Sunday, October 21, 2018

RA RA Read: Scary Stories from Beginning to End

Interest in scary stories waxes and wanes, but it's always there. Over the past years I've gotten more and more requests for scary stories for younger listeners and readers, which is always tricky. "Scary" is very individual too, much like humor. However, here are my favorite recommendations to get started.

Scary Picture Books
  • Bone soup by Cambria Evans
  • The Monster and the Tailor by Paul Galdone (OP)
  • The Book That Eats People by John Perry
  • Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
  • Cinderella Skeleton by Robert San Souci
Easy Readers and Beginning Chapters
  • Eek! Stories to make you shriek by Jane O'Connor
    • All the other books in this series are out of print
  • Scary Tales by James Preller
  • Ghosts! Ghostly stories from folklore; In a dark, dark room by Alvin Schwartz
Middle Grade
Young Adult
  • Through the woods by Emily Carroll (GN)
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Series)
    • Not so much horror as dark fantasy; these are being republished fall 2018!
  • Natasha Preston
  • Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (Series)
    • Multiple related and unrelated series and manga adaption, which I don't think is scary at all.
  • Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith (Series)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

This week at the library; or, How time flies

Happening this week at the library
Professional Development
  • Programming for 'Tweens by Amanda Struckmeyer, online class at UW-Madison, week 5 (final week)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trapped in a video game by Dustin Brady, illustrated by Jesse Brady

There's not a high level of literary quality in this book. In fact, the writing is kind of awful. I intend to buy multiple copies and I expect it to fly off the shelves.

Jesse isn't interested in video games (this is never explained) but he gives in to his friend Eric's mysterious text message to go over to his house... the next thing he knows, he's IN a video game, with Eric! Eric clearly thinks this is the most awesome fun ever - they're fighting aliens, jumping from level to level, and if they get shot they just go back to the beginning of the level. But then something goes wrong and they're trapped. Will they figure out a way to escape? Are they the only people trapped in the game? Oh, yeah, and a booger is a major plot point.

The black and white digital cartoons reminded me of the many, many, many minecraft books I've bought and there's a lot of white space on the pages. Eric appears to have darker skin and hair. The action moves fast, it's violent but only aliens are killed, and video game fans of pretty much any game are sure to grab this off the shelf. There is some slight character development between Eric and Jesse, surrounding their friendship, but it's not an integral part of the story.

Verdict: This is one of those titles that lures reluctant readers and kids who normally prefer a different media, like video games, to books. It's not great literature and the sketchy plot, rapid action, and choppy prose are likely to make English teachers wince, but hand it to your Minecraft, Super Rabbit Boy, and video game fans in general and watch the reading love grow!

ISBN: 9781449494865; Published 2018 by Andrews McMeel; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Owl Diaries: Eva's big sleepover by Rebecca Elliott

I am not an infallible judge of books. Evidence of this is my review of Owl Diaries when it first came out, back in 2015. I felt pretty "meh" about the first book, Eva's Treetop Festival. I'm here with the ninth book in the series and I freely admit that I was wrong.

In Eva's latest adventure, she is excited about her first sleepover. But when she takes her hatch-day shell to school for show and tell, she's upset by a careless comment from another owlet. Now she wishes she didn't have to invite Sue - but when Sue turns down her invitation she feels differently. With the help of her friends and family, will she be friends again with Sue and will they all have fun at her sleepover?

The story is in diary format on lined pages with a plethora of brightly colored illustrations. I'm sure all the kids have memorized which owl is which, but other than trying to remember that Eva is the one with the pink head and big blue circles around her eyes, I can't keep them straight. It's not as challenging as the more substantive Branches titles like Dragon Masters or Eerie Elementary, but it's a little more challenging than Boris. It is easy to follow the text and speech bubbles and the text is bold, if not large.

Do I still think that it's pretty stereotyped and formulaic? Yes. Does the endless drama give me a headache? Absolutely. Do kids love this to the point of literally fighting each other for copies? Oh yeah.

Verdict: I am now buying at least 4 copies of each new title and separating students (and siblings) as they each want their own copy! It seems to exactly hit the sweet spot for 2nd grade girls (I haven't run into any boys willing to read them) and they eagerly await each installment.

