Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Leaves by Carol Lawrence, illustrated by Francesco Zito

I was really excited when I saw this board book series, Baby Explorer, and even bought one, Water, but now that I've actually read one I'm torn.

The first spread is a simple invitation to look and listen in the forest. But immediately on the following page, the book dives into a complex discussion of deciduous trees, how leaves are formed, types of leaves, chlorophyll, and the function of leaves.

The art is bright and simple with clearly labeled diagrams and patterns. Friendly-looking squirrels, colorful leaves with clear veins, and cute bugs fill the pages.

On the one hand, I do love introducing children to nonfiction concepts and vocabulary. The text is simple and clearly explained. On the other hand, I'm really doubtful that the average baby or toddler is going to sit still for (or grasp) the complex concepts and vocabulary.

Verdict: Textually, this is too advanced for a baby or toddler. However, the pictures are attractive and sometimes caregivers and parents do want board books for older children who can't handle the more delicate pages of picture books. I think on the whole I'll buy them, but I probably won't use them in storytime or recommend them as read-alouds.

ISBN: 9780807505168; Published October 1, 2018 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Stop that yawn! by Caron Levis, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This wild ride of a bedtime story is an homage to one of my favorite books, In the Night Kitchen, features the awesome art of LeUyen Pham, and basically was designed for me (and many others) to fall in love immediately.

Gabby Wild is tired of bedtime and living in Sleepytown. So her Granny packs them up into Gabby's bed and they set out on an exciting journey to... Never Sleeping City! In this exciting place, populated by anthropomorphous animals, flashing neon signs, and a variety of humans, there's always something going on. Opera, carnival, ice cream, it's wonderful! But then, as they're riding the ferris wheel Granny lets a yawn escape! Despite Gabby's desperate efforts to contain the yawn, "Grit your teeth, seal your lips, we have to stop that...YAWN" the yawn quickly spreads across Never Sleeping City and even to the readers! Finally, even Gabby succumbs and finds herself back in her bed, fast asleep and dreaming of new adventures.

Although the story delivers a nod to Sendak, it's wholly new and its own. The brisk text has a contemporary beat and mixes in the current trend of interactive books. Pham's art shows a bustling city, peopled with Sendak-like animals in elaborate costumes, but she also adds her own sweet touches from Gabby's beaded hair to Granny's tennis shoes and the old radiator in their small apartment. This is a much more diverse and contemporary world than Sendak's, but it still has all the charm of an imaginary city.

Verdict: Read this at storytime, to reluctant kids at bedtime, or just for fun any time of the day! I hope this will become a modern classic; it certainly deserves it.

ISBN: 9781481441797; Published October 16, 2018 by Atheneum; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 25, 2019

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of picture book biographies. My objections are many - they focus more on the artistic side than the informational side, they don't provide enough context for the age and knowledge of the assumed reader, they don't circulate... but every once in a while I find an exception and this is absolutely a book I will happily purchase for the library!

In simple, brisk language Becker tells the story of Johnson's youth as a math prodigy, the many barriers she faced, and the support of her family and her own enthusiasm and determination that helped her move past them to become an integral part of NASA. The science behind the rockets and Johnson's math is explained in easy metaphors and illustrations and Katherine's refrain, "count on me" keeps readers following and connecting the story to the end.

An author's note explains more details about Katherine Johnson's life and work and gives a brief list of sources. The endpages are covered in mathematical calculations, many of them accessible to young readers "Find the volume of an ice cream cone" and the cheerful, bright illustrations personify Johnson's determination to follow her dreams despite many barriers. This is an authorized biography, for which Becker interviewed Katherine Johnson and her family.

This picture book biography works because it explains Johnson's life in a way that kids can grasp - her love of math, her involvement in the space program, and offers enough context for them to have an understanding of the time period - her family having to move to a different town for her to attend high school and the discrimination she faced, "They were given the tasks that men thought were boring and unimportant."

Verdict: Hand this to young readers who are interested in space and science and recommend to teachers presenting lessons on the space race, biographies, and looking to diversify their classrooms.

ISBN: 978125013524; Published 2018 by Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, February 23, 2019

This week at the library; or, More snow?

Happenings at the library this week
  • Monday
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • STEM Challenge: Speed Racers (2nd session for What's Next families)
    • OPtions board meeting
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach Storytime (3 sessions)
    • Library on the Go (2 sessions)
    • Winter Wigglers: Fit Kids (2 sessions)
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • 4K outreach: Rainforest night
  • Worked 32.5 hours (8 hours PTO); 13 hours on desk; 7 programs

  • I used an old program of Amy Koester's for Speed Racers. We didn't have the right size of washers and ended up grabbing buttons and using a lot of hot glue, but the kids had fun anyways. About 20 for the first session and 5? for the second.
  • I forgot to tell my associate doing Fit Kids that Head Start was coming! However, thankfully it all worked out fine and the group was a nice size - about 20 - and everyone had a great time. She had a really detailed workout scheduled for the kids; I saw/listened to the afternoon session and the kids really got into it.
  • The rainforest program was rescheduled, but I'd already taken the day off. I packed up all the books, resources, etc. for my associate and I hope she had fun with all the four year olds! (Yes, she was hired to work with teens but she's flexible...)

