Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We don't eat our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Ryan T. Higgins first came on the scene in 2015 with the hilarious and tongue-in-cheek, instant favorite, Mother Bruce. He followed this up with more stories about Bruce, a wacky pair of mice, and now he's expanding into a very unusual new student in his latest tale.

Penelope is really worried about her first day at school. Her parents try to reassure her; she gets a backpack with ponies on it, 300 sandwiches for lunch, and her dad walks her to school. But then she discovers that all of her new classmates are...


Children, in fact. It's a lovely classroom, with only 12 students (counting Penelope), racially diverse, with lots of science equipment, cozy reading spaces, and a cubby for everyone. But Penelope has some trouble fitting in, especially when she keeps, well, you know, they look so good, and they smell tasty too and.... yep, she keeps eating them. The drool-bespattered children are naturally reluctant to make friends with Penelope. Penelope is lonely, but then she gets some good advice from her dad: "children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier." And she really tries! But they are so tasty...

It's not until the tables are turned on Penelope that she realizes what it's like to be eaten... and manages to curb her appetite.

Higgins' art is full of earth colors and lots of drool; Penelope's big, black eyes stare sorrowfully out at the reader, because she just can't understand why no one wants to be her friend! The bulgy-eyed goldfish, long-suffering teacher, and nervous children are all memorable and distinct characters. While the story points a lesson about friendship and fitting in, it's far from heavy-handed and the humor is definitely the main takeaway.

Verdict: Sure to be a favorite when reading back to school books, this one is a must-have for your school displays and it may even make a helpful reminder for younger students, in an updated version of the classic mantra, "Do unto others" remind your students, "Don't eat your friends!"

ISBN: 9781368003551; Published June 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; F&G provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson; Astro-naut/Aqua-naut by Jennifer Swanson

These two recent titles by Jennifer Swanson both deal with similar subjects - the science of space - but in different ways. Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System addresses the science of space through the lens of geology. Dr. Ehlmann is a planetary geologist. In her alter ego of Dr. E, a cartoon, faux-superhero, she takes readers through the study of geology and how it applies to space, from space rocks to weather, to following water patterns. The nonfiction sections, with photographs and more realistic information, is interspersed with short comic sections starring Dr. E and her robot Rover as they explore the universe. In addition to National Geographic's familiar layout - lots of panels with extra information, graphics, photographs, etc., there are also activities and science experiments included. This is part of the "Science Superheroes" series, which previously included Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. There is a huge amount of information packed into this book, and readers will learn about famous scientists, the parallels between outer space and earth, from volcanoes to storms, as well as the cutting-edge technology used to study space. Back matter includes a glossary, index, credits, and more resources.

The second book takes a more serious approach. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut compares the world of undersea research with outer space research, coming up with many interesting parallels. Readers will meet astronauts who study below the ocean with aquanauts, since in many ways conditions are similar to deep space. Each section connects the work done in the two different environments, for example, one section introduces the layers - first "going up" through the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, etc. and then going down through the zones, epipelagic, mesopelagic, etc. The similarities and differences in blasting off and diving are shown, and the living conditions and challenges of a space or underwater habitat. Along the way there are activities, interviews with scientists, experiments, and historical tidbits.

While the first title feels geared towards a younger audience, especially with the cutesy cartoons, it's actually quite advanced, containing fairly dense text and a lot of mathematical and scientific vocabulary. In contrast, the second title felt more mature and for an older audience, but in some ways also felt simpler and more accessible. My own preference was for the second title; I've found that most of my readers aren't really interested in "fake" superheroes and the comic portions were a little too goofy. However, readers who are interested in space science are likely to enjoy both these titles.

Verdict: Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System is an additional purchase if you have a lot of interest in geology, space, and younger readers with high reading levels. Astro-naut/Aqua-naut, with it's accessible language, wealth of photographs and information, and carefully planned layout, is a must for your science section and would make a great choice for any number of school projects as well.

Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System
ISBN: 9781426327995
ISBN: 9781426328688

Published January 2018 by National Geographic; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, June 17, 2018

RA RA READ: Fantasy Adventure Graphic Novels

These are read-alikes for Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet and Jeff Smith's Bone series. Graphic novels with cinematic color, action and adventure, fantasy and magic.

