Sunday, December 15, 2019

Librarian's Picks; or, Did I manage to add anything that was NOT a series?

Kids (and adults) love series. I myself enjoy many series (although I tend to lose interest in kids' series after the first book or two). There's something very comforting about revisiting a favorite world or characters and knowing, generally, what to expect in a book. But sometimes, I feel like all I do in the juvenile fiction section is buy series! Replacements for damaged series, fill-in titles that I've forgotten, and endless sequels. So, I'm looking at the juvenile fiction I added that was NOT a series, just for fun and to prove that sometimes I do buy stand-alones!
Realistic Fiction
  • Stand on the sky by Erin Bow
  • Maybe a mermaid by Josephine Cameron
  • Lety out loud by Angela Cervantes
  • Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
  • Running on empty by S. E. Durrant
  • Far away by Lisa Graff (donation)
  • Becket list by Adele Griffin
  • Dog Driven by Terry Johnson
  • Song for a whale by Lynne Kelly
  • Pie in the sky by Remy Lai
  • Sand Dog by Sarah Lean (donation)
  • Because of the rabbit by Cynthia Lord
  • Not if I can help it by Carolyn Mackler
  • Caterpillar summer by Gillian McDunn
  • Merci Suarez changes gears by Meg Medina
  • Wolf called Wander by Rosanne Parry
  • Good kind of trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee
  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  • Roll with it by Jamie Sumner
  • Bridge home by Padma Venkatraman
Historical Fiction

  • Stolen Girl by Marsha Skrypuch

Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Phantom Tower by Keir Graff (donation)
  • Midsummer's mayhem by Rajani Larocca
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Gamer Army by Trent Reedy
  • Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao

Saturday, December 14, 2019

This week at the library; or, The culmination of all our labors, i.e. Candyland

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Girl Scouts
  • Tuesday
    • Toddler Holiday Cookie Party (including Head Start)
    • VIP volunteers
    • Girl Scouts
  • Wednesday - Friday
    • Storyroom closed for Candyland prep
  • Saturday
  • Worked 42+ hours; about 11 hours on desk; 1 (major) program
  • I had to finish a number of urgent projects - staff schedule, updated marketing, updated STEAM and early literacy calendars, more scheduling issues, emails and emails and emails, etc. and then Candyland. The prep was easier this year because I had more staff and so many things have been done previously and just had to be updated.
Collection Development Notes
  • Haunted hotels - apparently I had exactly the right book and hadn't weeded it, so that was good
  • Rube Goldberg machines - for a school assignment. They wanted to get ideas. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Could you escape Alcatraz? An interactive survival adventure by Eric Braun

Lauren Tarshis' I Survive series continues to be popular, with new titles and a graphic novel version coming out in 2020. I'm often busy recommending read-alikes and one of the series I turn to most often is Capstone's You Choose titles. You Choose covers history, myth, and general survival in a Choose Your Own Adventure format. Rather than the fantasy stories in the original CYOA, Capstone focuses on nonfiction, basing the stories on true historical events or places and including a final chapter explaining the true story, and, in the case of this title, real escape attempts, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and internet links.

Personally, the CYOA format gives me the heebie-jeebies. I can't stand flipping back and forth and end up just reading straight through, which doesn't work very well either. However, most readers really enjoy this format and combining the two things, survival and CYOA, is pretty genius.

This particular title is part of a four-volume set of escapes and includes escaping a deserted island, Paris catacombs, and the Tower of London. I think the other titles might be better than this one. It's exciting and interesting - it offers readers the choice to be smart, strong, or clever, giving sample back stories of prisoners, and then testing different, real-life escape methods. But it's... troubling. One of the discussion questions does ask if it's harder to root for escapees from Alcatraz because they were all "violent criminals." But some of the back stories portray the men sympathetically - and it's hard to see a good reason to suggest readers imagine themselves as hardened and violent criminals anyways. As is traditional, most of the options end with you, as the main character recaptured and sentenced to solitary imprisonment or dead.

Verdict: This particular volume isn't my favorite, but I think in general kids will enjoy the set, especially those who like survival stories and history. I have some reservations about this particular title, and I'm definitely planning to move most of this series into fiction, but overall it's worth adding.

ISBN: 9781543573923; Published August 2019 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher, donated to the library

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Small Readers: Little Penguin's New Friend by Laura Driscoll, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

This is less a review than a "why aren't there more cool easy readers?" meandering complaint. So, this is part of a series, there are picture books, board books, and easy reader adaptations. Laura Driscoll is one of those easy reader authors that turns out a nice, steady stream of competent titles. Bentley debuted the "Little Penguin" character in 2015 and although I'd never heard of it before, it seems to be fairly popular.

In this particular story, Little Penguin tells the readers that he is waiting for a polar bear to visit. He's never met a polar bear before, but his friends all tell him that they are scary, have sharp teeth and loud roars, and they tell bad jokes! When the polar bear arrives, she doesn't seem so bad at first, but then she starts telling jokes... In the end, Little Penguin realizes you can't believe everything you hear and to give new friends a chance.

The art is washed out, muddy watercolors. This may be just in the easy reader versions, since I've seen Bentley's art in picture books and it's brighter, clearer, and more sharply defined, but this looked as though it had washes of gray over most of the picture. The animals are kind of oddly shaped and the polar bear has the typical "female" long eyelashes. The book is a level "K" so for intermediate readers, with typical bold text on a white background.

There's nothing "wrong" with this exactly, it just felt meh to me. Typical story, bland art, etc. Nostalgia of course, but I remember with longing the quirky easy readers of my childhood, Morris the Moose, Ellen Blance's Monster, and the classics like Little Bear and Frog and Toad. There are plenty of awesome easy readers, but it seems like there's a lot more blah titles. And maybe that's ok - kids have to read a lot just to build fluency and I'm probably forgetting all the meh titles of my childhood, not to mention I was a quick reader and started reading more challenging titles very soon.

Verdict: This is filler - books you add to keep your shelves filled in and to provide extra reading material for kids to practice. There's nothing particularly outstanding, good or bad, about it and it's not the first choice, but when you need more it's there to fill in the corners.

ISBN: 9780062699954; Published October 2019 by Balzer and Bray; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the giraffe? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

This delightful series has quickly become a favorite at our library, and a top choice for me when recommending books as gifts for new babies.

Each brightly-colored page plays peek-a-boo with the reader, showing animals that are generally related hidden behind flaps. This titles features jungle animals, lion, crocodile, elephant, and giraffe. The final page asks "And where are you?" and readers lift the flap to see a small mirror. One of the things that sets this series apart is that the flaps are felt, rather than paper, inserted into the page. They are cut in different shapes and are a variety of colors, hot pink, burgundy, green, neon orange, etc.