Projects this week
  • Paperwork and publicity for Walmart grant
  • Update newsletter (need by Thursday)
  • Lost paperwork
  • Three sections of the neighborhoods weeded and updated

Friday, February 22, 2019

The secrets of Tutankhamun: Egypt's boy king and his incredible tomb by Patricia Cleveland-Peck, illustrated by Isabel Greenberg

This isn't exactly a graphic novel and it's not really a picture book. Illustrated nonfiction? We can go with that.

The book is divided into three parts; the life and death of Tutankhamun, the discovery of his grave by Howard Carter, and some final pages about continuing archeological research.

The book begins with an overview of the protagonists; the complicated family and ruling structure of Tutankhamun and the white archeologists who discovered his tomb. The first part gives a brief overview of the complex political structure of the time and then covers mummification as well as some Egyptian beliefs.

The largest part is the second section, which details the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Cleveland-Peck discusses the rivalry of various archeologists, the stormy relationship of Carter and his patron, the Earl of Carnarvon, and the world-changing discovery of the tomb. There are some brief notes that things like selling and keeping artifacts are no longer done, but there is little to no mention of the local Egyptians and their perspective on having their history dug up and sold.

The art is bright and stylized, mimicking the look of hieroglyphics. The Egyptians are shown with dark skin (I've seen some ridiculously white Egyptians, which is why I mention it).

Verdict: While this is certainly not a comprehensive discussion of ancient Egyptian history, or of the complex politics surrounding the extreme cultural appropriation and the Western craze with ancient Egypt, it's a light introduction for kids with plenty of illustrations and interesting writing. A good additional resource or starter book to get kids into Egyptian history.

ISBN: 9781681197128; Published August 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Kitty's magic: Misty the scared kitten by Ella Moonheart

Koemi Kimura just loves cats. She loves them so much she's been nicknamed Kitty! While staying with her grandmother, while her parents are on a trip to Japan, Kitty's best friend gets an adorable kitten named Misty. Kitty begs to spend the night, even though she's allergic to cats. She gets permission - and a special locket - but later that night she just can't keep from sneezing! When she does sneeze a surprising thing happens - she turns into a cat!

Kitty discovers a whole new world, both fun and dangerous, as a cat. She makes new feline friends, takes on important responsibilities, and has a number of adventures.

Black and white pictures show a cute little girl and lots and lots of fluffy kittens and sleek, stripy, naughty, friendly cats. The book ends with a recap of the characters and some facts about cats. It's just a little over 100 pages and a good level for intermediate readers. Originally a UK series, it has that slightly twee feel - think the Rainbow Magic books - but is just fine for those voracious readers who power through a large stack of their favorite series every week.

Verdict: Hand this one to fans of Dr. Kitty Cat, cat fans, and those who like endless series of magic animals. I'll be adding it to our series collection and I expect it to start popping off the shelves soon.

ISBN: 9781681193854; This edition published 2018 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Small Readers: Unlimited Squirrels in I lost my tooth! by Mo Willems

Mo Willems is back with a new easy reader series, this one featuring a zany band of squirrels.The light blue endpapers introduce the squirrels - some regular squirrels in varying shades of brown and gray, named Zip, Zap, Zoom, and Zing. Others are a little kookier, like Quiz Squirrel with a dramatic swirl of orange hair and a green tie, Research Rodent in a labcoat, and Flappy Squirrel.

The story is divided up by a table of contents, although it doesn't specifically have chapters - some of the sections are only a page or two long. After the table of contents there's a page showing the "Emote-acorns" which show the squirrels' "big" emotions. The main story is about Zoom Squirrel, who has lost a tooth. This incites a dramatic reaction from the other squirrels, especially when they find out that it was a baby tooth. A lost baby tooth! All alone! They must help! Eventually, after much drama and a lot of exclamation marks, all is well but a few questions remain...

Fortunately, Research Rodent is there with all the answers! What are teeth made of? How many teeth do animals have? Once the questions have been answered, Quiz Squirrel has a quiz and there are some acorn-ey jokes mixed in as well.

Mo Willems' illustration style is instantly recognizable and kids will be delighted to find the pigeon popping up here and there as well. The squirrels look a lot like the mouse that showed up in one Elephant and Piggie story, My new friend is so fun. This book is definitely a step up from Elephant and Piggie though. While the text is still simple and bold, it incorporates a lot of more complex vocabulary and there are a lot more elements in play - multiple (very similar) characters, multiple speech balloons, jokes, nonfiction, and other interruptions to the story, as well as wordplay. This is a blue level, which is the highest level of easy reader, in our collection. I'd recommend it to kids who are transitioning to chapter books. One last interesting note - none of the squirrels are given genders. I'm hoping this is maintained in future books, or that they don't all turn out to be male!