Long-running or Complete Series
  • Three thieves by Scott Chantler
    • The Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler is an award-winning Canadian webcomic that is published in the US by Kids Can Press. The story is set in a quasi-medieval fantasy world and features a young acrobat and sometimes thief and her companions who are on a quest to discover the secrets of her family and to find her missing brother. Along the way they run into corrupt politicians, dangerous knights, and other people with their own secrets.
  • Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa
    • The Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa is a classic trilogy featuring a strong and determined princess, dragons, music, adventure, and magic. It's recently been reprinted and a third volume added. It's more in the fairy tale vein, but classic fantasy that kids, both boys and girls, will enjoy.
  • Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
    • Kazu Kibuishi's popular Amulet series begins with a pair of siblings entering a strange, fantastical world and gets more serious as the series continues with magic, prophecies, wars, etc. Kids love the combination of magic and adventure and the art is cinematic and stunning.
  • Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko
    • The Elsewhere Chronicles by Bannister and Nykko are, I think, originally a French comic series. They introduce a group of friends who travel to a magical world that turns out to be more frightening than fantastic. They are a little harder sell because they are in a picture book format, but once you get kids into them they're fans.
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
    • Jeff Smith's classic series Bone has been around for a long time and could be said to have catapulted the graphic novel format for middle grade readers to popularity. The original graphic novel series consists of 9 titles. There are also several companion volumes and an illustrated prose series called Quest for the Spark. Bone is basically the story of a collection of animated cartoon bone characters that go on a journey. Along the way they encounter various friends and enemies.
New Series
  • Rapunzel's Revenge; Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
    • These are roughly based on fairy tale characters, but take them to a whole new dimension. They are set in the wild west but include Rapunzel using her hair as a lasso, dwarves, monsters, giants (he is Jack the Giant Killer) and a little bit of romance.
  • The city on the other side by Mairghread Scott
  • Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner
Science Fiction that's closely related to fantasy adventure

Saturday, June 16, 2018

This week at the library; or, First week of summer reading

Happening this week
The animal shelter did show up for Paws to Read with a very cute puppy and the kids were ecstatic. I found some issues with my schedule - I hadn't accounted for the unfortunate injuries two of my three aides are suffering! It was very, very busy.

My first Library on the Go of the summer went great - Headstart was very welcoming and my summer associate translated my bookmark into Spanish! It was great to be able to explain the program to everyone! Terri's first summer program, We Explore Outdoors, was very popular.

More schedule issues, but all was resolved and I redid the rest of the June schedule. Our core group of anime fans showed up and (reluctantly) signed up for summer reading. My summer associate got their first experience with anime!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron

It's hard to explain the difference I see between the US and UK imprints of Scholastic's graphic novel publications. David Fickling Books has several titles that have been popular in our library and they have nothing inappropriate in them, they just feel like they have a little bit more of an "edge" as it were.

Anyways, this latest title doesn't really break any new ground but it caught my interest nonetheless. Brothers Alex and Freddy are your typical, squabbling kids. Except they're also robots. They're living their life, arguing over video games, trying to get to school on time, but unbeknownst to them there are things going on in the background. Their mom is dealing with government officials who are skeptical of her work, trying to show the value of her cybernetics while also protecting the robots she's come to think of as her children. And then things start going wrong...

Throw in an existential penguin robot, some high-stakes shenanigans, and some dark dreams, and this is a fast-paced, superhero adventure with a twist. It's funny but also thoughtful, reflecting on what it means to be alive and a family. Colorful art and a futuristic, scifi world add to the intrigue. All of the characters, including Alex and Freddy's parents, display a wide range of diversity, as well as several characters in hijabs.

Verdict: Sure to intrigue HiLo fans, this is a must-have for your graphic novel collection.

ISBN: 978133818959; This edition published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The last firehawk: The ember stone by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Jeremy Norton

There's a limited number of fantasy books for beginning chapter readers. Mostly they tend to involve fairies and lots of sparkly glitter. Epic fantasy, not so much. However, Scholastic's Branches imprint was extremely successful with their Dragon Masters series by Tracey West (I don't know about your library, but I had to buy multiple copies and referee fights over the remaining titles!) and apparently decided to branch out into an animal fantasy, a la Warriors, in this latest series The Last Firehawk.