Arrhenius' illustrations have a classic, minimalist look. She uses a lot of simple forms, circles, ovals, and curved shapes in her animals and plants and tends towards bright but not glaring shades in her colors.

The binding on these tends to give way before the flaps do; Like most of Nosy Crow's titles, they are made with a pretty light cardboard binding and the outside hinge quickly gets puncture marks. However, they are so popular and I generally consider board books ephemeral collections anyways.

Verdict: Unless you only purchase board books that last for many years, these are a must-have in your board book section; caregivers and children alike love them.

ISBN: 9780763693343; Published 2017 by Nosy Crow; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

A new seasonal word to teach the kids! We've learned hibernate and migration, but we haven't tackled dormant!

Spare, poetic language describes the behaviors of a number of plants and animals, not just during winter, but also during droughts. Trees coated in ice wrap their buds in "tiny leaf blankets" to wait for spring. Ladybugs crowd together, waiting for the warmer days to come. A chickadee, on a cold winter night, tucks itself into a little ball "For just a few hours, you would pause." Then it zips across the page, warmed by the morning sun. Earthworms seal themselves in mucus, waiting for the rain, alligators burrow into the mud on cold days. Each phase is illustrated with gorgeous photographs, showing trees frozen in ice and bursting into bloom, animals curled up in cozy balls and playing in the fresh air and sun.

Back matter explains dormancy in detail, from plant dormancy to estivation. The last page includes further reading, websites, and photo acknowledgements.

This would be a great storytime book, encouraging kids to sit still then jump up as they come out of their "dormant" phase. The additional back matter would be useful for teachers and parents to encourage further research into animal and plant behavior, or to use this as an introduction to dormancy and hibernation (both very popular topics here in the Midwest). The gorgeous photographs are the icing on the cake, and don't forget to do a nature poetry unit, asking school-age kids to write their own poems based on the photos!

Verdict: Not an absolutely necessary purchase, but with many uses for both preschool and school-age kids, this is definitely one to consider if you have the funds.

ISBN: 9781541561922; Published September 2019 by Milbrook/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 9, 2019

The incredible yet true adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the greatest inventory, naturalist, scientist, explorer who ever lived by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Claudia Lieb

Hyperbole much? My conclusion is that, while von Humboldt was a pretty cool guy, he was not All That.

He lived during the turn of the century; the 17th/18th century that is! Born a wealthy man in Prussia, after his parents were gone and he had full control of his money he spent several years in exploring South America. He also traveled to North American and Siberia and never lost his curiosity and fascination with science and the natural world. He was trained as a mining engineer and eventually used his entire fortune in support of his scientific pursuits. Unusually for the time, he spoke out against slavery, the Spanish exploitation of the indigenous populations of South America, and he considered himself a "citizen of the world."

The book is fully illustrated, with colorful images of South American flora and fauna, as well as the mountains and volcanoes von Humboldt explored. The text is fairly dense, and also frequently veers into narrative/fictionalized dialogue, with seemed odd to me. There are some further reading and resource lists, but no index or comprehensive source notes. Ultimately, this is the kind of book readers would browse and then go to find more definite information on the subject.

However, I have a hard time seeing any of my young readers picking this up. The text is very dense and the pictures have an old-fashioned feel to them. Explorers from the 1800s are not exactly a topic in high demand, and I found it frustrating that the other people of the time were completely overlooked in the exaltation of von Humboldt. There is a brief chapter on his companion, who was imprisoned for years in South America and did basically all the same research as Humboldt, he just wasn't as charismatic (or wealthy).

Verdict: I found this personally interesting, and plan to locate and read some of von Humboldt's own works, but I don't think this would circulate much, if at all, in the average public library collection.

ISBN: 9781615196319; Published September 2019 by Experiment; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Librarian's Picks: Manga

I cut way back on manga and young adult graphic novels this year, since I was putting a lot of money towards young adult fiction. My selector worked hard, but, sadly, we didn't see any gains in circulation and our graphic circulation suffered. So, next year I have promised the teens to buy LOTS more manga and graphic novels!

These are the new manga series I did add this year:

  • Delicious in Dungeon (7 volumes currently available)
    • This ties into our community's current love of all things D&D! They're trapped in a dungeon and end up eating the monsters.
  • Dragonquest Monsters+ (4 volumes currently available)
  • Isolator (I think this is complete with 4 volumes)
  • Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts (7 volumes currently available)
  • Snow White with the red hair (4 volumes currently available)
These are series I continued
  • Anne Happy
  • Astra lost in space (complete at 5 volumes)
  • Attack on Titan
  • Black Clover
  • Blue Exorcist
  • Boy and the Beast (complete at 4 volumes)
  • Children of the Whales
  • Flying Witch
  • My Hero Academia
  • One-Punch Man
  • Twin Star Exorcists

Saturday, December 7, 2019

This week at the library; or, Planning

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers
    • Grandparents Support Group
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40ish hours; 10 hours on desk; 1 program
  • A couple hours of collection development and planning work at home
  • Finished weeding up to 796 (sports)
  • Wrote reports and budget requests for next year, involving lots of measuring and cursing the architects who made that one corner so weird-shaped that it's basically one inch too small for any corner desks to be put in there. Also freaked out staff and patrons by knocking on walls randomly to see if I could mount cabinets there.
  • Staff schedule (almost) done through February!
Collection notes
  • What is the likelihood of a kid coming in asking for a bowling book if I weed our (one) bowling book from the 80s? High, probably.
  • Minecraft the lost journals by Morgan Winter - took a while to figure out what minecraft series this 1st grader wanted - promised her to buy them for the next time she comes in.
  • Battle of the Books - I totally forgot about this, they've changed things this year and I don't know how high participation will be. I'm going to try not pulling the books this year and I am also missing several from the list, especially older nonfiction that I weeded. It is available in the consortium though. We'll see what happens.
  • Popular book club pics - Hamster Holmes, Remy Sneakers, and funny picture books as always.
  • Historical fiction requests for school - noticed that I need a LOT more copies of I survived.
Professional Development
  • Scholastic Spring 2020 Online Preview
  • Imagine your story: Summer library program and early literacy

Friday, December 6, 2019

Roll with it by Jamie Sumner

I will just say straight out that I am not a fan of Wonder, although I know it's extremely beloved and we own a ridiculous number of copies. So it wasn't a draw for me that Palacio had blurbed this book - is every book with a disabled character going to have to have the mark of approval of an abled person? Ahem. However. This is a really, really good book!