ISBN: 9781338163070; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Purchased 4 copies (paperback) for the library

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Small Readers: The Itchy Book by LeUyen Pham

This is part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series; each title is introduced with popular characters Elephant and Piggie in a brief exchange and finishes with another comic interlude with the pair. I was surprised to realize I hadn't reviewed this one, since I must have read it 20 times last spring with class visits!

Piggie introduces the story by asking Gerald if he likes books that make you "feel things" and when Gerald confirms that yes, he does, the story begins! We first see a black and grey stone with "dinosaurs do not scratch" carved into it and a turtle sleeping below the words. A bespectacled orange-brown dinosaur, dressed in blue t-shirt and white shorts, reads the stone and is surprised to learn something new... when a triceratops happens along. When they start to scratch, the first dinosaur points out the stone and the fun begins... naturally, once they've been forbidden to do so, more and more dinosaurs show up with a desperate need to scratch! The first dinosaur is strong though - nothing will make them scratch! Not grass clippings, ants, itchy sweaters, nothing! Only one thing can make them scratch... when the turtle finally moves and the rest of the carved words appear!

Elephant and Piggie finish the story with some funny words about scratching - and friends. Pham's colorful art is sprinkled with speech balloons in different colors, including some comic panels. This title fits well into the Elephant and Piggie series, even though it's much more colorful, including backgrounds and lots of details. Emerging readers may find it difficult to follow, with the many different colors and some variety in fonts, but readers at approximately a first grade, beginning level will have no problem. It also makes a great read-aloud!

Verdict: While not a top pick for actual reading mechanics, this is certainly a top pick for fun! Beginning readers are sure to enjoy the continuation of Elephant and Piggie's adventures as well as Pham's artwork and silly story for their own merits.

ISBN: 9781368005647; Published May 2018 by Hyperion; Purchased 2 copies for the library

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Read Scary: Bone Soup: A spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Tom Knight

Capucilli, author of Biscuit and many other titles, turns out a cheerful, if rather gross, Halloween book. In a play on the classic "Stone Soup" story, Naggy, Craggy, and Scraggy Witch have nothing to eat but a bone - so they decide to make bone soup! They carry their cauldron and bone to a town and begin knocking on doors. With cheerful exclamations, "Piff-poof! It's no trick." they request help from the various monsters, ghosts, and ghouls they meet and add to their bone water, eyeballs, crunchy lizard tails, dead leaves, and more.

Just when the monsters are getting restless, a little monster supplies the final, magic ingredient and they all settle in to enjoy a bewitching and "bone-chillingly delicious" treat.

The final page includes a recipe for Naggy Witch's Bone Soup (it can be made with a turnip or ham bone and a variety of vegetables) and a note from the author on the origins of the story and how she chose to reinterpret it.

This isn't the first reimagining of Stone Soup for Halloween; Cambria Evan's 2008 title, Bone Soup was a more straight-forward reimagining of the tale with a wandering, round-faced monster interesting a variety of monstrous villagers in whipping up a batch of "bone soup" after they refuse to feed him or bring out their delicacies. This title is more text-heavy but lighter in feeling, with no hints of a trick, just sharing amongst monsters. While both are reviewed as not scary, I still wouldn't use them with a toddler or preschool audience, especially where there are concerns about Halloween celebrations. Save this one for elementary students who can sit through a longer story, are comparing folktale versions, or want to try out a little cookery on their own.

Verdict: A fun addition with activities to your Halloween collections; purchase where Evan's Bone Soup and other ghoulish treats are popular.

ISBN: 978148148608; Published July 2018 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 15, 2018

The monarchs are missing by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Say "butterfly" to a kid or adult and odds are good they will immediately think of a monarch butterfly. These gorgeous orange and black insects are known for their amazing migrations across the US to Mexico, the iconic pictures of trees covered in monarchs, and their distinctive striped black, white, and yellow-green caterpillars. But, like so many other creatures, the monarchs are in danger. In the winter of 2013/2014, historically low numbers were recorded at the wintering grounds in Mexico. Hirsch goes on a journey through the history of monarchs up to present-day scientists to solve the mystery.