Verdict: Anything Mo Willems does in his signature style is sure to be a hit; it may take some time for this new series to build momentum and it may not achieve the character recognition of Elephant and Piggie or the Pigeon, but it's sure to be popular with kids who enjoy other transitional easy reader/chapter book titles. I'll be using this in book club and recommending it to kids who are fans of Jump-into-chapters, Eaton's Andy, and similar titles.

ISBN: 9781368024570; Published October 2, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; Purchased two copies for the library

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog by Lisa Papp

In Madeline Finn's first story, she learns to love reading with Bonnie, a Great Pyrenees and reading therapy dog. Bonnie had puppies and now, Madeline gets to have one to keep! She chooses the littlest pup and names him Star. She wonders where Mrs. Dimple chose Bonnie and learns that she came from an animal shelter.

While Madeline works hard at taking care of Star, cleaning up after his mistakes, training him, and telling him she loves him all the time, she learns that not all animals have a home where they are loved. Madeline comes up with a great idea - to collect enough blankets and towels for all the dogs and read to them, just like she reads to Bonnie and Star. But when she gets to the shelter... she's the only one there. But just when things are too much for Madeline on her own, all the library folks show up with books, blankets and towels - and one sad little dog gets a forever home!

Papp's soft, pastel illustrations show a sweet little girl in leggings and skirt, and a series of adorable, if a little sad, dogs and other animals, just waiting for someone to love them. A warm, loving community is shown where everyone works together to make things a little better for some lonely animals.

Verdict: Kids love books about animals and this story is sure to appeal. It's a perfect fit for my library; before she retired we had a therapy dog that looked just like Bonnie and now the local shelter visits with a different animal each week looking for a home.

ISBN: 9781682630754; Published March 2019 by Peachtree; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, February 18, 2019

Magnificent Birds by Narisa Togo

This is one of those absolutely lovely books that I can't really see an audience for at my library but which I want anyways.

Each full spread covers a bird with some interesting quirk, attribute, or behavior with a linocut print of the bird and its habitat. Readers will learn about the Toco Toucan, largest of the toucans, and how it uses its famous beak. Then there's the Greater Bird of Paradise, largest of this beautiful family of birds with a marvelous mating display. Each bird has something that makes it special - the hummingbird, kakapo, or peregrine falcon.

There are two paragraphs of fairly dense text for each bird, some set against colored backgrounds that make it difficult to read. The oversized book features lovely but static prints of the various birds and their habitats. There is no back matter, but there is an acknowledgement of consultation with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK).

This isn't a book for storytime, nor will it appeal to readers who need to research or who are looking for a chapter book. It's more of a coffee-table book really, something for bird-lovers to pore over with their children (if they're patient enough to sit still) or to dip into to learn a little about a favorite bird.

Verdict: A beautiful book, this would make a lovely keepsake or gift for a fan of birds but is less likely to find a home in a library or school.

ISBN: 9781536201697; Published 2018 by Candlewick Studio; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, February 16, 2019

This week at the library; or, Organize or die

Happenings this week at the library
  • Monday
    • Discovery Playgroup
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday (weather again!)
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Art Workshop: Quilt Collage
  • Wednesday
    • Lakeland School outreach storytime
    • Winter Wigglers: Yoga
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 39.5 hours (plus approx. 2 hours at home due to weather); 15 hours on desk; 3 programs
Projects this week
  • Bills
  • Staff schedule through April
  • Organize and label basement supplies (one table of stuff left to sort through)
  • Paperwork and publicity for Walmart grant
  • Update obstacle course
  • Update newsletter
  • Program planning
  • Pop-up maker spaces - update list (done!)
  • Lerner NF order
  • AV orders
  • Early summer plans 
  • Look at grants
  • Lost/Paid for paperwork (worked on. not complete)
  • Two more new toy bags, lovely beasts and cookies

Friday, February 15, 2019

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends, even though they don't seem to have much in common except being stuck on an out-of-the-way space station in the far corner of the universe. Sanity is a brilliant inventory and genius, who doesn't always think before she creates. Tallulah is an imaginative, sweet girl who's not so good with the whole "science" thing. Their parents are scientists, sort-of-ex smugglers, and directors on their isolated space station.


The story begins with the two getting into trouble, yet again, when Sanity creates, as Tallulah's mother says, "a carnivorous animal in the laboratory and has been feeding it out of my budget." But, protests Tallulah, Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds is super cute! Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds also happens to be a three-headed kitten. But really cute! When she gets to know you. From genetic experiments, to being grounded, to a life-threatening situation on board their space ship, Sanity and Tallulah stick up for each other and get in and out of trouble together. There are hints to darker and more serious issues (beside the whole "nearly dying" part at the end) but in general this is a ship that is a happy family. There are arguments and disagreements, power struggles and emergencies, but it's primarily a family of strong, confident, and capable women and men who work together well.

