In fact, he's too good altogether. In one last desperate attempt to "fix" Victor, his parents send him off as a summer intern with the Smear, a once-retired and extremely lame supervillain. Or is he?

From here on out the book is an endless circle of Victor questioning himself. Is he really good? Is he really evil? What is good and evil? Does the Smear care for him? Is he just using him? Do his parents care? Are they disappointed? Why does he care if they're disappointed? It's a relief when the book finally ends, even though there's no real conclusion and the plot has twisted around so many times that the final-ish twist is just annoying.

Verdict: If you have kids who like this kind of Wimpy Kid/superhero mash-up, this will probably circulate. I don't have many kids who care for this and the book was so tedious I'll probably skip it and stick with Michael Fry's older titles or Michael Buckley's NERDS.

ISBN: 9780316318693; Published 2017 by Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown, and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tiger Days and the secret cat by Sarah Lean, illustrated by Anna Currey

I've been looking for this beginning chapter book, by an author whom several of my library patrons enjoy, for quite a while. Sarah Lean writes stories with animals that have a gently magical tinge and I was wondering how she would handle a beginning chapter series.

The story begins with Tiger Days, a little girl who loves tigers. She thinks often about her Grandma Days, who runs an animal sanctuary in Africa. When Grandma Days returns to England and purchases a big, run-down house, Tiger is both excited and scared to stay with her for several weeks. After she sees the house, she's more scared than excited. The plumbing doesn't work, there are scary noises, and her grandmother has brought in a baby animal to take care of. But it's not a cute baby animal - it's a warthog!

With the help of her grandmother and the boy next door, Tiger finds her courage and not only helps out at the house and with the baby warthog, she makes friends with a stray cat as well. Her newfound bravery is tested when she and Tom investigate a scary legend, the Staring Oat.

Black and white line illustrations, included a map at the beginning, add flavor to this sweet beginning chapter book. It's quintessentially British, with a lot of vocabulary that is likely to confuse young American readers. I was also very puzzled by Tiger's name. Is it a nickname? It doesn't sound like it. I've never heard of someone naming their child "Tiger" it just sounds so weird!

Verdict: If you have a lot of British fans, say of Holly Webb or Sarah Lean, it might be worth the extra trouble to pick up this series. Otherwise, it's just another sweet animal series.

ISBN: 9780008245023; This edition published 2016 by HarperCollins; Borrowed via inter-library loan

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: This way - That way How does a giraffe sleep? by Anne Louchard

This weird little board book won me over, despite my earlier reservations.

When you open the top flap on the cover, you will see the rest of the opening sentence "His neck is so amazingly long." and the giraffe, eyes closed, is completely revealed. Each spread shows a different arrangement of the giraffe's neck, along with some philosophical musing. When he curls into a spiral, readers know that can't be right because "He'd get dizzy!" How about coiled around a branch "like a snake?" Naturally, that would make his neck hurt. The poses get sillier and sillier, with other animals propping up the giraffe's head and increasingly ridiculous set-ups. In the end, there's no real answer - just a fold-out flap with the giraffe resting his head on a cloud and a final thought about the fun of imagination and guessing.

The book's two flaps are quite sturdy and easily reinforced. The book is a rectangle, about 4x8 inches. The giraffe, gentle painted in orange and gold, twists and curls through the pages occasionally set against trees, helped by other animals, and encountering other giraffes, but always staying the focus of the story.

This is one of those quirky board books that wouldn't interest most babies and toddlers, but would make a great intro for a storytime on guessing, inspiration for art projects, or fun for a family with children of different ages to sit down together and discuss. Some toddlers, who are developed enough to get the idea of imagination, will appreciate the silly poses and their caregivers enjoy suggesting even more ways the giraffe can sleep.

Verdict: While not a necessary purchase, this would make a fun addition to your board book collection to attract the interest of children who think on a little different level and those older children who are struggling with motor control and may tear the more delicate pages of picture books but still want challenging board books to enjoy.

ISBN: 9789888341412; This edition published 2017 by minedition; Borrowed from another library in the consortium

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The tiptoeing tiger by Philippa Leathers

I loved Leathers’ delightfully sly and humorous How to catch a mouse so I was excited to see another story from her. Little Tiger isn’t like the other tigers; nobody gets scared when he’s around! He’s just too small (and rather clumsy too). Little Tiger decides to prove everyone (and his big brother) wrong - he CAN scare someone! So he starts tiptoeing through the jungle, sure that if he just sneaks up quietly, he’ll be scary! He tries and tries, but nothing works until he sneaks up on a frog in a pond… and scares himself!