Hirsch takes readers through the discovery of the monarchs' unique migration patterns; one large group, those to the west of the Rocky Mountains, migrated to California. Those east of the Rockies seemed to simply disappear. At the same time, small villages in the mountains of central Mexico welcomed floods of mariposas every year, without knowing where they came from. Finally, in the 1970s, scientists discovered the monarchs in a forest high in the mountains in Mexico. Hirsch continues through the scientific discoveries of the monarch's life cycle and migration, ending with their slow decline, beginning in the 90s.

Scientists discovered multiple factors affecting the monarchs; climate change and local habitat destruction was making the Mexican oyamel forests no longer a safe haven for the monarchs. Changes in weather patterns in Texas have also affected the monarchs. Milkweed was disappearing from the fields and tropical milkweed was disrupting the monarchs' migration patterns and possibly giving them diseases. Is there hope for the monarchs, threatened by many different elements? Hirsch explores the measures being taken to save monarchs, how readers can get involved, and the continuing work of scientists to protect these dazzling insects.

Verdict: This is an excellent introduction to a complicated scientific problem, one that kids can easily get involved in. A great point to start research or a school project, this is sure to be popular with teachers and students alike.

ISBN: 9781512452501; Published 2018 by Millbrook; Purchased for the library

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cybils 2018 Nomination Suggestions

If you're like me, you read a ton of children's books - but it's hard to remember that great book you read last November when it comes time for Cybils nominations! So here are some suggestions to jog your memory. Nominations are open Oct 1 - Oct 15.

Elementary Nonfiction
  • Baby animals eating by Suzi Ezsterhas
  • Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins
  • Living in South Korea by Chloe Perkins
  • Let's hatch chicks by Lisa Steele
  • Seed is the start by Melissa Stewart
  • What makes a blizzard by Zoehfeld
  • Bowhead whale by Karpik
  • Bonkers about beetles by Owen Davey
  • Prickly hedgehogs by McGuinness
Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • To Pluto and beyond by Elaine Scott
  • Kids' guide to the American Revolution by Kathleen Krull (could be junior nonfiction)
  • You wouldn't want to live without simple machines
  • Hidden women by Rissman
  • Trash vortex 9780756557454 
  • Girls think of everything (new, updated edition) 9781328772534
  • Bat citizens by Rob Laidlaw
Junior/Senior High Nonfiction
  • Streetcar to justice by Hearth
  • In harm's way by Iain Martin
  • Deep dark blue 9781250128522
  • Locked up for freedom 9781467785976
  • Extreme survivors by Ridley
  • My shot by Donne 9781534412286 
  • Fierce by Raisman 9780316472708 
Board Books
  • Dirty birdies (9781585363896)
  • Go baby, Go dog (9780807529713)
  • Goodnight Pepe and Millie (9780807564837)
  • Mrs. Peanuckle's tree alphabet (9781623369439)
  • Rabbit (9781682973318)
  • Sip chew yum (9781680522822)
  • So far up by Strasser
  • This book (9780807578810)
  • Walk and see ABC (9780763696238)
  • Walk and see Colors (9780763699178)
  • Water (9780807505175)
  • Where's the unicorn 9781536206968
  • Cement Mixer's ABC
  • Dump Truck's Colors
  • 1 grumpy bruce by Ryan Higgins
  • Walk in the forest 9781680522365
  • Happy dog 9780312524890 
  • Jungle gym 9781585363902
Fiction Picture Books
Easy Readers
  • Mighty Truck on the farm by Chris Barton
  • Mouse loves spring by Lauren Thompson
  • I wish I was a gorilla by Sandra Markle
  • Luna and the lost shell by Cari Meister
  • Snowy surprise by Kallie George
  • Marigold fairy makes a friend by Dennis
  • Much too much birthday by J. E. Morris
  • Jump by David McPhail
  • See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
  • Croc and Ally by Derek Anderson
Early Chapters
  • Unicorns and germs by Asia Citro
  • Logan the puppy by Jane Clarke
  • Whoooo done it by Jacobs (9781481499620)
  • UFO spotted by Hilde Lysiak
  • Royal Island by Alexa Pearl
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Pup called trouble by Bobbie Pyron
  • War below by Marsha Skrypuch
  • tbh, this is so awkward by Lisa Greenwald
  • Digging for trouble by Linda Fairstein
  • MVP summer by Iva Palmer
Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
  • Stinky Cecil in mudslide mayhem by Paige Braddock
  • Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans
  • League of Lasers by Mike Lawrence
  • Bolivar by Sean Rubin
  • Robots and Drones by Scott
  • Meteorite or meteor-wrong by Shaskan
  • George Washington by Fred Van Lente