The art is primarily in shade of pink, navy blue, and gray. Sanity is black, as are her parents, and a bit on the skinny side. Tallulah is short and red-haired, not looking much like her white-haired father, a double-amputee but more like her short and curvy mother who runs the science lab. Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds is an adorably fluffy three-headed kitten (no matter what size she gets to, being fed on genetically enhanced meat).

After the breathless conclusion, which wraps up not only the storyline but also shows the strong bonds of family and friendship among the stations' residents as they work together and trust Sanity to save them, there are hints of future adventures!

Verdict: A wonderful new graphic novel series, sure to fly off your shelves. This will appeal to all graphic novel fans, especially readers of Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781368008440; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Will Sheep Sleep? by Hilary Leung

Any parent or caregiver who has tried to get a lively toddler to sleep will appreciate this book.

"Sheep has been playing all day and now he is tired.../... but will sheep sleep?" As anyone can guess, the answer is no! A bedtime drink, evening routines, all are quickly turned into a new game until finally Sheep's exhausted friends dress up in sheep suits and start a countdown. The only question left is, "Will Sheep snore?" and you can guess the answer to that one!

Bright, digital cartoons show a creamy sheep with dark brown face and legs, toothy crocodile, smiling ladybug, and other animal friends.

The only drawback to this title is that it's not very sturdy; instead of the usual thick cardboard pages and binding of a board book, the pages are thin, shirt cardboard, the kind that's found in folded dress clothes. The binding, especially the hinge, also seems thin.

Verdict: A fun addition, but add some extra reinforcement and don't expect this one to last too long.

ISBN: 9781338215625; Published May 2018 by Cartwheel Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mabel and Sam at home: One brave journey in three adventures by Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

This quirky (and lengthy) picture book is a delightful excursion into the power of the imagination and the relationship between siblings. The story begins with Mabel and her little brother Sam watching a diverse group of movers hauling in a collection of furniture and other belongings at their new house. Mabel invites Sam aboard the Handle with Care (a box, obviously) and they set off to sail the seas. More adventures follow after the blue-themed sea journey; a walk through a yellow museum, and a dark green journey into space.

Eventually Sam gets tired of Mabel's big sister bossiness and the two quarrel, but when it's time for bed they make up - and get permission to spend their first night sharing a bed like they used to share a room at their old house.

Each adventure has a color theme and a tilted perspective that jumps easily into the imaginative aspect of the story. Readers don't get a really good view of the new house, but they do get a fun look at how Mabel and Sam, both with dark skin, Mabel with curly hair and Sam with straight, become acquainted with their new home. Some of the text is hard to read, being placed against a colored background.

Verdict: If you're looking for longer picture books or something for siblings moving into a new home, this is a nice addition to the genre.

ISBN: 9781452139968; Published June 2018 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 11, 2019

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster

I read this twice before I figured out the secret of the textures on the animals! In other words, this book has surprises.

The oversize book offers the skeletons of 10 animals. The first spread lists facts about the animal and its skeleton, then a picture of the skeleton. This spread is in black and white with a light dusting of color. Readers can guess the animal before turning the page to a colorful spread showing the animal, its skeleton raised in light texture against its body. This picture is accompanied by a brief narrative. With a bright light the skeleton will show up through the page - it matches the skeleton on the reverse side. It's not glow-in-the-dark though, even though it feels like it!

The animals profiled include a blue whale (biggest bone), Etruscan shrew (smallest bone), reticulated python (most bones), giraffe, elephant, peregrine falcon (lightest bones), bumblebee bat (thinnest bones), Alaska moose (fastest-growing bone), regal horned lizard (spikiest bone), great hammerhead shark (fewest bones), and the special bones of a human.

An afterword from the author explains how they chose the different animals, the relative sizes and weights of bone, and how science changes as scientists discover new things. There is also a list of further reading "at the library" and online and a glossary.

Verdict: A fascinating and beautifully created look at skeletons - perfect for a non-scary storytime at Halloween or for poring over any time of the year. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780714875125; Published September 2017 by Phaidon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, February 10, 2019

RA, RA, Read: Rick Riordan and mythic fantasy

Since I originally wrote this post, in 2017, Rick Riordan's fantasy series has grown exponentially, expanding to an imprint as well as Riordan's own books.

Riordan's series start with the original five Percy Jackson books, expand that world into multiple series, break out into Norse mythology (Magnus Chase), and there is also a trilogy based on Egyptian mythology. Copious companion volumes, collections of mythology, etc. are also included. Riordan draws kids in with an emphasis on Greek mythology reinterpreted with lots of fantasy, adventure, and strong characters as well as a strong sense of humor.