The story opens with a typical day for Ellie. She's eating freezer food while watching a baking show and hoping her aide doesn't call her mom. The thing is, she just needed a break and zipped out during lunch at school. But kids in wheelchairs who have CP (Cerebral Palsy) are a "health risk" and are absolutely NOT supposed to skip. Luckily for Ellie, her mom has other things to think about. Ellie's gotten her long-awaited appointment with the dr. and has finally been seizure-free long enough to go off her medication. Meanwhile, Ellie's grandfather's dementia is getting worse and her grandmother is not able to cope with him. Ellie and her mom decide to extend their Christmas vacation and stay with their grandparents until things calm down a little.

Life in the trailer park is better and worse than Ellie expects. To her surprise, she makes friends - Coralee, whose mother has left her with an elderly relative and who dreams of getting out by winning talent contests. Bert, who lives along with his dad and is a bit (ok a lot) weird. Ellie figures he's probably on the spectrum. School is a whole 'nother can of worms. The kids (and staff) treat Ellie like some kind of weird freak one moment, then ignore her the next. Nothing is set up or accessible, and the only bright spot if the gym coach who has a background in physical therapy and rehabilitation.

As Ellie makes it through bad days - her grandfather's episodes - and good days - experimenting with baking - she comes to realize that, as Coralee says, this is her new family. Ellie is a refreshing and realistic character. She's aware of her limitations, hates having to have help to go to the bathroom because the trailer is too small and inaccessible, and gets snarky and tells people off when they get on her nerves. But she's also growing as a person, becoming aware of the issues faced by other people and of the challenges in and around her family. She sees her mom from a mature, almost adult viewpoint, understanding how much she's sacrificed to care for her and how difficult it is for her to handle her grandfather's decline, while still having moments as a kid. She secretly fears being put in an institution, like the nursing home her grandfather will eventually have to go to, and even when she understands why her mother is stressed she sometimes just can't let go of her own plans and problems. In other words, Ellie is a typical middle schooler; she's full of potential, has plenty of additional challenges to handle, and does her best to deal with what she's got.

In the end, there's no perfect ending; everyone still has problems they have to deal with and that affect their daily life. There's no moment when an all-school assembly realizes how Ellie has changed all their lives and inspired them all to be better people (yes, this me being extremely sarcastic). But Ellie has hope for the future, friends, and feels part of a community in a way she never has before. Sumner has a son with cerebral palsy and also consulted children with disabilities in writing this book. The main feedback was that they loved the character of Ellie, who "tells it like it is."

Verdict: An absolute must-have for every library. Aside from the rarity of a main protagonist with a disability, written realistically! this is a funny, touching, and strong middle grade novel that any kid who loves realistic fiction will devour. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781534442559; Published October 2019 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library; 2nd copy purchased for the library

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Small Readers: Frank and Bean by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Jamie Michalak, author of the funny Sparky and Joe easy reader series, returns with another oddball couple. This time, though, they're not animals but food!

Frank, a very quiet and studious hot dog (or frankfurter) in a tidy bun and with a hat is going camping. Frank is not the sharing kind and he is looking for peace and quiet to write. He has his tent, spork, and writing equipment and is all set to go. But first he's disturbed by a lot of animals who don't understand that his writing is secret. At night, he says goodnight to himself. He's alone and that's how he likes it!

Chapter two introduces Bean. Bean is, well, a bean. He's short and oval and has a bus, trumpet, motorcycle... clearly, Bean does not value quiet. Bean is loud and messy and he and Frank do NOT get along. Bean is looking for words for his one-man band, but he can't find any. Frank suggests peace and quiet to let the words flow, but Bean just can't handle that! He annoys Frank and even tries to read his secret notebook! Finally, Frank gives in and tries one jelly doughnut (of the non-sentient variety, presumably) but they are still not friends! Not until a disturbed night encourages them both to confide in each other do they realize that they are exactly what the other needs. Frank has words for Bean and Bean has friendship for Frank. They join together and the last page shows them rocking out in their new band, the Chili Dogs.

Kolar's illustrations are simple and cheerful, not detracting from the text but adding a nice accompaniment. The reading level is fairly high; this is not an introductory easy reader, rather one that is right on the bridge to chapter books. The odd couple theme is a bit tired, in my opinion, and I personally dislike the trope where a quiet character realizes they really need an extrovert as a friend, especially when the extrovert doesn't reciprocate with some appreciation of quiet time, but we seem to be stuck with it at this point.

Verdict: This breaks no new ground (or wind ha ha) but it's a solid intermediate level easy reader with a humorous touch. Purchase where easy readers at this level are needed.

ISBN: 9780763695590: Published October 2019 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by LT Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: A little book about colors by Leo Lionni and Jan Gerardi

This board book is part of a series called Leo Lionni's Friends, which uses Lionni's art and is inspired by his work to create new titles. There is no author listed.

Each spread features a different color and shows that color "in action" with one of Lionni's familiar grey mice. The layout alternates; The first page on the left has the color, slightly darker, against a background. So RED is a dark red against a bright red background. On the right, there is a simple sentence using the color, in this case a mouse with "a bright red balloon," walking along green grass with a little red ladybug and two red flowers. The second layout and spread features blue, with the art stretching across the page, focusing on a blue pool. The layouts alternate this way through yellow, green, pink, black, purple, gray, white, brown, and orange. The second to last page shows all the things from the book with the legend "Colors are beautiful" and the final spread shows a little gray mouse painting a rainbow.

Some stand-out spreads include the gray one, which shows a little mouse running with a flag and the word "ME!" and a love spread of white "fluffy dandelions floating in the air" against a light yellow background.

Verdict: This is a loving homage to a powerful author and illustrator, one is too little-known today, as well as a delightful early concept book. Sure to please little ones, this is a definitely a must-have for your shelves.

ISBN: 9780525582298; Published May 2019 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains by Justin Anderson, illustrated by Patrick Benson

Periodically, Candlewick releases gorgeous natural science picture books. Some of the original British editions are labeled "Nature Storybooks" but I've never found a complete list of them. I wish they'd label them as a series so I could make sure I had them all! The latest book features a favorite animal of mine (and many others), the rare and beautiful snow leopard.

Justin Anderson, a zoologist and filmmaker, tells the story of his experiences researching snow leopards in the Himalayas, combining months spent filming in the mountains into a beautifully written story. Joining a local guide, he travels into the mountains and is stunned to see a snow leopard, gazing peacefully back at him out of the landscape. They follow her on a hunt, see her reuniting with her almost-grown cubs, and finally have one last glimpse of her, standing alone on a peak and yowling into the sunset.

Like other books in the series, there are more facts set into the illustrations in most pages and an author's afterword that expands on the nonfiction elements, in this case talking about the conservation of the snow leopards. There is also a brief index and two websites.

Benson, illustrator of the beloved classic Owl Babies covers the pages in soft, dusty browns and grays, the golden-eyed snow leopard peering out boldly at the reader. Her luxurious fur glows with the light off the mountains and she's clearly an integral part of her harsh environment.