Leathers’ soft pencil and watercolor illustrations show a peaceful jungle with minimal vegetation and a friendly group of animals. The amused older tiger, elephant, warthog, monkeys, and other animals are neatly drawn in, showing their gentle laughter at the little tiger who wants to be scary. Although this doesn’t have the sly humor of How to catch a mouse, it’s still a delightful storytime pick. Kids will empathize with the little tiger who wants to be big and enjoy practicing their own tiptoeing and roars.

Verdict: A fun addition to your storytime repertoire and a sweet choice for kids who love stories with lots of roaring and a surprise twist at the end.

ISBN: 9780763688431; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 21, 2018

Trash vortex: How plastic pollution is choking the world’s oceans by Danielle Smith-Llera

Capstone has made a very interesting new series that focuses on pivotal moments in history as captured by photography. They’ve expanded this from history to scientific events as well. The latest set includes catastrophes like oil spills and nuclear explosions and this particular title addresses the rapid spread of micro plastics.

The story begins with Captain Charles Moore’s discovery of a huge soup of micro plastics in a gyre in the Pacific Ocean. Publicized by Moore and other researchers, it became known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and most people think of it as a giant, floating raft of garbage. The reality is more more complicated however.

Following the history and creation of plastics, from celluloid and bakelite to modern plastics, the author blends in the science of pollution and study of how plastic is filling the oceans and its affect on ocean and land life, including humans. Readers will learn about sea currents, how plastic is broken down into micro plastics, and how these are eaten by animals and then by humans. The science of recycling is addressed, the historical change from reuse to disposal, and the problem of pollution in Third-World countries is also touched on.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and resources.

This is an interesting take on a complex issue. The author does not simplify the issues or imply that there is an easy fix. She addresses the numerous issues in ocean pollution, the many ways it affects our lives, and the ongoing research to discover the full affect and find solutions to the problem.

Verdict: An excellent choice to introduce readers to this complex scientific problem that affects everyone, whether or not they live near the ocean. It also models some excellent research skills and presentation for readers learning to research their own topics. A must-have title to keep your recycling and ecology sections up to date.

ISBN: 9780756557454; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Summer Reading Reflections

 - I freely admit that I did not put a ton of work into this year's summer reading program. As I focus on expanding outreach and other services, and as I deal with changes in our community, I've been moving away from the traditional model for summer reading which involves a lot of time, money, and staff. My goal for summer reading is a simple, accessible program that encourages frequent library visits. This year, I am making the weekly activity bags an honor system - there's a sign on the top that reminds them to sign up, but they can just take one.
 - As far as reading, well, to be honest I don't personally think summer reading programs make any difference in whether or not kids read during the summer. The kids who would normally read will read anyways and the ones who don't probably aren't coming to the library in the first place. I have separate programs set up to reach non-reading kids and encourage them to maintain and develop reading skills over the summer.
 - This year I made several changes in view of various shifts in the school schedule and from feedback last year. I found participation in my 0-3 age program dropped significantly, while participation in our year-round reading program, Read and Grow (1,000 books before kindergarten) grew. Last year a significant number of kids were enrolled in summer school, which was run in two 3-4 week sessions in June and July and also included afternoon classes and free lunch. This year, due to construction, there will only be two 2-week sessions and all classes except pre-kindergarten will be located at the high school, not the middle school, which is farther from the library. The pre-kindergarteners will be at the closest elementary school. I also had a lot of growth in middle school participation, but it does not look like I'll be visiting that school this year, so I don't know if that will continue.
 - I also had major staff turnover last summer. This year I have one part-time associate (21 hours) who has not gone through a summer at the library yet and a second part-time associate (8 hours) who is primarily handling teen programs and a little desk time at the youth services desk (They've been here in the summer but only as a teen volunteer years ago!). Of my two teen aides, only one has gone through summer and they worked limited hours. The other aide will be leaving at the end of summer, so this will be their first and last summer! I will also be bringing back a very experienced aide for the summer only.

Check out this blog post for details on our summer reading programs, with links to materials

Summer reading proper will be running June 9 to August 11, although we will have programs before and after that date. You can see our current master calendar here.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This week at the library; or, now it's hot and humid. Ugh Summer.