More Mythological Fantasy
  • Rick Riordan Presents is Riordan's imprint to showcase a diverse range of mythologies by #ownvoices authors, written in similar style as Riordan's books but unique to each author.
    • Aru Shah and the end of time by Roshani Chokshi
    • Storm runner by J. C. Cervantes
    • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
    • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (2019)
  • Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    • Celtic mythology. This is the first book in an older series and I've found circulation varies.
  • Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong
    • Norse mythology.
  • Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
    • Indian mythology - more violent than Percy Jackson and includes demons, which makes some parents uncomfortable
  • Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
    • The first book is technically Over Sea, Under Stone but it's a more old-fashioned fantasy quest. You can start with Dark is Rising. Tell kids to ignore the awful movie; this series brings together aspects of Celtic and Arthurian legend with some truly chilling moments and lovely language.
  • Serpent's secret by Sayantani Dasgupta
    • Bengali mythology
  • Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
    • Egyptian magic and myth. Theodosia is a snarky young Victorian girl who finds she can use ancient Egyptian magic.
  • Flame of Olympus by Kate O'Hearn
    • Greek/Roman mythology. First in a series.
  • The gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
    • Middle Eastern - a group of friends find themselves in a deadly board game.
  • Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu
    • Greek mythology, but a heavier emphasis on fantasy than the mythic aspects.
  • Anubis Speaks; Hades Speaks; Thor Speaks by Vicky Alvear Schecter
    • Funny and informative, told in first-person by the god and discussing culture, religion, and mythology
  • Olympians by George O'Connor
    • Series of graphic novels; each features a different Greek god. O'Connor does an excellent job of retaining the sense of the myth while giving readers points to think about and not emphasizing the more inappropriate aspects.
More Fantasy Adventure Titles (featuring contemporary protagonists)
  • Revenge of the Shadow King by Derek Benz
    • Grey Griffins trilogy. Monster-fighting.
  • Lightning Catcher by Anne Cameron
    • More a Harry Potter read-alike; a group of children discover the ability to control the weather. First in a series.
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
    • Yes, the author of Hunger Games. This is her series for younger readers. Gregory travels underground to save his sister and encounters a strange and sometimes frightening world.
  • Ingo by Helen Dunmore
    • Harry Potter with Mermaids. First in a series.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
    • This is a longer, more dense series. It features book characters and worlds come to life.
  • Secret of the sirens by Julia Golding
    • The Companions' Quartet is a gentler read, featuring protectors of magical/mythical creatures.
  • Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis
    • The Seven Wonders series. A bit like a cross between 39 Clues and Percy Jackson.
  • Keeper of the lost cities by Shannon Messenger
    • This massive series is a bit of a hard sell, but my high-level readers are crazy about it. The protagonists find themselves in an adventure that involves protecting lost cities (Atlantis, Shangri-La, etc.)
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
    • This series is of a fairly hefty size, but is a quick read. It features a reservation for magical creatures and keepers protecting them.
  • Spellbinder by Helen Stringer (out of print)
    • There is some Celtic mythology and a lot of humor in this duo of books about a girl whose parents are ghosts and who goes on a quest.
  • City of Fire by Laurence Yep
    • This trilogy features various aspects of Asian and Hawai'ian mythology.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

This week at the library; or, Back to work

I helped her do her first sewing! I did point out to her mom
that she's a nurse, and it's no different than stitching up skin,
but she did not believe me lol. She got the hang of it
quickly and sewed most of the outside edges and stuffed it!
Happening at the library this week
Projects and misc.
  • After all the Weather Drama and time off last week.... we had more weather drama. Ice and more ice and then melting snow that froze into yet MORE ice! School was cancelled, programs and outreach were cancelled, but I finally managed to clean off my desk and mostly catch up, although I still have a lot of bills and other stuff to do. And I just feel really... off. I need to set aside some time when I'm not interrupted with questions, running a program, answering questions, supervising volunteers (or doing all four simultaneously) and get things planned and organized.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Little Red Rodent Hood by Ursula Vernon

I would just like to pause here to address something I've noticed over the past few years. Kids have shorter attention spans, struggle to read, and fewer kids read for pleasure. This has been shown in various studies. More and more young adult books, massive fantasy tomes, and lengthy books are being published. This is just my observation. When you try to offer a shorter book to a middle grade student (remember middle grade is ages 9-12 or 3rd to 6th grade) the response I almost always get is "that's a baby book" or "that's too easy for her" or "he needs to read something challenging". Even if the kid hates to read, struggles to read, or would rather do pretty much anything else. Basically, why does it have to be 400 pages long to be a "real" middle grade book? Where are the short books? Where?

Well, here's one of them! In Princess Harriet Hamsterbone's latest adventure, she meets a sweet, helpless little hamster in a red cloak who is being menaced by horrible weasel-wolves! Naturally, Harriet is ready to help, even though she finds the little girl (Red is her name? Really?) to be rather annoying. But there's something funny going on with the weasel-wolves, the "helpless" little girl, and her mysterious grandmother. Harriet is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery - after all, she only attacks bad people (except for that one time with the really realistic dragon costume and everyone apologized so it was ok). But just who is the bad person?