Verdict: This beautiful picture book introduces the harsh beauty of the Himalayas and the snow leopard that makes its home there in simple but lovely prose. A must-have for your nonfiction picture book collections.

ISBN: 9781536205404; This edition published October 2019 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Book of Kings and The Book of Queens by Caleb Magyar and Stephanie Warren Drimmer

These two books have a similar format to The Book of Heroines and The Book of Heroes. I liked them, but I have some problems with the endings and now I'm wondering if I shouldn't check those previous books too.

Magyar wrote The Book of Kings with Drimmer, who wrote The Book of Queens solo. Both include snippets from the other book and generally follow the same layout. Each book is divided into chapters, organizing influential, legendary, or powerful men and women. Kings includes the following sections, "Empire Builders," "Military Masterminds," "Rulers in Revolution," "Lords of Legend," "Kings of Creativity," "Aristocrats of Action," "Kings of Change," and "Kings of Knowledge." Queens has a slightly different lineup, "Empire Builders," "Women of Action," "Revolutionary Rulers," "Culture Shapers," "Monarchs of the Arts," "Legendary Leaders," "Queens of Knowledge," and "Queens of Adventure."

Both include a fairly wide range of people, although it does tend heavily towards Western history and some sections seem to have forgotten to add non-white people. The short biographies are interspersed with information on famous royal jewels, weapons, etc. Kings includes Hammurabi, Agamemnon, Oberon, Babe Ruth, Christiaan Barnard, Isaac Newton, Minakata Kumagusu, Sun Wukong, Coyote, Saladin, and Richard 1. Queens has Empress Cixi, Ranavalona I, Serena Williams, Dolly Parton, Wonder Woman, Kim Swift, Jane Addams, Ellen DeGeneres, Helen Mirren, Maya Lin, Amina, and Jill Tarter.

The portraits are brief, as one would expect in a compendium, not allowing the more complex aspects of the peoples' characters to be shown. Both have indexes and photo credits, but no sources. Both books have inspirational messages to readers in the back. These are what really got to me. In Kings, the messages are "Kings lead by example; Kings are eager to learn; Kings motivate the masses; Kings are confident; Kings have a clear vision." In Queens, the messages are: "Queens lead with integrity; Queens command with courage; Queens respect the role; Queens are passionate; Queens empower their people." There just seems to me to be a disconnect here. Apart from the gendered division into the two books, I felt there was a definite push to admire some male leaders who had done terrible things and gloss over their shortcomings, while the portraits of the women mostly ignored the heavier odds stacked against them.

However, these complaints aside, this wouldn't be the kind of thing I'd give to a kid who was writing a history report or wanting to learn in-depth about these people. This is a book for readers to browse and pick up snippets about people that they can then follow up later. I would have preferred that they divided them up differently - maybe have two books but put all genders together in each and have one be historical and one modern or something.

Verdict: Not an essential purchase, but a nice collection of interesting people to spark kids' interest in biography and certainly a more diverse collection than I've seen anywhere else.

The Book of Kings
ISBN: 9781426335334

The Book of Queens
ISBN: 9781426335358

Published November 2019 by National Geographic; Review copies provided by publicist

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Librarian's Picks: My favorite Picture Books

These are my favorite picture books added to the library this year. It's totally subjective - most of them are funny or nonfiction, because this is MY list and that's what I like! Not all were published this past year - I buy from the backlist frequently - and some were added as review copies, so I didn't actually purchase them.

The List

Saturday, November 30, 2019

This week at the library; or, Holiday

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Girl Scouts
    • D&D
    • Youth Services Staff Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Wednesday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Library closes at 5:30
  • Thursday - Friday: Library closed
  • Worked 25 hours; 11 hours on desk
  • 16 hours holiday
  • I am so tired of viewing security cameras.
  • I weeded through the 600s and got about halfway through the 700s, got as caught up on the cataloging as possible, started planning for next year, and was notified that I won a grant!

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Collectors by Jacqueline West

I loved West's Books of Elsewhere, but they've never circulated as much as I've wanted them to. Most of the kids I've tried them on have told me they're too scary! Still, the description of this book lured me in and I decided to enjoy it myself, even if the kids don't appreciate it.

Van is the new kid, the small kid, easy to overlook - but he sees things nobody else sees. Usually these are small treasures he carries back to his toy theater, wherever he and his opera-singer mother are currently living. But one day he sees - and hears - something different. He sees a strange girl and he hears a talking squirrel. This is unusual not only because, well, talking animals but also because Van can't hear too well anyways. But he doesn't have adjust his hearing aids or make any effort, he just... hears a squirrel.

The mystery deepens as Van pursues the Pebble, the girl, and Barnavelt, the squirrel, and discovers a hidden world of captured wishes and strange collectors, mysterious animals and magic both glorious and terrifying. Eventually, he will be torn between his new friends and his own wishes, trying to find the right path when everyone seems to be lying to him.

This fantasy builds slowly, but when it finally gets going it's a powerful book. Van encounters the power of wishes and also how that power corrupts. He meets friends who turn out to be enemies, and learns that not everything is black and white. West handles Van's hearing loss carefully, weaving its effects into the narrative of his everyday life and building it into the climactic final as Van makes his own choices about his destiny, reminding those who try to change his life that can make his own decisions.

This reminded me of the film Nocturna, with the blend of magic and the strange creatures flitting through the night. It has an open ending, leaving room for a sequel, but not ending on a cliffhanger (the second and last title came out in October 2019, A storm of wishes)

Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written and gorgeously imagined magical world, and the smooth integration of Van's impaired hearing was extremely well done. However, its length (almost 400 pages) and the slow, reflective beginning, as well as the emphasis on the urban setting and the opera world, make this something unlikely to check out in my library. Happily, there are several copies available in my consortium and I plan to use it in forthcoming book clubs and see if there is enough interest to justify the purchase.

ISBN: 9780062691699; Published 2018 by Greenwillow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Small Readers: Tails from History: A Sea Otter to the Rescue by Thea Feldman, illustrated by Rachel Sanson

This quartet of easy readers all features animals from history, with varying success. Some of them are just sort of random sentimentalized stories, but this one is a really nice blend of animal rescue and science.

This is the true story of a sea otter in an aquarium in 2001. Toola was a wild sea otter who had become chronically ill due to pollution in the water and could not be released. When a rescued sea otter pup was later brought into the aquarium, the staff debated what to do with him. In the past, staff had raised orphaned otter pups, but they rarely survived long when returned to the wild. They decided to try to give him to Toola and she quickly adopted him. Toola was an excellent foster mother and became the first in this program to raise pups that could be rehabilitated, as her foster son was. The publicity around Toola also inspired legislation to protect and study sea otters.