Happening this week at the library
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Trikathon
    • Worked 9-6
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 10-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • 1st grade field trip
    • 2nd grade field trip
    • Book Explosion
    • Worked 10-6:20
  • Friday
    • Middle School Madness
    • Worked 2-6
  • Saturday
    • Worked 10-2
Last programs and small field trips are this week - next week the big field trips begin. This is a new thing I'm trying this year, getting the kids to visit the library instead of doing short booktalks at school. We'll see if it makes a difference. Last year we had an author visit and I didn't really visit the schools at all. Our numbers did drop a little, but there were other factors in play.

I've finished all the summer reading materials, sent out numerous emails to teachers, worked on setting up the field trips, am almost done putting together all the prizes and activity kits, and am sorting through a huge bounty of donations. Also dealing with the regular detritus - lost and damaged items, maker kits that need refilling, paperwork, budgeting, etc.

I still have to actually plan this summer's programs, like the I Survived party, make sure I have all the supplies for the maker workshops and art storytimes, and I should probably finish my picture book weeding before it gets delayed another year!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

Rosa Diaz is angry, grieving, and confused. She comes from a long line of expert ghost-appeasers, i.e. librarians, and can't understand why her mother, one of the best in the business, has moved them to Ingot, the only unhaunted town in the world. When Rosa meets Jasper Chevalier, whose only wish is to disappear in the shadow of his renaissance-fair obsessed father, she at first takes out her anger on him. Gradually, however, the two become friends. It's a good thing they do since Ingot isn't going to be unhaunted for long - and something very dangerous is coming.

Alexander builds a familiar but strange world skillfully, dropping hints and clues along the way without over-explaining, letting readers use their imagination to fill out the story. There are moments of frightening terror, moments of gentle warmth, excitement, magic, and the telling of family secrets.

SPOILERS
One thing I did have a hard time believing was that Rosa, who is from cosmopolitan New York, would be surprised that Jasper is biracial, having a white mother and black father. That seemed really odd. However, kids are nothing if not unobservant of life around them I've found so it's possible that she never thought about her biracial friends or classmates. It's gradually revealed that Rosa's father is dead, having been killed in a mistaken attempt to banish rather than appease a ghost, and some readers might be frustrated that Rosa's mom is so withdrawn in her grief, refusing to communicate or explain to her daughter what's happening.

I did appreciate that Alexander packed the whole story into one slim volume, under 200 pages, but it's a complete story with some thoughtful reflection on history, family, and the choices that people make and the way they remember the dead.

Verdict: This was a Cybils finalist in 2017 and it's well-deserved; it's not often I have a book that combines diversity, humor, horror, and fantasy in such well-blended amounts. Hand to readers who like stories with a little shiver but not too much and those who are comfortable reading about ghosts.

ISBN: 9781481469159; Published 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry; Purchased for the library

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Life in the library

Looking out the window at our insect water dish, a shallow bowl with glass marbles...

Kid: "Is that weird dish for the bees?"
Me: "Yep, it's like a birdbath but for bees and other insects. The pebbles are in there so they can get a drink without drowning."
Kid's parent, with interest: "I didn't know that. I told Kid they were a liar."
Me....

Well, we all learned something today?

Peter and Ernesto: A tale of two sloths by Graham Annable

I still don't really understand the fascination with sloths; they're interesting creatures, but why not hyenas? Or bongos? Anyways, sloths are IN right now and this simple graphic novel will be enjoyed by sloth fans and others.

Peter, a stay-at-home gray sloth and Ernesto, an adventurous beige sloth, are best friends. But when Ernesto decides to take a trip and see the rest of the sky, Peter is worried and upset. Ernesto doesn't stop to think about his friend at first; he is busy exploring the wonderful world outside his tree. He sees many amazing new pieces of sky, makes new friends, and even travels across the ocean. Meanwhile, Peter slowly overcomes his fears to set off in search of his friend. He runs into the same obstacles as Ernesto, and at first feels he simply can't face them. However, his friendship makes him brave and, in his own fashion, he faces all obstacles to find his friend.

In the end, both Peter and Ernesto have learned something about themselves and about the world around them. Although they covered much of the same ground, their very different perspectives gave them an opportunity to see things in a different way. Annable's art is a good match for the simple but thoughtful text. The colors are mostly greens and earth tones, with simple lines and mild humor in the sketched large eyes. The text is minimal, but a great deal of story is told in the sloths' mobile faces.

While not factually accurate (sloths are actually excellent swimmers) this is nevertheless an amusing tale of exploring the world and following your dreams. The text is simple enough to hold beginning chapter readers but there is enough depth to the story and art to capture the interest of older children as well.