The story begins with an introduction: The fantasy is set in the land of Perodia, where the Owls of Valor fight against the evil vulture, Thorn, who is using the Shadow to destroy the land. Tag, a young owl who is smaller than the others, tries hard to live up to his dream of being an Owl of Valor. Appropriately, a classic fantasy map is also included.

Tag and his friend Skyla, a squirrel, rescue a mysterious egg from the evil tiger-bats, servants of Thorn. When the egg hatches, they discover it contains a firehawk, long thought to be extinct. Once upon a time, the firehawks had magic that could defeat Thorn and his Shadow, but their magic was contained in a gem which has since disappeared. Tag, Skyla, and the firehawk, named Blaze, set out on a quest to find the magical jewel.

Digital black and white illustrations are on every page. Most of the animals look "normal", excepting the weird tiger-bats, but the owls wear armor, as does Skyla at times. Some of the art is blurred and the faces a little distorted. This is very classic animal fantasy; owls and squirrels are "good", vultures and bats are "bad". There is a magical map, legends, and a dangerous quest for a magical artifact. The hero (male of course) is the smallest and yearns to be part of a group of "knights" but ends up proving himself in a different way. However, just because it may seem old hat to a regular fantasy reader doesn't mean young readers new to the genre won't enjoy it. The story moves quickly and is written smoothly and briskly, with just enough peril to keep the story interesting. There are gentle lessons about working with your strengths, accepting the help of friends, and trying even when things seem hopeless.

Verdict: I think the art does the story a disservice; I don't expect it will be as popular as Dragon Masters because of the lack of art and human characters to relate to. However, it was a good story; even I want to find out what happens next! Recommended to add to your Branches collection.

ISBN: 9781338122138; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal

I picked this up for the library because the bright cover was attractive and was delighted to discover the interior is equally whimsical.

Each spread shows two improbably colored animals and poses the question: what would happen if they were mixed? The following spread shows the result. A giant, vivid blue whale plummets through the sky, landing on a startled yellow lion and creating… a rather glum-looking “green whion.” The mixes get more and more weird, a “turquoise rhortoise,” a “chartreuse kangamoose,” and my favorite, a “violet brizzly.” The third to the last spread shows a swirling ring of mixed and unmixed animals which combine to form a marvelous creature on the second to last spread. It’s unnamed, but has blue wings, a yellow trunk, green elephant legs, stripy red body, and so on. The final spread shows spots demonstrating the different color combinations, with a red monkey juggling a few extra balls.

The vivid colors add excitement and interest to the quirky book. While the combinations are too advanced for most toddlers, they can still enjoy the combinations and colors and will be delighted with the wacky animals that are created.

Verdict: A bright new entry in the world of board books, sure to fly off your shelves and delight little ones. Recommended.
ISBN: 9781499805352; Published 2018 by little bee books; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Snail Mail by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Julia Patton

A long time ago, (well, not that long, but probably before you can remember!) people didn’t send emails and texts - they sent letters through snail mail.

Berger imagines a fanciful landscape with four determined snails and a very special letter. A dark-skinned girl in Santa Monica writes a special love letter “It was a card made with her own hands, written in her own handwriting, and sealed with her own kiss. It even smelled a little bit like her.” The letter is sent to a boy across the country in New York and the snails set out on their journey. They see marvelous sites like Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, sail across the fields with birds, and finally deliver the letter. “When the snails saw the Boy’s face as he opened the letter, they knew their journey was worth it.”

Patton’s soft colors show a sun-washed landscape and four unique snails, each with their own personality. Postcards, collage elements, and sketched in details pop against the water-washed background.

I like to write letters myself and it’s certainly a fun thing to introduce kids to. Although the book was sweet though, I didn’t care for the illustrations, which had a very indistinct, swashy look, as though they’d had water dumped over them. The text is a little long and complex for the average storytime as well.

Verdict: An additional choice if you have teachers who want to encourage letter-writing; most readers will be more interested in the workings of the real-life post office. However, it’s a sweet story and if you have a large collection or want to expand your books on postal services it could make a nice addition.

ISBN: 9780762462513; Published 2018 by Running Press; Review copy provided by the publisher

Monday, June 11, 2018

Split history of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Steven Otfinoski

As I continue updating the 900s, I’m constantly looking for additional materials on some of the most popular historical events like World War II. It can be tricky to find materials that are well-researched and written, cover the basic information (which many kids don’t know) but also offer additional perspectives, stepping outside the traditional black and white presentation.