Back matter is a page of facts about sea otters and ways to help endangered sea otters. Incidentally, I think their first fact is wrong or at least questionable - while the sea otter may be the heaviest of the mustelidae or weasel family, the giant river otter is almost twice as long, so would be, in my opinion, the "largest."

The staff featured show a variety of races and genders, primarily female. The pictures show lots of cute sea otters and people in various settings. The text is in a large, easy-to-read font, set in paragraphs. It's for an intermediate reader, probably about 2nd grade.

Verdict: The subject of this was fun and it has a nice selection of true facts and cute sea otters. Of the set, this is the one I'd purchase first if budget is limited.

ISBN: 9781534443389; Published June 2019 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka

I'm always a little suspicious of books that everyone is promoting - I find popularity suspect I guess. But this one thoroughly deserves all the buzz!

The book opens vertically, rather than from the side, and on the first "page" the reader sees a plain white background, stolid green frog, and the words, "A frog jumps." The next page shows the frog splayed out, white belly on display, and an exuberant BOING! accompanied by zippy blue lines. This pattern repeats itself with a kitten, dog, grasshopper, and other creatures, and with ever more exuberant "boings." Along the way, there are amusing digressions (the snail - not so good at jumping) a tandem jump, and the finishing touch of a little girl making the leap.

The pages are thinner cardboard than is usual in a board book, and the cover is a cheerful orange. Part of the humor comes from the tiny variations in expression on the animals' faces, from their completely blank stares in sitting position.

Verdict: Fun! Use in storytime to get kids jumping and caregivers giggling.

ISBN: 9781776572311; Published August 2019 by Gecko Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

All around Bustletown: Winter by Rotraut Susanne Berner

Way back in 2009, I first discovered Berner's work with the classic In the town all year 'round. Berner was lauded as the German Richard Scarry and much love and enjoyment followed. As the years flew by, I frequently replaced this delightful book, since it's large size and popularity caused a lot of wear and tear. Earlier this year, I went online to get a new copy and discovered... it was OUT OF PRINT. How could this happen? WHY???

Fortunately for me, and my little patrons, Prestel is republishing this wonderful book in individual sections and in board book format. So, yes, technically this is a board book, but since it's the size of the original picture book and that's where I'm going to put it, I'm counting it as a picture book!

The art is the same, a little dimmer perhaps in the board book edition, but I am so happy to have it I don't care! The only changes are minor adjustments to the few words in the books, the descriptions of the people to look for and the signs on shops. I have to admit I don't really get this - why does it matter if it says "Deli" or "Snacks"? But it doesn't really materially change the book. The way it works, there's a page of people to follow throughout the book - a woman reading, a father and daughter chasing a parrot, a cat who appears on each page, etc. In the board book edition, this is on the back cover. Some of the text changes here are a little puzzling - it no longer tells you to find the cat on each page, just that she's taking a tour through town. Some are a disappointing change. In the original, a busker in patterned sweater and scarf is labeled "Pedro" who loves to sing and play his guitar. In the board book, he is still Pedro, but he's cold because he's from South America. Clearly, the editors have never looked at a map...

Once you've looked at the back page and figured out the people, you follow them through each scene. There's a country spread, with a garage and mechanic, a train station, construction site, and busy downtown scene. Each has numerous small stories to follow and fun details to find. The scenes are repeated in the following seasons, for which I hope they will release additional board books so kids can check out the whole set!

Some reviews mention that it is disappointingly homogeneous - there are a few characters with darker skin pictured, as well as some women wearing hijab, but the majority are white. I don't have a problem with that - this is picturing a small German town where the majority are white. From what I've looked at briefly, ethnic minorities in Germany are mainly Turkish, Russian, and Eastern European, most of whom would appear white as well. You can't complain about the stereotyped dress of "Pedro the South American" (which I don't think was a good addition) and then be upset that you can't pick out the people who are Turkish or whatever. I think it would be cool to have a version of this set in numerous countries around the world, each showing people and settings typical to their small cities.

Verdict: I'm delighted to have be able to offer this favorite to patrons once again in a new, sturdy format and am looking forward to adding the rest of the set.

ISBN: 9783791374154; This edition published October 2019 by Prestel; Review copy provided by publicist; Donated to the library

Monday, November 25, 2019

Adventures on Earth by Simon Tyler

I was interested in this because it is supposed to be about the extremes of the planet and the people who have explored them. Unfortunately, it turned out to just reiterate a lot of Western men and colonial expeditions. There were some interesting points, but on the whole I can't recommend it.

The book is arranged by regions, polar, mountains (there is a LOT about mountain-climbing), volcanoes, oceans, deserts, rivers, jungles and forests, and caves and chasms. Each section includes nonfiction facts about things like local animals or conservation. The introductions pay lip service to the destruction, misery, and horrors brought by early explorers and colonists, but this isn't really acknowledged in the choices of explorers to profile.

The polar regions revisit the "classic" explorers, Amundsen, Scott, as well as some more modern scientific expeditions. Reasonable, considering the book is written in Britain, to focus on explorers connected with that country. Then there is a lengthy section on mountains. So, I personally don't get the whole mountain-climbing thing. But I have a hard time seeing them as scientific exploration, since mostly the people just seem to climb them and also I think it's ridiculous to laud "mountain climbers" when it's actually the indigenous people hauling everything up the mountain half the time. The book does briefly mention some female mountain climbers and gives a nod to the environmental destruction some climbers have caused.

There are two spreads devoted to volcanoes, focusing on Katia Krafft, and one page on scientific research into underwater volcanoes. Another large chunk of the book is devoted to ocean exploration and here is where I really did not like the tenor of the book. It starts with early exploration, the Polynesians and Vikings, then goes into the Age of Exploration. Again, there is a brief paragraph saying "some were also responsible for tyrannical colonization, the emergence of the slave trade, and great acts of cruelty." Hard to take that seriously when they are lauding the explorers in the previous paragraph for "great displays of bravery, skill, and conquest." Apart from anything else, these expeditions were purely for wealth and glory - science wasn't even a blip on the radar at the time. They didn't really learn much about geography because they were interested in basically looting new lands. Then there's a page on the British Challenger expedition of the 1800s, then the book moves into modern oceanography and undersea exploration, which gets one page.

Deserts completely ignores the actual indigenous people who live there and early expeditions by Arab people in favor of "The first European" explorers. Excuse me? People LIVED there, how does that make you a pioneering explorer? There is a page on a Polish adventurer who crossed part of the Gobi desert on foot. Why? Just to do it? Sigh. Moving on to rivers, we get more British explorers of the White Nile, British explorers of the Amazon, and a Canadian expedition, which cheerfully explains how the indigenous people's territory was renamed after the explorers.

The last pages are on forests, mostly talking about conservation, and caves with a variety of explorers mentioned briefly. There is a glossary, but no other sources or back matter.