Verdict: This quiet story is amusing and makes an excellent addition to the beginning chapter graphic novel genre. While I'm not as wildly enthusiastic about it as some reviewers, it will certainly find an audience and planned sequels are sure to be popular.

ISBN: 9781626725614; Published 2018 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Quiet as a mouse and other animal idioms by Chieu Anh Urban

This guessing-game board book is sweet and clever, but has a few issues.

The first spread of each riddle shows a solid, boldly-colored background with the written clues. The facing page is white or pastel and shows eyes, nose, and a few details like whiskers. The following spread shows the animal in its entirety.

The animals included are a lamb, fox, ox, bat, and a clam. The clam at the end is sporting mirrored sunglasses so the child can see a blurry picture of themselves.

The pictures are brightly colored and have large shapes creating the animals. They also include die cut eyes, smiles, etc. to trace with a finger and add tactile interest.

However, some of the word choices are odd, as are the pictures. "Happy as a clam" is not an expression I hear often and even here in our dairy-rich, quasi-rural area most kids don't know the word "ox", they call them cows or bulls. Bats are called "blind" and given dark glasses and sharp, vampire-like teeth. Most babies and toddlers aren't going to be familiar with the characterization of a fox as "sly."

Verdict: Cute pictures and a nice layout; the text is really not developmentally appropriate, but it will attract the interest of older children and parents. I dislike the factually inaccurate elements though; bats are not blind and their eyes don't glow that I'm aware of. I'd think twice about purchasing it because of this.

ISBN: 9781454925057; Published 2017 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A couch for llama by Leah Gilbert

As soon as I saw that cover I knew I had to absolutely have this book.

The Lago family loves their old blue couch. Blonde mother, dark-haired and dark-skinned father, and three children with light brown skin and dark hair (or dark fuzz in the case of the baby) have many happy days reading, cuddling, playing, and chasing their cute little black scotty dog. But the couch has seen better days... it's time for a new couch.

Unfortunately, on their way back from the city with a brand new, cheerful red couch tied on top of the car, it slips off! And that's when the fun begins. Discovering this strange object in his field, Llama tries to be friendly. He tries to share. He does a few taste tests. Finally, he figures out what a couch is for - comfy sitting!

When the Lago family returns and finds their couch, Llama has settled in. Is there a way to make everyone happy?

The simple text is delightful, and just the right length for storytime. The real star here are the soft, expressive illustrations and especially that goofy llama! Drawing on familiar plots of stories like The Mitten, where an animal discovers a piece of furniture or clothing and tries to figure out what it is, Llama's efforts to figure out what the couch is for just made me giggle repeatedly. His little friend the blue bird, expressive ears, and stubborn demeanor are just icing on the couch-cake.

Verdict: You must have this for storytime immediately! Buy at once!

ISBN: 9781454925118; Published February 2018 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wolf Island by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read

I love bears, especially the bears of the Great Bear Rainforest on the northwest coast, but I was disappointed with this duos' first picture book featuring them - although the photographs were lovely, the text was disjointed. This second title, featuring the wolves of the rainforest, is much better and I'm eager to add it to my library.

The story begins with a wolf, with thick, shaggy fur in a multitude of colors, swimming to a new island. He's ready to begin life on his own and has found his own territory. The wolf is sometimes lonely, but there's plenty of food to find and places to explore. He hunts for salmon, eats fish eggs, and tracks deer. Finally, another wolf arrives and the first wolf has a mate! The two have a litter of cubs and the island has a new pack of wolves.

While there's not an extensive amount of information in the text and the wolf is more anthropomorphic more than I would like, the gorgeous photographs let the reader into a special world. Placid sunsets, roiling seas, and all the rich life of the northwest rainforest is shown in this pictorial journey of one wolf from loneliness to a new pack.

Verdict: If you have wolf fans, this is a book that will introduce them to a unique group and their lives at sea and on land.