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week at the library; or, October

My office, glimpsed dimly in the distance, after Tuesday's
cardboard program and before we put the spoils away
Happening at the library
Ugh. 80 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday spent all day (after storytime in the morning) working on the budget. I got one account absolutely even, one within six cents (and that's good enough) and the third I am just guessing. For the fort night on Friday (not Fortnite, as I must have explained a million times) I told people to bring flashlights and blankets and they could hang out in the library with their kids after we closed at 6 until 8pm. A local mom came in and did bedtime yoga at 6:30, some of the 4K teachers and my colleague from the school brought in snacks and helped out, and I had a bunch of glow sticks I bought on clearance. The legos were still up from Free Lego Build and I brought out the building things from our school-age maker space. It was a relatively easy program and people really enjoyed it - we had about 50. I also had some extra sheets and lengths of cloth for those who forgot to bring blankets.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Two dogs in a trench coat go to school by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack

This author started with a picture book series, Snappsy the Alligator, which I personally disliked, even though everyone else seemed to be gushing over them. But this middle grade series, now THIS is funny. I laughed the whole way through.

Sassy and Waldo are Very Good Dogs. They keep the house free of squirrels, patrol for lost bits of food, and make sure their boy, Stewart, is happy. But Stewart isn't happy! Every day he has to go to this terrible place called School and he comes home smelling both bored and anxious. Sassy and Waldo decide they must do something! So, after several failed (and hilarious) attempts, they find an old trench coat, Waldo reveals that he's learned to speak from watching television, and they're off to school.

Waldo and Sassy introduce themselves as a student named Salty and they quickly decide that Stewart is a confusing boy because school is wonderful! Meaty lunches (why don't they get lunch?) fun projects, and a nice guy who wants to be their friend. What could be better? But Stewart's been hiding some secrets and there are a lot of surprises about school that Waldo and Sassy aren't expecting.

Black and white cartoons sprinkle the pages of this quirky story that will make you laugh and leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Waldo and Sassy are absolutely dogs and their explanation of squirrel mythos is hilarious. The teacher worried about spies, the bully who's not really a bully, it just made me laugh and keep smiling after the book was over.

Verdict: For kids who want a funny read, fans of Stick Dog, and anyone who wants a laugh break. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781338189513; Published May 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Owen and Eleanor move in by H. M. Bouwman, illustrated by Charlie Alder

Two very different families learn to live together in this new beginning chapter book series.

Eleanor is not happy about moving; they have to share a house with another family (it's a two-level duplex), she had to leave her treehouse behind, and her fish, Scrumpy the Fourth, died on the way. When she meets Owen, she's intrigued; he's homeschooled, has some cool ideas, and is very excited to have a new friend his own age right there! Eleanor decides he's just the right person to help in her plan... to run away back to her old home.

It's very rare to find children's literature where faith is included in the story; not as a proselytizing tool or the focus, but as an everyday part of life. There are almost as few books that include homeschooling! Eleanor's family is black and conventionally religious; Owen's family is white and have a more general spirituality. The kids ask matter of fact questions - that's not the way we pray, why are you homeschooled - and talk casually with their parents about religious ideas. It doesn't overshadow the main plot of the story, which is quirky Eleanor's determination to bury Scrumpy back at her old house (and move back there) and Owen's worries about keeping his new friend. Black and white sketches, mostly of various items, are scattered throughout the book.

Verdict: This stands out as a well-written book with a strong sense of diversity and inclusion. The humor and plot will also appeal to young readers who will be able to recognize their own concerns and trials throughout the story. Definitely fills a gap in beginning chapter books; strongly recommended.