Let's talk about layout. It's... unfortunate. The text is a very small font and difficult to read, often being set against dark blue, green, and gray backgrounds. This is a major flaw in a children's book, since kids are often reluctant to read small, dense text that is difficult to decipher. The art is bland, showing silhouettes and swathes of color and form with no real detail or differentiation between landscapes.

Verdict: This book could have been pretty awesome, but the focus on European explorers, poor layout, and a generally confusing mix of information are disappointing to say the least. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9781843654278; Published October 2019 by Pavilion; Review copy provided by publicist

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Librarian's Picks: Juvenile Graphics I Bought This Year

These are all the fiction and nonfiction graphics I bought or added this year. I was going to pick out favorites or the "best" but I have a sinus infection and my brain's critical faculties are not at peak performance level. So, list. I didn't include all the replacements/additional copies I bought, but I think this is most of them. Except Dog Man. I'm not listing those. I bought 20+ copies of current and new titles and it's STILL not enough. Or Telgemeier. I know I got about 5 replacement copies of Smile, Drama, etc. and 4 copies of Guts.

Nonfiction graphic novels (in order by Dewey)
Juvenile Graphic Novels
  • Estranged by Aldridge, 9781549067235
    • two copies
  • Estranged 2 by Aldridge, 9780062653901
  • Extraordinary by Anderson, 9781506710273
  • Peter and Ernesto by Annable, 9780062653901
  • Peter and Ernesto: Lost sloths by Annable, 9781626725720
  • Gillbert by Art Baltazar, 9781545801444
  • Sanity and Tallulah by Brooks, 9781368008440
  • Bird and Squirrel: All tangled up by Burks, 9781338251838
  • Crush by Chmakova, 9780316363235
    • two copies
  • Sea Sirens by Chu, 9780451480163
  • Narwhal and Jelly 4: Narwhal's otter friend by Clanton, 9780735262485
  • Hex Vet: Witches in training by Davies, 9781684152889
  • Cosmic commandos by Eliopoulos, 9781101994481
  • Glitch by Graley, 9781338174519
  • Kitten construction company by Green, 9781626728301
  • Kitten construction company: A bridge too fur by Green, 9781626728318
  • Making friends: Back to the drawing board by Gudsnuk, 9781338139266
  • Best friends by Hale, 9781250317452
    • two copies
  • Mighty Jack and Zita the spacegirl by Hatke, 9781250191724
  • Sunny rolls the dice by Holm, 9781338233148
  • Dam Keeper: Return from the shadows by Kondo, 9781626724563
  • Star Scouts: Invasion of the Scuttle-bots by Lawrence, 9781250191090
  • The Time Museum 2 by Loux, 9781596438507
  • Cleopatra in space: Fallen empires by Maihack, 9781338204131
  • Hocus & Pocus: The Legend of Grimm's Woods: The Comic Book You Can Play! by Manuro, 9781683690573
  • Camp and Click by Kayla Miller
  • Gumazing Gum Girl: Cover Blown by Montijo, 9781368048170
  • Aquicorn cove by O'Neill, 9781620105290
  • Witch boy by Ostertag, 9781338089516
  • White bird by Palacio, 9780525645535
  • Hilda and the mountain king by Pearson, 9781911171171
  • Max and the Midknights by Peirce, 9781101931080
  • Remy Sneakers and the lost treasury by Sherry, 9781338034615
  • Remy Sneakers vs. the robot rats by Sherry, 9781338034608
  • 5 Worlds: The red maze by Siegal, 9781101935927
  • Ozy and Millie by Simpson, 9781449495954
  • Okay Witch by Steinkellner, 9781534431461
  • Chasma Knights by Sun, 9781626726048
  • Short and skinny by Tatulli
  • Tiger vs. Nightmare by Tetri, 9781626725355
  • Stargazing by Jen Wang, 9781250183873
  • Creepy case files of Margo Maloo: The monster mall by Weing, 9781626724921
  • Secret Coders 6: Monsters & Modules by Yang, 9781626726093
Series graphic novels
  • Amulet 1-5, two copies of 7 (replacements and additional copies)
  • Big Nate
    • Big Nate goes bananas, 9781449489953
    • Hug it out, 9781524851842
    • And the crowd goes wild, 9781480652187
  • Baby-sitter's Club
    • Dawn and the impossible 3, 9781537956244
    • Kristy's big day, 9781549053702
    • Boy-Crazy Stacey (3 copies), 9781544434926
  • Catstronauts (additional copies)
    • Space station situation, 9780316307536
    • Slapdash science, 9780316451260
    • Mission moon, 9780316307451
    • Race to mars, 9780316307505
  • Catwad
    • It's me, 9781549087851
    • It's me, two, 9781725430600
  • Cucumber Quest 1-4, vol. 1 9781250158031
  • Hilo by Winick
    • Hilo 2, 9781544422381
    • Hilo 5 (two copies), 9781524714970
  • Mutts summer diaries, 9781449495237
  • Nathan Hale's hazardous tales
    • Big bad ironclad (two copies), 9781419703959
    • One dead spy (two copies), 9781419703966
    • Raid of no return, 9781549068324
    • Alamo all-stars, Texas edition, 9781419737947
  • Phoebe and her unicorn (additional copies and replacements except the last two)
    • Phoebe and her unicorn, a Heavenly Nostrils chronicle, 9781449446208
    • Razzle dazzle unicorn, 9781449477912
    • Unicorn of many hats, 9781449489663
    • Phoebe and her unicorn in Unicorn Theater, 9781449489816
    • Magic storm, 9781449483593
    • Unicorn crossing, 9781449483579
    • Unicorn on a roll, 9781449470760
    • Unicorn vs. goblins, 9781449476281
    • Unicorn bowling, 9781449499389
    • Unicorn whisperer, 9781524851965
  • Poppy and Sam by Cathon
    • Leaf thief, 9781771473293
    • Mole mystery, 9781771473798
  • Splatoon vol. 4-7, vol. 5, 9781974703074
  • Wings of fire
    • Hidden Kingdom, 9781338344066
    • Lost heir, 9780545942218
  • Yo-kai Watch 10, 9781421597546
Media-related graphic novels
  • Adventure Time
    • 9781544424019
    • 9781544425863
  • Avatar - the last airbender
    • Imbalance vol. 1-3, vol. 1 9781506704890
  • DC Superhero Girls
    • Spaced out, 9781401282561
    • Past times at superhero high, 9781518249471
    • Search for Atlantis, 9781544412672
  • Disney/Pixar
    • Incredibles 2, Secret Identities, 9781506713922
    • Incredibles 2, 9781506710198
    • Frozen: Flurries of fun, 9781506714707
    • Ariel and the sea wolf, 9781506712031
  • Garfield
    • The Monday that wouldn't end, 9781684153428
    • Garfield brings home the bacon, 9780345525864
    • Garfield chickens out, 9780425285152
    • Garfield eats and runs, 9780425285725
    • Nutty as a fruitcake, 9780425285763
    • Garfield slurps and burps, 9781984817730
    • Garfield snack pack 2, 9781684153701
    • Garfield feeds his face, 9780425285671
    • Garfield listens to his gut, 9780425285572
    • Garfield show 3, 9781597075121
    • Garfield show 4, 9781629910697
  • Minecraft
    • Minecraft 1 by Sfr. M, 9781725420649
    • Popular MMOs presents Enter the mine, 9780062894281
  • Pokemon
    • Pokemon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl/Platinum 5, 9781421539133
    • Pokemon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl/Platinum 4, 9781421539126
    • Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire 4, 9781421592237
    • Pokemon Sun and Moon 3, 9781974702602
    • Pokemon Sun and Moon 4, 9781974703050
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • 9781684054060
    • 9781684053278
    • 9781544426105
    • 9781544416335
  • Superheroes
    • Archie meets Batman '66, 9781682558478
    • Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77, 9781401278038
    • Avengers: The new danger 1, 9781684055159
    • Spider-man: New beginnings 1, 9781684055142
    • Avengers Ruby Egress, 9781684055227
    • Super Sons Foxglove mission, 9781401286408
    • Super Sons Polar Shield Project, 9781401286392
    • Secret hero society: Detention of doom, 9781338033120
    • Secret hero society: Science fair crisis, 9781338273281
  • W.I.T.C.H.
    • 9781975383770
    • 9781975383800
    • 9780316518345
    • 9780316477055
    • 9781975383831
    • 9781975383893
    • 9780316477079
  • Other
    • How to train your dragon, 9781616559533
    • Peanuts 11: Snoopy, boogie down, 9781449493547
    • Super Mario adventures, 9781421588643
    • Artemis Fowl the graphic novel, 9781368043144
    • Star Wars Jedi Academy: Attack of the furball, 9781338295375