ISBN: 9781459812642; Published 2017 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 12, 2018

This week at the library; or, Field trips begin

What's happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Outdoor Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
    • Manager's Meeting
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Pinata party
    • Worked 9-5:15
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • 1st grade field trip
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • Worked 10-6
  • Friday
    • Anime Club
    • Worked 3-6:45
  • Saturday
    • Get Fit Fest (off-site)
    • Worked 8-12:45
Working on planning for summer reading, putting together logs, sorting books for Library in a Box, and so on and so on. I've got two Library in a Box placements - both daycare/preschool/after school care centers that run year-round. My first choice for the third box couldn't place it, so I'm waiting to hear back from the next possibility on the list.
1st grade field trip. These particular classes visit regularly in the fall and late spring, as schedules allow. I read a few stories, they pick out books to check out for their classroom, and they all got bookmarks promoting summer reading. We also had a lengthy conversation about the gerbils, the previous hamster, how he died, why he died, and how I felt when somebody put his dismembered corpse on my desk. I love 1st graders.
I set up the Winter Wigglers obstacle course and Library on the Go at Get Fit Fest. People liked the obstacle course, but there was very low turnout.
Kind of off my game this week, allergies have been so bad that I haven't been able to sleep much. However, I did get a lot of summer reading planned and field trips put together, finished a bunch of picture book weeding, sorting books, and other projects. So I was not exactly idle!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Best buds under frogs by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli, known for her hilarious board books and picture books, steps into the chapter book world with a brand new series: The Rizzlerunk Club.

Lily is attending a new school and she's super shy. What's even worse? First day nerves make her throw up. So much for ever making friends! The cool girls immediately ignore and laugh at her - and so does weird Darby. Darby just won't leave Lily alone and at first Lily can't stand her, but slowly they start to understand each other and become the founders of the Rizzlerunk Club, best buds under frogs, together forever.

At least, they were. Then Darby's old friend, Jill, reappears from England. Jill is exciting and has wild ideas - but she's also mean. Worst of all, Darby, free-spirited, don't-care-what-anyone-thinks Darby, does whatever Jill wants! If Lily wants her friend back, she'll have to make some hard decisions and find out whether or not she can stand up for Darby - and herself.

There is a LOT of friend drama crammed into these 270+ pages. Lily's family is supportive, but lets her make decisions on her own, appropriate to a fourth grader. Darby's family is a little harder to swallow and her sudden changes in character - going from not caring what anybody else thinks to following Jill's dangerous and mean ideas without thinking - may seem unrealistic, but anyone who has been around nine year old girls will just sigh and nod their heads. One minute their engaging in high school-like cliques, the next they're catching frogs. Yup.

Verdict: This is funny, engaging, and relatable. It will make readers laugh and maybe reconsider some of their own friendships. But... will it find readers? It feels young, aimed at third and fourth graders. At nearly 300 pages though, even with cartoons and fairly large text, it's going to daunt most young readers. Still, fluent readers will have no problems with it. I recommend this to fans of Ivy + Bean and Julie Bowe.

ISBN: 9780763651046; Published February 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Alien Next Door: The new kid by A. I. Newton, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

There's a new kid in school and he's having trouble fitting in. Zeke, the new kid, wishes he could go back home to Tragas. He wishes his parents didn't move around all the time. He wishes he wasn't always the new kid. But his next-door neighbor isn't worried about Zeke's feelings; Harris is pretty sure that Zeke is an alien!

The viewpoint alternates between Zeke (yes, he's an alien. Looks kind of like a squid.) and Harris (African-American) with some input from Harris' more level-headed friend, Roxy (possibly Latina). Harris doesn't like new things any more than Zeke does, but in his world Zeke IS the new - and scary - alien thing! In the end, Harris and Zeke decide they can be friends, even though Zeke still misses home and Harris is determined to prove that Zeke is really an alien.

The book is heavily illustrated with black and white art, showing Zeke's confusion trying to deal with unfamiliar earth things and Harris' suspicion. The font is dark, a slightly larger font and would be a good choice for readers ready to try chapters and those who are voracious readers of series.

Verdict: Hand this to fans of Wendy Mass' Space Taxi and readers who enjoy funny school stories. A good addition to fill out your beginning chapter section if you're looking for more titles.

ISBN: 9781499805598; Published March 2018 by little bee; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: You’re my little cuddle bug by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Natalie Marshall

This sweet little board book would make a great baby shower or gift for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Each spread features a few rhyming couplets of baby love, illustrated with bright, cheery colors. A big and small bug show the warmth between parent and child. The baby bug is raised on the page and fits into a die-cut shape on the opposite page.

When you turn the page, the cut-out encircles the previous text. For example, on a rich fuschia background with white flowers picked out in sea green, a little yellow-green caterpillar looks up at something unseen in flowers while the text reads “You’re my caterpillar, You’re ticklish through and through.” Turn the page, and you’ll see the big caterpillar, gazing adoringly down at their little one. You can reread the previous page’s words through the die-cut shape of the caterpillar, or continue on to the rest of the couplet, “I love to make you giggle, And you make me laugh too!” The bugs included are ladybugs, bumblebees, caterpillars, butterflies, and fireflies (although they are called “cuddle bugs”).

The book is a sturdy square, the raised cardboard pieces are firmly attached, and the die-cut shapes are set into extra-thick pages.

Verdict: While not necessarily a storytime pick, this will be a favorite bedtime read for parents and little ones. The non-gendered caregivers are a nice touch, rather than focusing exclusively on mothers, and babies and toddlers will enjoy the raised bugs and bright colors.

ISBN: 9781684122585; Published 2018 by Silver Dolphin Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

If I didn't have you by Alan Katz, illustrated by Chris Robertson

Funnyman Katz teams up with illustrator Chris Robertson on a new picture book that will have both parents and children giggling.

Alligator Mike and his dad imagine what it would be like if they didn't have each other. Mike's dad could have a sports car! Mike could stay up all night and eat all the candy he wanted! Of course, as his dad points out, he wouldn't have to brush his teeth either - because he wouldn't have any. With each wacky idea, Mike's dad reassures him that he'd rather have him and they end up finding something they can both do together: dance like crazy! Now they just have to convince Mom that she'd rather have both of them than a nice, quiet house... or a custom-built sports car!

Robertson's art is full of toothy grins (except for the imagined toothlessness of endless candy eating of course) and silly surprises. My favorite was the water buffalo butler, with appropriate posters on the wall. Shades of blue and green predominate, keeping the theme of alligators throughout the book. There are lots of small jokes that kids will appreciate, like Mike playing "Swamp Craft" video games and having "Poke Gator" posters on his wall. In some ways the art is reminiscient of the classic Lyle books by Bernard Waber, with the upright alligators and there are several retro touches, like a stereo an LPs spread across the floor which kids may or may not pick up on.

Verdict: A funny and sweet book, a nice additional choice for storytimes featuring family or one-on-one reading with a child. The reassuring text doesn't stray into the overly sentimental and the wacky art will inspire kids to try their hand at making up their own silly options for what their life might be like in different circumstances. I would know your audience though; if you have a lot of kids with absent fathers it would be better paired with other titles showing a variety of families.

ISBN: 9781416978794; Published 2018 by Simon & Schuster; E-ARC provided by illustrator; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Whydah: A pirate ship feared, wrecked & found by Martin W. Sandler

Readers who like stories of pirates and treasure hunts will be intrigued by this meticulously-researched historical story of pirates, treasure, and the history of many people who were involved in the story.

The story begins with the capture of the slave ship Whydah by pirate Black Sam Bellamy. After many adventures, and heavily burdened with loot, the Whydah returned to the dangerous Cape Cod coast where it was wrecked. The survivors were tried as pirates; some were executed, a few were pardoned. The story was over. Or was it? A long tradition of looting wrecks added to the many stories surrounding the Whydah and Bellamy and over the years many attempts were made to find the hidden treasure. Finally, in the 1980s, more than 200 years after the wreck, marine archaeologists discovered the wreck and a bounty of historical information, as well as some of the original treasure.

Besides the basic history, there's a lot of information packed into this book. Explanations of the culture and behavior of pirates in the 1700s, discussions of the slave trade and the various occupations and possible stories of the pirate crew, technological advances in archaeology, the controversies around treasure-hunting, all this and more are included in the story. Copious back matter adds to the story as well as original documents, photographs, and maps.

Verdict: The fast-paced, narrative sections of this history will draw in even reluctant readers who will find much to interest them in the wide range of history, technology, and social information included in this book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680336; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Summer: A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter

I’ve been eagerly waiting for the next seasonal pop-up book from Carter. One of my Storytime Kits, Seasons, features his previous titles (among others) and while I normally don’t add pop-up books to the collection I’ve found they’re a popular addition to the Storytime Kits.

The book is board book sized, a square of about 6x6 inches. The cover’s bright yellow background gives way to sharp blue and rich green in the interior. Each page features a different aspect of summer and a different paper creation. Simple sentences “The summer day is long and warm,” are joined by small captions on the different items, drawn in Carter’s simple, minimalist style. Summer items include cherries, a pileated woodpecker, ladybug, June beetle, vegetable garden, pansies and katydid, a small pond with painted turtle, Western fence lizard, kingfisher, and golden trout, and a final spread that returns to the farmhouse and features an apple tree.

Each spread has one or two items; the pond has a small pop-up of wild columbine flowers and a gray stone flap that, when lifted down, pops up the heads of the two chipmunks who can be found on each page. The garden lifts a spray of tomatoes above the page and coils a cucumber vine across the spread, nearly hiding the clever little chipmunks.

I would happily add this to my seasonal Storytime Kit except for a few small problems on the final page. Namely, the apple tree. Apples don’t ripen until fall. There are also pumpkins in the field, another fall harvest item. There’s a cornfield as well, but no corn, so it’s not looking forward to autumn, and the final text clearly says it’s summer, “The earth is rich when summer is here.”

Verdict: I’m not sure how such a major error was passed, but especially for our area, where fall apple picking is a big deal, it’s not something I can overlook. Although the kids probably would enjoy pointing out the error… I suppose there might be some place where apples ripen in the summer, but it doesn’t fit with any of the other wildlife or plants in the book.

ISBN: 9781419728327; Published 2018 by Abrams Appleseed; Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, May 5, 2018

This week at the library; or, Summer begins

Book club attendees!
Yes, summer doesn't "officially" start until school lets out in June, but this month is when I'm doing all my field trips and our special toddler parties and finishing all the summer planning so it counts.
  • Monday
    • Craft-o-rama
    • I had vacation! One extra day b/c of the staff development last week.
  • Tuesday
    • Stanley the hamster party
    • Worked 9-5:15
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 9-5:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Worked 9-5
Time to gear up for summer, field trips, pop-up libraries, more outreach, etc. etc. I'm going to need to do a push to get new attendees for Bookaneers next fall. Weather is weird and is affecting our attendance.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Bug Blonsky and his very long list of don'ts by E. S. Redmond

Bug's real name is Benjamin, but everyone calls him Bug. His mom says it's because he's super wiggly, but his sister says it's because he's super annoying! Bug think that sounds kind of cool - a superhero with the power to annoy! Either way, Bug ends up spending a lot of time thinking in the quiet chair about his choices, so he's decided to write himself a list of don'ts, to keep out of trouble.

Bug's list of don'ts include things like not playing video games before school, thus making him late, having to wear his milk-soaked socks (previous don't) and sit next to Abner, the goody-goody kid. Don't talk to a friend when you're supposed to be listening, because you'll have to sit next to the girl with a crush on you. Don't tell the older boy that your sister has a crush on him. Don't make fun of your teacher. Don't retaliate when kids make fun of you.

The book is heavily illustrated in color, showing Bug's lively inner life and the disastrous consequences of his don'ts. The girl with a crush on him, Peggy Pinkerton, is shown as a pudgy girl with a pig-like face and Bug's don'ts include not telling the mean kid to stop calling her names - because she hugs him, the kids laugh, and then he stamps on her foot and gets in trouble. Bug imagines all the places he could eat breakfast instead of the table (hence the milk-soaked socks), all the awful smells in the world when he takes off his milk-soaked socks (and gets laughed at when the kids see his Timmy Tow Truck underwear), and a list of the thoughts that should have stayed in his head, like telling his grandma the curse word he learned, pointing out his sister's pimple, or telling his mom that her jeans would make a great tent.

Will kids find this funny? Probably. It's humorously written and kids who enjoy Captain Underpants and would like to read Wimpy Kid but aren't old enough will devour it. Bug is a second grader and very relatable with his tactlessness, inattention, and the disasters he falls into. The characters are almost all white, with the exception of a few glimpses of Bug's black friend, Louie. The adult women are shown with grotesquely wide hips and saggy chests and none of them see the humor in Bug's antics. The humor level is about on par with Andy Griffiths or Captain Underpants including jokes about farts, Uranus, etc.

Verdict: Some of Bug's antics were funny; he obviously has trouble focusing and gets into lots of trouble. However, a lot of his antics (and those of the other kids) are just mean. Where are the adults when the kids are teasing each other into tears or physical retaliation? Why don't Bug's parents give his sister a lock on her door, since he's quite willing to walk into her room, read her private diary, and talk about it to all and sundry? I've met some kids with a complete lack of filter like Bug has and find the best way to deal with it is to shut it down with a calm "Asking personal questions or making comments is rude. Don't do that again." Instead, Bug's teacher, clearly a veteran, gets embarrassed and angry. Bug's tactlessness is played for laughs and there's no evidence that anyone is trying to help him to improve, other than plopping him in a time-out chair to "think about his choices." Redmond's depiction of Bug's plump classmate is distasteful as well. There are plenty of other funny books out there that aren't as mean-spirited as this one. I'd also like to see a change in the "white boy with attention issues driving everyone crazy is funny" trope.