ISBN: 9781506439723; Published 2018 by Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Small Readers: A Windy Day by Spencer Brinker

This is a new series/imprint from Bearport, a prebound, series nonfiction publisher. They have a lot of high-interest, low-reading level books, and although my preference is always for their animal titles, which are very popular in my library, I'm always willing to take a look at what else they're working on. This easy reader series is called "Bearcub Books" and the series is "Weather Watch." I received a copy of the title A Windy Day for review.

Each photographic spread shows something blowing in the wind and has two short sentences. On the top left, against a yellow rectangle, it says "Today is windy." On the bottom right, against rectangles of varying colors, each sentence starts with "I see" and then names the item in the picture - long hair (the mane on a horse), a flag, a leaf, etc. The opening and closing sentences vary slightly, "Look! It is windy." and "Look around! What can you see on a windy day?"

Each page is numbered, on a small yellow circle. There is a brief table of contents, a section of "key words" which list the five items seen and a thumbnail of the photograph, an index that includes each item, and a sentence about the author. A page of "teaching tips" is also included. A search of the publisher website gives the lexile of the book - 140.

It's a very basic title and I'm always looking for more basic easy readers, but it's not very... interesting. Which wouldn't necessarily matter when I'm bulking up easy readers, but I'm not going to shell out $17 on one title that will have limited interest.

Verdict: If you have the $$ and need more of this type of series nonfiction, or if you're a school library and need sets on nonfiction topics like this, it's a perfectly acceptable options. It's not one I'd really consider for the average, small-medium public library though.

ISBN: 9781684029990; Published 2018 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Eduardo Guadardo, Elite Sheep by Anthony Pearson, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

Eduardo Guadardo is about to graduate from the FBI. That would be the Fairy-tale Bureau of Investigations. Eduardo may look cute and fluffy, but he's going to be an elite sheep and he's going to get there on his own! He's passed all the tests and now he's getting his very own case! Eduardo explains what's going on to the audience as he reads through his dossier - Mary Sawyer, daughter of a wealthy farmer, is in danger of being kidnapped! Eduardo is on the case, in control, and ready for everything.

Except that witch. And the troll. And that speedboat. And... maybe Eduardo does need some help after all?

In a delightful flipping of events, sweet little Mary reappears in a pantsuit, clipboard in hand, and kindly but firmly explains to the deflated sheep that just having skills isn't enough - he has to have teamwork as well! Once Eduardo realizes he's still got things to learn - and a team to be part of - he's ready to be junior agent to Mary Sawyer and they start their first case together; hunting down some lost lambs!

This over-the-top reimagining of Mary had a little lamb is sure to tickle the funny bones of children, whether or not they know the original story. There have been a plethora of "fairy tale mystery" movies in the past few years and my colleague has had a really positive response from another nursery rhyme mystery book, Levinthal's Who pushed Humpty Dumpty? and of course there's Dosh Archer's "Urgency Emergency" easy readers, so there's quite a few titles in this area, but there's definitely room for one more, especially one as funny as this.

Verdict: A great title to read to storytime on its own, to a classroom to teach them about the formation of plot, mystery, and fractured fairy tales, and to emphasize the importance of teamwork. The contrast of an arrogant young male who thinks he knows everything and the seasoned ability of a woman at the top of her field doesn't hurt either! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781503902909; Published October 2018 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 8, 2018

Do not lick this book* (*It's full of germs) by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost

This is a most unusual interactive book and I can't wait to read it with the kids!

The endpages are covered in... green spaghetti? Hmm, weird...

Ah, the story begins. Meet Min. Min is... a microbe! Microbes are everywhere and if you look really, really, really closely at the book, you'll see her, sitting between the threads of paper.

Readers will go on a wild ride with Min and her friends through a microscopic examination of the world around them (That green spaghetti? It's cloth!). Pick her up on your finger and visit your teeth, your clothes, and more!

A final page explains more details about microbes and what the cartoon characters in the book really look like, magnified.

I sometimes feel that if I get parents (and teachers) coming back to me saying "WHAT did you read in storytime??" my work is done. This definitely fills the bill. It's a fun way to learn about microscopes, microbes, and learn how important it is to brush your teeth! The pictures are hugely magnified images of teeth, cloth, paper, and skin, interspersed with simple but humorous cartoon illustrations.