I was very interested to see a new series from Capstone that seems to promise this in its unique presentation. “Perspectives Flip Books” include the same major historical event from two different perspectives. This one covers the attack of Pearl Harbor from the American and Japanese perspectives. One side of the book covers one perspective, flip it over and read about the same event from a different perspective. This includes a blow-by-blow account of the attack with eyewitness quotes and inset information on people like Doris Miller, an African-American hero who was denied recognition due to his color or Japanese ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura who tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate peace.

Both stories share a timeline, further reading, and glossary, but have their own individual index.

While brief, each story lasting about 30 pages, they do a good job of conveying the basic events as well as exploring some of the different perspectives. Otfinoski touches on some of the reasons behind the war, mistakes made by both sides in the attack, and overtures of peace after the war.

Verdict: I’d like to see more titles from this series to make a really informed decision, but I think this is what I’ve been looking for and I plan to purchase the series to fill out and diversify my 900s. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780756556914; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 9, 2018

This week at the library; or, It's not quite so hot

3rd graders doing progressive drawing
What's happening
I had to make a last-minute change on Wednesday. There was thunder, the third-graders couldn't walk over, so instead of the big art field trip I had planned, my colleague and I hauled baskets and baskets of books over to the school. Of course, it only rained while they were being carried out to our cars! I did a quick spiel for summer reading with the kids then those with library cards checked out regular library books and those without got Library on the Go books. We did check out about 100 books, give or take, but I still lament my lost art field trip.... It did work out on Thursday though!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella

Published simultaneously with The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome, this time travelers' handbook takes readers back to the American Revolution. Written like a guidebook, this includes starred reviews for the accommodations (including prison ships and Valley Forge), people to meet, and landmarks to see. There are also frequent interjections from the indentured servants, I mean authors, and Finn Greenquil, futuristic CEO and dictator of Time Corp.

The narrative is a pretty standard story of the American Revolution, including Paul Revere's ride, George Washington's difficulties during the war, and the Continental Congress. It does have some additional notes regarding slavery and the Founding Fathers, and famous people do include some African-Americans. There is also reference to some of the African-Americans who fought on both sides, trying to find the freedom that the new country denied them.

This is light and amusing, a good introduction for readers who aren't interested in history, or even those who are. I did feel that women were largely overlooked, several pivotal figures being left out. It's also hard to swallow the "humor" of Finn Greenquill who supposedly owns and oppresses the US while reading about the colonists who fought and died for freedom.

Verdict: While I still see a lot of issues with this, I admit that I liked the series enough to read a second title and will probably purchase these. Fans of I Survived, Sarah Albee, and Nathan Hale are sure to enjoy this latest adventure and humor-packed incursion into history.

ISBN: 9781101998113; Published 2018 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Life in the library

Me to 2nd grader, "I can't wait to see your class for their field trip at the library! We're going to do a really cool and messy art project."

2nd grader, looks at me dubiously, "I don't like messy things. Or anything that gets my hands messy. Or art projects that make a mess. I don't like getting clean afterwards either."

Me, "so basically you like to preserve your equilibrium at all times"

2nd grader, "what?"

Me, "you don't like to change"

2nd grader, still dubious now that I have been revealed as the creator of mess and not just the purveyor of awesome books "can I just read a book instead?"

The Gumazing Gum Girl: Popped Star by Rhode Montijo with Luke Reynolds

Gum Girl is back in her third adventure - and she's got sticky problems!

Gabi Gomez' dad, a dentist, has said no more gum. But she didn't listen, she had to keep turning into Gum Girl and saving the day! Now she's at the dentist with a sore tooth and a new superhero is moving into town, Ninja-Rina. She's got to do a project on what it means to be a hero, bully Natalie Gooch is selling Ninja-Rina t-shirts, and everybody seems to have forgotten about Gum Girl.

When Gabi discovers the secret behind Ninja-Rina, the two are at odds. Gabi just wants to save the town, tell her parents the truth, and finish her essay. But... maybe she cares a little about what people think? What does it really mean to be a hero anyways?