With a blend of art, comics, and wit, Vernon presents a story that, on the surface, is about a princess who does her duty (especially when it involves sword-work), and enjoys a good fraction or three-fifths. Underneath, there's a repetition of the themes in the previous books; not judging by appearances, realizing that people all have different strengths and interests, and taking time to understand different people. However, this book adds some interesting notes about acknowledging and accepting your own identity. This has never been a problem for Harriet (naturally, she's awesome and she knows it!) but there's a whole thing about if you've been turned into a were-wolf-weasel, you have to accept it and move on, or at least get some tactful therapy from Prince Wilbur, who is good at that kind of thing.

Verdict: I think Whiskerella might still be my favorite, but this is a strong addition to an excellent series. Buy them!

ISBN: 9780399186585; Published September by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher and donated to the library (I also bought a library copy and another copy for myself!)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Wild Fairies: Daisy's Decorating Dilemma by Brandi Dougherty, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

Incidentally, this is actually a cheery, bright
orange-red and the title text is glittery
yellow. This isn't the best picture.
Finally! I was so excited about Rodale's new imprint for children's books but I've been disappointed by every book I've read so far. They look so cute, but the writing quality is just not very good. However, this beginning chapter book was delightful!

Daisy and the other wild fairies are going to host the Blossom Bash this year! Daisy is very excited to be in charge of the decorations, but she's also worried - how will she come up with a theme to make everyone happy? What if it rains? As she checks in with all the other fairies, she gets more and more worried - they are all ready with entertainment, food, and more but she's not ready at all. Fortunately, in the end she realizes it's not about being perfect, it's about friends being together and celebrating nature. They all work together to make the decorations and have a wonderful festival, even if it's not exactly as they envisioned.

Kurilla's colorful art is plentiful throughout the book. All the fairies are female, except Thistle. They are mostly flowers (Poppy, Daisy, Dahlia) but some are more general (Lily is a mermaid, Indigo has blue hair). Daisy has light-brown skin to go with her curly yellow hair, Indigo is all shades of blue and purple and likes to build and tinker with things, Thistle has spiky pink hair and light pink skin. There are cute birds, bugs, and flowers throughout the book.

There is also a lot of back matter included; There's a section on honey (which builds on the storyline in the book where Daisy suggests Thistle eat honey to cure his allergies. Spoiler: I've tried this and it didn't work. But honey is still tasty!) and a recipe for honey cakes. Another section describes each wild fairy and their critter companion, and there are drawing guides and games included as well. There is more text in the book than, say, a beginning Branches chapter book, but it's broken up with frequent illustrations and the text itself is fairly simple, perfect for a beginning chapter book. It's also under 100 pages, including the back matter.

Verdict: Not a necessary purchase, but sure to be a popular addition. Hand to your fairy and graphic novel fans, since they will enjoy the illustrations.

ISBN: 9781635651324; Published 2018 by Rodale Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animal Opposites by Jane Cabrera

Cabrera has created many excellent books for toddlers and this board book fits nicely into that oevre. The book cover has a square window; turn the page and you will see a swashy blue background with a cat and a bird in a cage. The window is labeled "out" and the cat is labeled "in". Other spreads show a curly grey dog and, behind a lift-the-flap bone, a small dog for "tall" and "short," a tortoise and hare in the desert, red fox in the night and hedgehog in a tent for "dark" and "light," and so on. The final spread shows a black cat against a green background labeled "in front." On the opposite page, a yellow bush lifts to reveal the word "behind" and an orange bush, which lifts to reveal a blue bush, and finally a small black cat who says "boo!"

The flaps are not ideal - they are thin cardboard and you have to hook a finger into a little half-moon cut-out to get them open. However, the rest of the book is very sturdy and with some additional reinforcement (and a fair amount of luck) it should be ok. The night-time picture, showing the hedgehog in a tent, might actually be a tipi, but the dark picture makes it possible to assume tent which is what I'm going with. It's not uncommon to see things like that in books originally created in Britain. I'm trying to be more relaxed about buying more board books with moving parts and I think this is a good choice.

Verdict: If you are expanding your lift-the-flap and concept collections, this is a fun addition that toddlers are sure to enjoy.

ISBN: 9781499806304; This edition published August 2017 by little bee; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

If Wendell had a walrus by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Matt Phelan

This imaginative picture book morphs from daydreaming into a solid friendship story.

Wendell, a white boy with a bright orange cowlick, happens upon a cloud one day that looks like a walrus and he starts thinking... what if he had a walrus? He's soon deep in his fantasy, asking his pet-store owning uncle to sell him a walrus and imagining all the things the two could do together. But he doesn't notice another boy in the background who seems to be having a similarly disappointing time. When the two inadvertently connect, throwing invites into the ocean, they decide to wait together. Curly-haired Morrell is waiting for a whale, but in the meantime... they become best friends, doing all the things they had imagined. A final picture shows gives readers a last giggle - maybe that whale and walrus aren't imaginary after all?

Phelan's watercolors show a lonely beachfront town with two boys gradually connecting and exploring their small town together. Expanses of blue sea and green turf are interspersed with pictures of small, cheery houses and a vaguely nineteenth century vibe - Wendell's uncle has a handlebar mustache and vest, and their neighbor Mrs. Quimby is wearing a hat, apron, and full-skirted dress.

Verdict: This attractive book is both a fun look at imagination and also a gentle exploration of how friendships can form and grow. A nice addition to a picture book collection.

ISBN: 9781627796026; Published April 2018 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 4, 2019

Prickly Hedgehogs by Jane McGuinness

Hedgehogs are not native to the United States, but they are an increasingly popular pet and are undoubtedly adorable, so this nonfiction picture book is very timely.

A long-nosed hedgehog with bristly yellow-brown spines and shy black eyes trundles through pages of this informative story. Readers will learn about hedgehog's spines and what they're made of, what they eat, their habitat, baby hoglets, and more. Additional information is included in smaller type throughout the pages. There are cute pictures of gardens at night, snails and slugs, and hedgehogs, hedgehogs, everywhere!

I was pleased to find that this story focused on the life of the female and her young, transitioning to a male hoglet growing up and going out on his own, so readers get a full picture of the different lives of the male and female hedgehog. Throughout the story a dark-haired girl in a pink dress or coat appears, watching the hedgehogs from a distance.

Back matter includes a few additional facts about hedgehogs, including a warning about keeping them as pets - they require careful care and are wild animals. There is also a brief index, two (British) websites, and a recommended book (not available in the US).

Verdict: If you have hedgehog aficionados, this is sure to charm and inform them.

ISBN: 9780763698805; This edition published 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, February 3, 2019

ALA Award Winners

I think we will have an Award Amaryllis
I'm not an "every library must have every award" kind of person. I just think it's fun to look at them and see which might good for your community. Note that I skip most of the young adult stuff and if it won multiple things I only listed it the first time it came up on my list.

  • Medal: Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
    • Owned by 8 libraries; 6 on hold or checked out
    • In February order cart for purchase
  • Honor: Night diary by Veera Hiranandani
    • Owned by 11 libraries; 4 on hold or checked out
  • Honor: The book of boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    • Owned by 9 libraries; 6 on hold or checked out
  • Medal: Hello, lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
    • Owned by 14 libraries; 6 on hold or checked out
    • In February order cart for purchase
  • Honor: Alma and how she got her name by Juana Medina
    • Owned by 13 libraries; 7 on hold or checked out
    • Currently on my to read shelf
  • Honor: A big mooncake for little star by Grace Lin
    • Owned by 18 libraries; 10 on hold or checked out
    • In my picture book backlist for possible purchase
  • Honor: The rough patch by Brian Lies
    • Owned by 14 libraries; 9 copies on hold or checked out
    • Donated to the library (in parenting collection under dealing with death)
  • Honor: Thank you, Omu by Oge Mora
    • Owned by 13 libraries; 7 copies on hold or checked out
    • Currently on my to read list
Coretta Scott King
  • Winner (author): A few red drops by Claire Hartfield
    • Owned by 8 libraries; 3 on hold or checked out
    • Purchased for the library
  • Honor (author): Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
    • Owned by 8 libraries; 1 on hold
  • Honor (author): The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
    • Owned by 12 libraries; 3 checked out
  • Honor (author): The season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
    • Owned by 12 libraries; 3 checked out
  • Winner (illustrator): The stuff of stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
    • Owned by 10 libraries; 7 on hold or checked out
    • In February order cart for purchase
  • Honor (illustrator): Hidden figures by Margot Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
    • Owned by 8 libraries (one has multiple copies); 5 copies on hold or checked out
  • Honor (illustrator): Let the children march by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison
    • Owned by 6 libraries; 3 copies on hold or checked out
  • Honor (illustrator): Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
    • Owned by 6 libraries; 4 copies on hold or checked out
Schneider Family Book Award
  • Winner (young children): Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes
    • Owned by 14 libraries; 4 copies checked out or on hold
    • Purchased for the library per patron request
  • Honor (young children): Remember balloons by Jessie Oliveras
    • Owned by 4 libraries; 4 copies checked out or on hold
    • Added to my to read list
  • Winner (middle grade): Truth as told by Mason Butte by Leslie Connor
    • Owned by 10 libraries
  • Honor (middle grade): Collectors by Jacqueline West
    • Owned by 4 libraries
    • Added to my to read list
  • Winner (teen): Anger is a gift by Mark Oshiro
    • Owned by 3 libraries; 1 copy on hold
  • Honor (teen): (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen
    • Owned by 8 libraries
    • Added to February order cart for purchase
Pura Belpre Awards
  • Winner (illustrator): Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
    • Owned by 15 libraries; 6 copies checked out
    • In picture book backlist for possible purchase
  • Honor (illustrator): Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
    • Owned by 16 libraries; 4 copies on hold or checked out
    • Review copy donated to the library
  • Honor (illustrator): When angels sing by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Jose Ramirez
    • Owned by 2 libraries; 2 copies on hold (in use by staff)
  • Winner (author): The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
    • Owned by 10 libraries; 6 copies on hold or checked out
  • Honor (author): They call me Guerro by David Bowles
    • Owned by 8 libraries; 3 checked out (2 in cataloging)
Robert F. Sibert Awards
Stonewall Book Award
  • Winner: Julian is a mermaid by Jessica Love
    • Owned by 10 libraries; 3 on hold or checked out
    • Added to February order cart for purchase
  • Honor: Ivy Aberdeen's letter to the world by Ashley Herring Blake
    • Owned by 11 libraries; 2 copies checked out
Geisel Award
YALSA award for excellence in nonfiction for young adults
  • Winner: Unwanted by Don Brown (see above)
  • Honor: Beloved world of Sonia Sotomayor
    • Owned by 5 libraries
    • Added to February order cart for purchase
  • Honor: Boots on the ground by Elisabeth Partridge
    • Owned by 4 libraries; 2 checked out (1 being cataloged)
    • Purchased for the library
  • Honor: Faithful spy by John Hendrix
    • Owned by 10 libraries; 4 checked out, 2 being transferred
    • Added to February order cart for purchase
  • Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
    • Owned by 15 libraries; 7 copies on hold or checked out
    • Added to February order cart for purchase
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
  • Picture book winner: Drawn together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
    • Owned by 13 libraries; 10 copies on hold or checked out
    • On my to read list
  • Children's literature winner: Front Desk by Kelly Yang
    • Owned by 14 libraries; All copies checked out or being transferred (that's me - I picked it for one of our schools' social issues unit)
    • Added to February order cart for purchase

Saturday, February 2, 2019

This week at the library; or, It never snows but it snows

This might be the new award flower...
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Yoga
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 15 hours; 24 hours PTO; 3 hours on desk; 1 program
  • Polar vortex! We opened late on Monday, I canceled the afternoon session of Snow Fun on Tuesday (we closed early at 6:30 and it wasn't enough time to clean up, although there were about 10? people in the library who might have come) and we closed early Wednesday-Thursday. No school Monday and Wednesday - I don't know if they ended up calling school for Thursday or not, but as I told my colleague, it's too cold for babies, we are not Finland!
  • I resumed weeding in the picture books and did a lot of random stuff. I still have a sinus infection.
  • Vacation! I was expecting a massive program on Tuesday (I had over 100 people last year) so I scheduled some time off. It didn't turn out to be that crazy, but I'm still sick so it's just as well. Three whole days! To catch up on my reading and reviewing, clean the kitchen, do my taxes...

Friday, February 1, 2019

Envenomators: Deadly Snake Bite by Kevin Blake

Is envenomaters a word? I suspect it is not. However, it's certainly the title of another hi-lo nonfiction series from Bearport that's sure to get plenty of use. This title focuses on snake bites and, appropriately, pictures a king cobra on the cover (I happen to be very fond of king cobras and always visit the one at the zoo - I love the way they look at you as if they are thinking about you and how smoothly they coil and the way they stand up...)

The book begins with the dramatic story of Karl Schmidt, a herpetologist at the Chicago Field Museum in the 1950s who was bitten by a boomslang and died. After describing his death, the book explains the different types of venom, how snakes use it, a few more gruesome snake bite stories, and how antivenom is made. Three of the deadly snakes in the book are profiled at the end - boomslangs, king cobras, and western diamondback rattlesnakes. There is a glossary, index, brief bibliography (two titles), two more titles about snakes to read, and a sentence about the author.

There were a couple things that disappointed me about this book - I would have liked more emphasis on how snakes generally only bite people who bother them - everyone in the book who was bitten was playing with, teasing, or otherwise carelessly handling snakes. I was also disappointed that not all the snakes pictured were identified. The background of the cover is fuschia scales, which I think are just for show, but there's a picture of sort of purple/indigo snake with black and white markings eating some kind of lizard and I want to know what it is! I've never seen anything like that before! From some searching I think it might be a species of cobra? Anyways, I need more information!

Other titles in the series include frogs, lizards, scorpions, spiders, and mammals (all venomous in some way).

Verdict: While I wouldn't make this your only or primary resource on snakes and other venomous creatures, it's a fun supplemental resource and the gruesome stories will get kids interested in reading more about these cool reptiles.

ISBN: 9781684026555; Published 2018 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library