Saturday, November 23, 2019

This week at the library; or, I just want to go back to bed

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • 7th grade outreach visits (5 sessions)
    • VIP volunteers
    • Girl Scouts
  • Wednesday
    • Wonderful Wednesday
    • Fandom committee meeting
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Maker Workshop: Candlemaking
    • Grandparents support group
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Saturday
    • GLAS star party
  • Worked 41ish hours; 3 hours on desk; 6 programs
  • Worked a couple hours at home on budgeting and collection development
  • Everyone but me is feeling better. Nope, take that back, somebody else is getting the respiratory thing.
  • I finished weeding through the 500s (all the animal books!) did another candlemaking workshop for the people who I couldn't fit in the first time, booktalked to another 135 seventh graders, and am getting ready for some serious Planning and Budgeting.
Collection development notes
  • I seemed to have fewer graphic novel fans in this set of 7th graders, although a couple kids said they liked Deadpool (I didn't take Deadpool to the school. I have some common sense.). Lots of history buffs in a couple classes and fantasy fans. One strong request for April Henry read-alikes.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The startup squad by Brian Weisfeld, illustrated by Nicole C. Kear

This is the first book in a new series featuring an entrepreneurial team of girls. Teresa, "Resa" wants to be a leader and has lots of ideas and interests. Unfortunately, she tends to not listen to other people, including her quieter, shy friend Didi. When their teacher assigns them - and all the other kids in class - to run competing lemonade stands as a fundraiser, with the winner getting special tickets to the amusement park, Resa is absolutely determined to win. But then the teacher pairs her up not only with Didi, but also with bouncy, excitable Harriet and the snobby new girl, Amelia.

The girls fumble their way through plans and projects, but their personalities get in the way of success at first. Resa refuses to listen to anyone else and her assumptions and bullying of Amelia, disdain for Harriet, and bulldozing over Didi, end up splitting the group. After some hard self-reflection, Resa stops fighting so hard to get her own way. She listens to Amelia's ideas, to Didi's reminders to be kind, and learns to use Harriet's enthusiasm.

The oddball group of girls includes Teresa Lopez (Afro-Latina), Harriet Nguyen, Indira (Didi) Singh, and Amelia Grant. Amelia is the only white girl. They're going up against the stereotypically popular and wealthy kids, who are involved in sports and have plenty of parental back-up. Weisfeld is a successful businessman, specializing in entrepreneurship, and founder of the girl-empowerment group The Startup Squad. Not a typical choice for a middle grade author.

But, sometimes it just works! This definitely works. It's realistic and honest, the writing is brisk and funny, and the diversity feels natural. What really sets this apart from other books featuring girls coding or involved in group activities is Teresa's flaws. She's shown as a normal sixth grader, struggling with friend drama and bad decisions. She makes snap judgments about the other girls but when everything falls apart she is forced to re-evaluate her own behavior with some gentle advice from adults. All the girls have supportive families who are there when they need them but also willing to let them try and fail. Although they finally get their act together and run a successful lemonade stand, they don't win the competition and there are consequences to the bickering and arguments. Not all their ideas work out, but they keep trying.

Verdict: This stands out in the field with its diverse protagonists and realistic depiction of character flaws, mistakes, and successes. The girls are sixth graders and the book comes in under 200 pages, making it even more stand-out in the field of massive middle grade tomes. An excellent series starter and one that is sure to attract readers who enjoy realistic fiction.

ISBN: 9781250180407; Published May 2019 by Imprint; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My furry foster family: Truman the dog by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Melanie Demmer

I first heard about this planned new beginning chapter series at the kidlit conference in Rhode Island, earlier this year. I was very excited because it combines so many things I'm looking for - the popularity of animal rescue series, chapter books that are short and simple, under 100 pages, and a diverse cast of characters.

Eight-year old Kaita Takano and her family have a beloved dog, Ollie, that they rescued and have carefully trained. But now they're planning to start taking in foster animals and their first foster is a lab mix named Truman. He's a sweet dog and quickly makes friends with Ollie and the kids, but Truman keeps getting in trouble! He rips things up, gets in the trash, and hates to take baths. With lots of patience and love, the Takano family helps him adjust to living with a family, but when it's time for him to meet his forever friend, Kaita isn't sure she can let him go. In the end, although she's sad she realizes he's a perfect fit for the Garcia's and their son Ben, and waits happily for their next foster animal.

There is a brief glossary, picture gallery comparing fictional Kaita with the "real-life" Kaita, and some discussion questions and writing prompts. The pictures are cheerful and colorful and show Kiata and her Japanese-American family, the dark-skinned Garcia's, and Joss, the head of the animal rescue, who has dark hair and curly skin.

Verdict: These are just the right length, not too hard, not too easy, with a popular subject and a nice variety of characters. My only complaint is that I added these to the series section hoping/expecting a long run and there's only four! More please!

ISBN: 9781515844754; Published September 2019 by Picture Window/Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Series purchased in paperback for the library

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Jamberry by Bruce Degen

I'm going back to a beloved childhood classic today, with Jamberry. Originally published in 1983 as a picture book, the first board book edition was created in 1995 and it has been continuously in print since then.

Degen's cheerful pictures show a white boy with striped blue shirt, brown trousers, and suspenders, his reddish-brown hair sticking out every which way, cavorting through the pages. The boy is accompanied by a friendly brown bear, sporting a stylish purple top hat. There's no particular plot, just explosions of berries everywhere! The endpages start with the barefoot boy, wandering among the berry bushes and sampling sweet treats. He encounters the bear in a canoe, hat full of berries, and the two set off together.

They travel past marshmallow meadows, encounter frolicking ponies and lambs with baskets of strawberries, cart off a trainful of blackberries, and float into the sky in a balloon that's a giant pink berry, with explosions of berries all around them, ending in a flood of berries and sweet stickiness.

The text is so much fun to read-aloud and repeat - who can ever forget, "Quickberry! Quackberry! Pick me a blackberry!" It's a tongue-twister of berries as the rhymes bounce along each page and become sillier and sillier, "Moonberry, starberry cloudberry sky/Boomberry zoomberry rockets shoot by."

Verdict: The book is still available as a hardcover picture book, as well as a board book, and I think the original version shows off the art better. In the board book it's a little squashed and fuzzy, and it's hard to pick out all the details. However, any way you can get it this is a sweet, berry-licious story that's a must-have for most library collections.

ISBN: 9780062643797; This edition published 2017 by HarperFestival; Two copies (board book) owned by the library

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The rhythm of the rain by Grahame Baker-Smith

This British import is stunning! The cover and endpages dazzle the reader with splashes and drips of water, foreshadowing the journey of water that is to come. The story begins with a small, dark-haired boy, scooping up fish into a jar of water by a stream on the mountain. As it begins to rain, he pours his jar into the pool and runs home, following the water in the stream down to a waterfall and imagining the journey of his little jar of water...

The river flows on and the boy now appears on it in a small sailboat, wearing an orange life jacket. He follows the river as it widens, through farmland and into the city, where pipes drip dark sludge, boats move cargo, and someone leans out a window to feed the ducks. The river ends in the ocean, where Issac's small jar of water becomes part of water swallowed and ejected by a whale (that's an error - whales don't eject water but air, with droplets of, well, snot). Eventually, somewhere near a golden jungle where toucans rest, the water evaporates into mist then pours down as rain in a small, dry village. It joins another waterfall and returns to the sea, then finally, once more in the form of rain, it returns to the boy catching fish by a stream.

The illustrations glow and sparkle, from the deep, mysterious depths of the ocean to the light-filled sunrise by the jungle. The tiny image of Issac in his boat, set against the powerful rush of water, then returning to his own small stream, emphasizes the changing perspectives as the water travels throughout the story.

Verdict: While this isn't factually accurate (another point is the use of the word "steam" for vapor), the general trend is clear enough and the gorgeous illustrations make it stand out. Pair with a more accurate description of the water cycle (Miranda Paul's Water is Water or George Ella Lyon's All the water in the world) for an exploration of where water goes.

ISBN: 9781536205756; Published August 2019 by Templar/Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, November 18, 2019

Growing up Gorilla by Clare Hodgson Meeker

I never really got the love of primates - I usually skip them at the zoo, maybe because they look too human? But kids certainly do love stories about these fascinating and endangered animals and continuing interest in fiction like The One and Only Ivan makes these a popular reading choice.

Meeker presents the true story of a baby gorilla, interwoven with science and how zoos work to preserve species in as natural a habitat as possible. The story begins at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, when a new baby gorilla is born. But the mother, Nadiri, had been raised by humans for almost a year after her mother rejected her and then given to a surrogate. Would she know how to care for a baby? Slowly, patiently, Harmony Frazier works to help Nadiri adjust to her new baby. Frazier raised Nadiri until a surrogate could be found, but she wanted to end the cycle of human-raised gorillas, who didn't know how to care for their young.

Readers will follow the story of Nadiri and her baby, Yola, as she slowly becomes accustomed to her and finally, after months of work with the keepers, accepts and protects her. Frazier and the other keepers went to extraordinary lengths, even caring for Yola around the clock in the gorilla's dens, to keep her as close to her family as possible. Along the way, readers will learn about gorilla behavior and the specific behavior of Nadiri's family, which changed after the birth of her baby. The story ends with Yola at seven months, fully in the case of her mother and accepted into the gorilla troop.

Back matter includes a detailed comparison of gorillas and humans, a discussion of how gorillas are endangered, and author's note. There are also acknowledgements, a glossary, further resources, and an index.

While I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt, this is a fascinating look into the family life of gorillas in captivity as well as a thoughtful discussion of how zoos have changed the way they handle gorillas (and other infants) over the years.

Verdict: Hand this to middle grade readers who are fascinated by zoos and apes, and to anyone interested in how zoos raise baby animals. Recommended.

ISBN: 978154154240; Published September 2019 by Millbrook/Lerner; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Librarian's Picks: Some Awesome Maker Books I Bought This Year

I generally go very low-tech in our maker space (or STEAM lab) and in my selections for the collection. As I've said before (frequently) I have no problem with technology and maker spaces that rely heavily on it, but I DO have a problem with "every library must have x" pronouncements. Our middle and high school are amply supplied with 3D-printers, laser cutters, robotics, and all students have their own chromebooks.

On the other hand, a lot of crafts, recipes, and instructions are available online. I generally stay away from "10 cute things you can make with toilet paper tubes" types of crafts, since that's what Pinterest is for, in my opinion. Also, the things I think are cool aren't necessarily going to be what kids and their caregivers check out. So, of the books I purchased or otherwise added that were "how to" type books, these are the ones I think were pretty awesome!

Science and Nature experiments and activities

  • Mason Jar Science by Adolph, 9781612129860
  • Gardening with Emma by Emma Biggs, 9781612129259
  • Backyard adventure by Thomsen, 9781612129204
  • 101 Kid's activities that are the ooey, gooey-est ever, 9781624146619
  • Super simple sumi-e by Palka, 9781632172044
  • Art lab for kids: Express yourself by Schwake, 9781631595929
Making things
  • Wood shop by Margaret Larson, 9781612129426
  • Hello, crochet friends by Jonah Larson, 9780999143704
  • Maker comics: Create a costume, 9781250152077
  • Stitch and string lab for kids, 9781631597367
  • Miss Violet's Doll's House, 9781911216131