As you might guess from the cover (and yes, it smells like sour apple!) Gum Girl's usual pink is being taken over by green. However, the art still has the trademark Gum Girl look, with lots of bold, black lines, cartoon faces, and comic-style action.

I love that this series features a Latina whose dad is a dentist! While I don't have a lot of readers interested in the faux-superhero genre, they do like Gum Girl. It's heavily illustrated, features lots of goofy humor, and has a very relatable main character. It's a little more challenging than your average beginning chapter book, but plenty of illustrations and a bold font make it a good choice for a fluent 2nd grade reader up to a struggling 4th grader. The one problem I have is that popular beginning chapter book series tend to come and go overnight. With only three titles in this series and the long waits between titles, fans tend to grow up or lose interest while waiting for the next installment.

Verdict: I think this is worth a little extra promotion; whenever a new Gum Girl comes out I do some booktalking and pop it up on the staff picks and soon there's a new group of readers excited about the bubble-icious adventures of Gabi Gomez. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781423161189; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: 10, 9, 8... Owls up late! by Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan

Ten cute little owls are staying up late - they're having too much fun to go to bed. But Mama is calling and one by one the little owls flutter down to bed as the sun begins to rise. The final spread counts the owls from 1 to 10.

The book is a tall rectangle with die cut shapes over different owls. As you turn the page, the die cuts reveal details like smiling caterpillars, cute butterflies, and smiling spiders, and cover the owls as they fly away one by one.

The text is based on the old "Ten Little" nursery rhyme, and is fairly lengthy. For example, "Eight little owls were dancing in a tree, wiggling and jiggling joyfully. From up in the branches the playful owls said: "We're feeling much too bouncy, and we won't go to bed!"" There are also little comments made by the owls in speech balloons.

The background is a light denim shade with a darker blue tree in the center. The background slowly lightens to violet, then peach and a pale pink. The pages are thick and sturdy and the binding feels strong. Each owl is a different color, size, or has a little accessory to mark them apart. Only the final owl is given a gender and addressed as "he".

Verdict: Cute, but not memorable. Purchase if you are looking for additional counting board books.

ISBN: 9781684121847; Published 2018 by Silver Dolphin; Review copy provided by the publisher

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pink is for boys by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Eda Kaban

Ostensibly, this is a book that's supposed to make kids feel that all genders can do anything. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work out that way.

In the first spread, the title is repeated and expanded: "Pink is for boys. And girls." A pink-hued room is shown with the light-skinned boy and dark-skinned girl of the cover dressed in fancy clothes, the girl in a pink dress with long sash and the boy in light pink shirt and bow-tie. The following page expands this theme with the two playing piano for a roomful of dancing children, the girls all in pink party dresses, the boys in pink shirts, bowties, and dark pants.

In the third spread and second color, "Blue is for girls. And boys." A blonde, freckled girl and Asian boy are shown in dirty baseball unicorns with blue sleeves against a blue sky. The following page shows a whole team of mixed genders and races with blue-sleeved baseball games against a green field.

The theme continues - yellow is a fantasy castle, with a prince and princess wearing crowns. Green shows a boy handing a girl a flower and then the two racing through the woods together. Red is for racing cars. Orange is a popsicle stand. Purple has a blonde boy in a wheelchair with a unicorn balloon, which he imagines riding through the sky with an orange-haired girl. Brown is a giant teddy bear. Black and white shows two white children petting cats and dogs. The final spread brings together all the children from the book enjoying all the colors together.

The pictures are bright and colorful, with swatches of color and splashes of leaves, sky, and cities across the background. There is an attractive diversity of race, size, and one representation of a physical disability.

So, what's the problem? Well, if the book had been intended to reinforce traditional gender roles and the colors usually paired with them, then it would be fine. But that's not what the book is supposed to do. When "pink" is described, it automatically goes with a girl wearing a fancy dress. A boy wearing a pink bowtie is not exactly claiming the color for both genders. Blue is associated with baseball, a traditionally male color for a traditionally male sport. Strict gender division is seen again in yellow, with a traditional prince and princess. It's also problematic that the only physically disabled child is shown as dreaming of being without his disability, not actually doing anything. Some of the colors are more neutral, but the tone set by the first few overshadows the rest of the book.