Verdict: Use this with toddlers and preschoolers as well as grade schoolers; It's a fun way to learn about microscopes, microbes, the importance of brushing your teeth, and the cool stuff that's all around us every day! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250175366; This edition published 2018 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, October 6, 2018

This week at the library; or, Back to work

Happening at the library
There was torrential rain on Monday night (as I was trying to haul 75 holds to my car....) and then it was nearly 80 degrees on Wednesday. I am very disappointed in this weather. It is not at all autumnal! Worse than that, it's delaying the parking lot which is still not done and is causing problems for not only our programs but it's wearing on everyone's nerves, patrons and staff alike.

Professional Development

Friday, October 5, 2018

Life according to Og the Frog by Betty Birney

The author of "The world according to Humphrey" series branches out to include the story of a new class pet. Og the Frog. Og was caught in a pond and brought to school; at first he lived with a mean bullfrog, but now he's been moved to Room 26 where he has a weird, furry neighbor named Humphrey.

Og enjoys life in the new classroom at first; he's got plenty of time to make up songs and poems, Humphrey seems nice (even if he can't understand the weird little guy) and after a trip home with the teacher they figure out his favorite food - crickets! But then the class starts arguing about sending him back to the pond; does Og belong in the classroom or in the wild?

I personally find the stories of Humphrey and the classroom kind of, well, boring. Nothing much really happens and the kids all feel like stereotypes (the one who complains, the one who asks questions, etc.). The teacher also feels very... scripted. Also, as Ms. Yingling points out, it's weird that Og understands English but not Humphrey. But! Kids really like these. They're not as popular as, say, Captain Underpants, but they circulate steadily and are good filler for lower-level chapter books, one step up from beginning chapters.

Verdict: Fans of the series will happily read the adventures of a new class pet; Purchase where Humphrey is popular.

ISBN: 9781524739942; Published July 2018 by Putnam/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Tiny Geniuses: Fly to the rescue! by Megan E. Bryant

A lot of history/fiction blends have been coming out recently, and this is a new beginning chapter series in that vein.

Jake has really, really tried in science class. But, once again, he's failed a quiz. And this time his parents threaten to make him quit baseball! The only thing that's left to do is make a wish in the Wishing Well. Rumor has it that if you throw in your most precious possession, your wish will come true. Jake doesn't want to throw in his most precious possession (what would it be anyways?) but he does have a whole set of Heroes of History figures...

The next thing Jake knows, he's got a miniature Amelia Earhart and Sir Isaac Newton in his bedroom. When they're not marveling over paperclips or arguing over women's rights, they're willing to help Jake out with his science fair project - which just might let him pass and stay on the baseball team. But will they really be able to help or will Jake's science fair project just get him an even bigger F in science class?

An afterword tells the reader a little more about the two historical figures. This is a fun mix of science and fiction, but I'm not sure I'd be happy handing this to a kid. Both historical figures are necessarily caricatures, their personalities and accomplishments shown in broad strokes without some of the more complex details of their lives. Jake's school felt cartoony as well - do any teachers mark papers with big red Fs anymore? There's also a stereotypical bully. For that matter, how many schools still do a science fair? Jake's idea was cool, and his decision to use his own work and research and not that of Earhart and Newton was a nice conclusion.

Verdict: Not my top choice; this will appeal to fans of Ben Franklin's in my Bathroom and Magic Tree House fans, but it's not what I'd choose to introduce readers to these historical figures.

ISBN: 9780545909518; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Small Readers: Croc and Ally: Fun, Fun, Fun! and Friends Forever by Derek Anderson

Croc and Ally are two friends. They are the same and they are different. They are both male, they are both green, they are both reptiles. But Croc is short, grumpy, and prefers that things stay the same. Ally is tall, goofy, and likes to try new things.

In other words, this is a very, very typical "odd friends" easy reader, following the Frog and Toad pattern. In Fun, Fun, Fun! Ally takes Croc swimming, even though he does not want to get wet and would rather read, takes Croc to pick out a new hat (he prefers his old one), and the two face off against a Scary Bug together. In Friends Forever, Croc trades their old sofa in for two chairs so he can have some space (it doesn't work), Ally tries to cheer up Croc when he's grumpy, and the two search for the moon, with Croc finding a substitute so Ally can sleep.

Anderson's cartoon illustrations are bright and cheerful; the main color scheme is green, with Croc and Ally's backs a darker, greenish brown while Croc's stomach is a light green and Ally's is a bright yellow-green. There are lots of different shades of green in the grass, open areas, and backgrounds. Their adventures take place outdoors, which adds a goofy dimension to the story. When they are trying on hats, all the hats and furniture sits in a clearing amidst the grass. When they go to bed their beds and dresser drawers are plopped down in the middle of the clearing with no walls or roof to their "house".

There's no level placed on the book, but I would put it one step past beginner. There are more complicated words like "friend", "surprise", and "grumpy", but also lots of repetition. The text is bold and set against the clear light blue of the sky or the greeny-tan of the ground.

Verdict: These are light, amusing fare that makes a good filler for easy reader sections. I am a little frustrated that they are both male and that, once again, the more introverted character is constantly being bugged out of his "grumpiness" but this is a really common formula for easy readers and I've mostly just learned to live with it. An additional choice if you need to bulk out your easy readers.

Friends Forever: ISBN: 9781524787073
Fun, Fun, Fun: ISBN: 9781524787103

Published 2018 by Penguin Workshop; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cat Wishes by Calista Brill, illustrated by Kenard Pak

At some point, late in the summer of 2018, I suddenly became seized by the desire to have a cat-themed outreach storytime. Probably in December (I'm not discussing holidays, the use or lack thereof, so don't bring it up). Naturally, I then put on hold all the new cat picture books I could find.

In this sweet story, a hungry little striped cat, with a cute overhanging tooth, wishes they had something to eat. When he catches a wiggly gray snake, he lets him go for the promise of three wishes, although he doesn't believe in wishes. But first he finds a fish, then a home, and finally, a friend. A special friend who also got three wishes from a wiggly gray snake in the woods...

Kenard Pak's misty watercolors, with splashes of color, are an excellent match for Brill's gentle, wistful prose. Cat wanders through a misty world and readers can practically feel the chilly, dripping rain, the soft glow of the sun, and the spooky dark of a lonely house.

Cat is essentially a cat, one who doesn't believe in magic and accepts things as they come, but he's also lonely for a lap to curl up on and pleased to find a home at the end of the story.

Verdict: A sweet and mildly funny story, a good addition to a cat storytime with lovely pictures and gentle, lyrical prose. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780544610552; Published July 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, October 1, 2018

Pluto is peeved by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by David Roman

It's not just about Pluto (even if Pluto thinks it is). It's about science.

Pluto is pretty upset. He's gotten kicked out of the big league of planets, and now he's just a dwarf planet, out in the Kuiper belt. Even his moon, Charon, can't comfort him. Pluto wants answers! Fortunately, they're at a museum and with a little research they're going to get those answers. Or are they?

Roman's colorful cartoons, presented in comic panels, take readers through multiple scientific changes, from the earth being demoted from center of the universe to the controversy over apatosaurus vs. brontosaurus. As Pluto and Charon travel through the museum's exhibits, they learn about how scientists learn new things over the ages, update their findings, and discover new things about the universe, including space. When Pluto discovers he has a sister dwarf planet - Eris - he decides that maybe scientists - and the world - think he's special after all, even if he isn't a big planet.

Extensive back matter explains in depth about the history of scientific research into the solar system, dinosaurs, germs, why scientists study rocks, and more. There is also a glossary, further reading, and websites. Bonus points for the depiction of scientists of different races and genders! Check out the author's website for a reader's theater activity for the book, a great choice for homeschool or small classroom use!

Verdict: This is so much more than just a graphic picture book about Pluto - it's a simple but fun introduction to how scientists learn new things and the importance of asking questions. Hand to teachers introducing astronomy, museums, or research, to kids who are interested in planets, and to young readers looking for simple graphic novels.

ISBN: 9781633224612; Published June 2018 by Seagrass Press/Quarto Group; Review copy provided by the author; Donated to the library