ISBN: 9780763689353; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The thrifty guide to ancient Rome: A handbook for time travelers by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella

On the one hand, I loved this and laughed all the way through. On the other hand, I kind of want to shelve it in fiction and write letters explaining how inaccurate it is.

So, the idea of this is that, hundreds of years into the future, a giant corporation (complete with evil CEO) has taken over America and time travel is now possible. But, as a sort of corporate-sponsored vacation, so with lots of liability waivers and "oh, you got beheaded, too bad, no trip insurance."

The book is written like a travel handbook, starting with where (and what) to eat, where to stay, and local hazards (like being beheaded). It then expands more into the history of the area, mostly focusing on Julius Caesar and his conquests and then giving an overview of the tumultuous history of Rome after his assassination.

The book is illustrated with red-tinted cartoons and filled with plenty of wacky information, like a venn diagram of Cleopatra's romantic involvement, TripAdvisor-like reviews of gladiator games, and letters from Time Corp's evil CEO. There is a limited bibliography - one contemporary title about every day life in Rome and a number of classic writers like Livy.

One review said this walked the line between fiction and nonfiction, but I feel it kind of slips over. Yes, it covers a lot of history, but it slips in so many jokes that it's hard to take seriously. It briefly mentions slavery, women's rights (nonexistent), and systems of government, but it references ancient Rome as a democracy, saying that there wouldn't be another democracy until the United States. That doesn't sound right to me? Can you call it a democracy if a large portion of the population has no voice? And isn't the US a republic? With the lack of sources and the light-hearted feeling of the text, I wondered how many inaccuracies there were - I am not an expert on Ancient Rome by any means.

But as an introduction, to get kids interested in history, this is delightful. It's funny, doesn't take itself too seriously, and will attract both history fans and those who think history is "boring."

Verdict: Buy it, but I still haven't decided to put it in fiction or nonfiction. There's an American Revolution title as well, but the third projected title was cancelled so I don't know if this will be a long-running series or not.

ISBN: 9781101998083; Published 2018 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: So far up by Susanne Strasser

This deceptively simple board book offers a gentle, repetitive story and a surprise ending.

In the window of a tall house sits a cake. Along comes bear, who is very hungry. But the cake is so far up! As more animals appear, they each climb on top of bear but they still can't reach. Finally, a child appears in the window and... the cake is gone. Or is it?

Close observers will see a black bird on the telephone wire, edging closer and closer and finally snapping up the cherry on the cake, even as the animals suffer (they think) final disappointment. SPOILER: The child brings the cake down to share!

Cute, minimalist illustrations show a range of animals stacking themselves up in kooky attitudes in an effort to reach that delicious cake, but they're just not close enough. The sounds each animal makes as it jumps atop the previous one are delightful, from "fwoop" to "hippity hop".

Verdict: A quirky but fun addition to your board book collection.

ISBN: 9781580898485; Published January 2018 by Charlesbridge; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It's springtime, Mr. Squirrel by Sebastian Meschmenmoser

Meschenmoser's books about Mr. Squirrel just make me laugh and laugh! They don't always click with kids - Waiting for winter is the most relatable, but sometimes I just have to get a few picture books for the grown-ups.

Mr. Squirrel and his friend the hedgehog have waited for winter together, experienced all the drama of an apparently missing moon, and now its spring!

The black and white, pencil drawings of the cold winter world have been touched with color. Squirrel is still feeling a bit groggy, but he can see the changes - grass, leaves, and insects. What has happened? "It's SPRING!" roars the bear, with bear-sized enthusiasm. Squirrel is up for it, but hedgehog isn't ready to join in. What's wrong with the hedgehog? He has seen something. Something amazing, something wonderful. A Beautiful lady hedgehog. How can he catch her eye? Luckily, Mr. Squirrel has his back and plenty of suggestions for showing his bravery.

SPOILERS

The funniest part of this is the surprise endings. First when Mr. Squirrel and the hedgehog "defeat" their friend the bear (who doesn't even really realize they're there) and secondly when the hedgehog makes a disappointing discovery about his "lady love" who's really not a hedgehog at all!

While few, if any, kids will pick up on the Don Quixote references, they're sure to giggle along with Mr. Squirrel's efforts to prove their courage, including dressing in "armor" and battling other creatures. The surprise ending is good for a laugh as well.

Verdict: Not an absolutely necessary purchase, but definitely a fun one to add to your spring picture book collection.

ISBN: 9780735843103; Published April 2018 by North South; Borrowed from another library in my consortium