Verdict: The illustrations are lovely, but the book falls short of its message; and, in my experience, kids are more influenced by teachers and parents, not stories, when it comes to "boy colors" and "girl colors". An additional purchase if you have a large audience for didactic stories.

ISBN: 9780762462476; Published June 5, 2018 by Running Press; F&G provided by publisher

Monday, June 4, 2018

Felting projects you won’t be able to resist by Shalana Frisby

We’ve gotten very into sewing and fiber arts at my library recently, and while I’ve very firmly refused to do any felting in the past (handing my library kids needles and telling them to stab things just seems like asking for trouble) this book is making me rethink that stance.

The book begins with an introduction to the most familiar kinds of felt; synthetic felt, which is what most people are familiar with, and stiffened felt, which can be made with the application of glue or purchased in that form. There are several decorative crafts with these items, including a box and owl pillow. Then the book introduces real wool, or wool roving. This is the loose fibers which can be felted together, using either wet or needle felting techniques. Wool felt is also introduced, although it is, like roving, much more expensive than synthetic felt. The techinique of wet felting is introduced, and here I felt was the one area of the book lacking as pictures of the process are shown, but no actual, step-by-step instructions are given, except for a general description. Needle felting is introduced in the same manner.

The projects for wet and needle felting include more specific instructions and readers who want to try these more complicated techniques will learn to make wool balls, bracelets, a game board, and several other items. A couple additional titles are included and a short author bio.

This series also includes titles on crocheting, knitting, and sewing.

Verdict: This is a new title and has excellent content, except for the rather vague introduction to the wet and needle felting process. Definitely worth adding if you want to expand your fiber arts section and I look forward to using this series in maker workshops.

ISBN: 9781515774488; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, June 2, 2018

This week at the library; or, It's hot

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Closed
  • Tuesday
    • 2nd grade field trip
    • 5th grade field trip (2 trips with 2 classes each)
    • Online summer reading registration for kids only begins
    • Worked 8:30-5
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
We read Claymates at the 2nd grade tour and they laughed uproariously. The 5th grade tours went well; the first group was really into the scavenger hunt, but the second group had a lot of kids who wanted to just read instead. I was ok with that.

Off-site visits was my traditional summer reading visits - I don't know if it really influences the kids, but the teachers like it and I do enjoy booktalking. I used my booktalking cards here and for the 4th and 5th graders, some of whom checked out books. I was kind of tired by the end of the week.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Astra and her family are on their way to a new space colony, far, far away. Astra is a little worried about sleeping for thousands of years, but her parents both reassure her that things will be fine. However, before she can take a nap of that duration, she needs a snack! Guided by Pilbeam, a friendly robot, she asks the giant Nom-o-Tron to make her a cake. The ultimate cake! Unfortunately, it seems to break down before she can get her cake and she wanders off to bed. When she wakes up, she's shocked to discover that they're only 99 years into their journey! And all that time the Nom-o-Tron has been making cakes and the cakes have been evolving....

A terrifying array of sweets, some very dim but possibly friendly (or possibly not) aliens obsessed with spoons, and some helpful robots all appear in this hilarious adventure. Ultimately, Astra must be brave and clever if she's going to outsmart the sentient cakes, escape the spoon-hunting aliens, and save the ship! Fortunately she has help from Pilbeam and the Nameless Horror. The book is illustrated in shades of orange and gray and, while just 200 pages, has fairly challenging vocabulary.

I hung on to Larklight, Philip Reeve's nutty steampunk adventure of alien top hats and giant spiders, all circling around a large Victorian house as a space ship, for many years. I loved the crazy adventures and it came in with a very high lexile level, which was useful. But, alas, I found that my young patrons' dislike of steampunk and wacky British humor exceeded their desperate need for books with a high lexile. It is quite probably that the books will have to go on the next weeding cycle, which is coming up soon.

When I was selecting books for the science fiction genre for my book club, I ran across this new title from Philip Reeve and couldn't resist selecting it to see if my readers would be interested. It did get picked by one reader, but they said it was too silly. Alas. However, I enjoyed it myself and I am happy it's available in our consortium in case I ever run into any other fans.

Verdict: If you have fans of Reeve's previous silly books, or those who like this particular British vein of humor, this one is sure to be snapped up. If not, it's probably best to let it go.

ISBN: 9780385387927; Published 2015 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium