Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Elbert the curious clock tower bear by Andrew Prahin

Prahin's first book, Brimsby's Hats, was a sweet take on friendship. His next title features a cute bear also, but this one longs to explore the world.

Elbert is the smallest of the mechanical clocktower bears. The other four bears take their duties seriously and march regularly in and out of the clock tower with little interest in the world around them. But Elbert is curious. When he causes an accident, the other bears insist he leave the clock tower for a day and get rid of his curiosity before he embarrasses them any further. But Elbert's explorations only make his curiosity grow! As the hours tick by, Elbert has more and more questions about the world that he just can't hide. Instead of suppressing his curiosity, what if he shares it with the other bears?

Prahin's medieval town is surrounded by a beautiful forest and Elbert's daylight adventures mostly take place there while he wanders the town at night. No people are shown, even when Elbert sneaks into an open shop at night. The forest shows vibrant fish in a pond, a fox's red tail, and a surprised bear, the rich colors glowing in the sunlight.

Verdict: While not a first purchase, this quietly reflective story will resonate with some children and may perhaps serve as a gentle reminder to parents and caregivers to encourage children to explore the world around them.

ISBN: 9780525513988; Published March 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sisters: Venus and Serena Williams by Jeanette Winter

I was surprised by how much I liked this picture book biography of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, but I appreciated how nuanced it was and thought it would appeal to kids on multiple levels.

The story begins with the two sisters growing up in Compton, California. The dangers and privation of their home is hinted at with trash on the court and concentrating on the ball to ignore the sound of gunfire. The story moves through their first tournaments, where they face "a sea of white faces" and depend on each other and their focus to win. They move to Florida, grow up, and begin competing even more seriously. A series of spreads show the young women playing, their faces tense with concentration, waves of color surrounding their powerful, graceful bodies. They begin expanding their interests, but then both get sick. They continue to train, practice, and play tennis together, strong in body, mind, and family support. Jeanette Winter's powerful collages, with blocky color, blur the faces of bystanders and audiences, focusing attention on the two sisters.

The bond between sisters and their resilience in the face of challenges are understandable by kids from a variety of backgrounds. Even if they don't face the specific challenges of the sisters, they will understand the importance of working hard at something they love, building concentration, and not listening to naysayers. It's also worth noting that Winters' shows Black, athletic bodies as beautiful, focusing on the sisters' grace, strength, and abilities rather than just their physical appearance. The supportive bond between sisters is powerfully portrayed also, refusing to let their sport and competition come between them. Winter's illustrations show two powerful women, who are strong even when they are physically weak.

Verdict: A great read-aloud for a variety of ages, this will appeal to kids who are interested in sports as well as those with siblings. Both inspiring and realistic about challenges in life, it features two powerful women who work together to support each other, their families, and make a difference in the world.

ISBN: 9781534431218; Published April 2019 by Beach Lane Books; F&G provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, April 27, 2019

This week at the library

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Craftorama
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • What's next (teen/young adult outreach)
  • Wednesday
    • Friends' General Meeting
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Staff Development Day
  • Professional Development: Stories and Sequences part 1
  • Attended Friends' General Meeting
  • 32 hours PTO
I took the week off, but then I needed to attend a workshop, and the Friends' meeting. I skipped Staff Development day instead, since I also needed to go out of state for a funeral. I also got sick. It was not the best vacation. Oh well.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The journey of York: The unsung hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Hasan Davis, illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Children studying Lewis and Clark probably learn about Sacawajea, but is York ever mentioned? I had certainly never heard of him. When President Jefferson called for an expedition and Captains Lewis and Clark recruited able-bodied men as volunteers, one man went along without volunteering; York. Captain Clark's slave. York was never given a choice.

Told in first person, Davis imagines what life would be like as a slave on the expedition. York meets Sacawajea, is honored and respected by the Native Americans, and suffers the loss of a man he considers a friend, Sergeant Floyd, who was anti-slavery. When they finally reach the ocean, for the first time York has a voice and is asked to vote with the other men. But when Captain Lewis honors the men who took part in the expedition, York's name is never mentioned.

In the author's note, he points out that York's name was not included in the official record of the expedition. He received no honors, payment, or even acknowledgment of his participation. He remained a slave and was separated from his family by Clark two years later. There are differing accounts of York's eventual fate. Clark claimed he set him free and he died of cholera while trying to return to Clark's employment. This seems unlikely, especially considering no evidence of manumission was ever found. There is anecdotal evidence from trappers and Native Americans that York was either freed or escaped and joined the Crow tribe.

A brief page of back matter lists some books and websites with information about York and includes a note that the author took creative license in lieu of any historical record of York's personal experiences. This raises an important point for discussion - how do authors tell the stories of marginalized people who were left out of the historical record? You can dig all you want to and still sometimes the information just isn't there. Do we continue to overlook these people because we can't "prove" or verify all the facts? Or do we bring them into the narrative anyways?

Verdict: Although in picture book format, I'd give this to older elementary students, especially those studying Lewis and Clark, to give them a different and wider perspective on the event. It's too long for a casual read-aloud, but a teacher could read sections aloud in their classroom with, I think, great results. It's well-written and the author thoughtfully discusses the lack of sources. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781543512823; Published January 2019 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit's Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Bear is sound asleep in her den, when a thief on his way out wakes her up. Bear gets up - in winter! - to investigate the thief who has stolen her salmon, honey, and beetles' eggs, and finds Rabbit. The two have a conversation about gravity, making snowmen, and friendship, until Rabbit retreats to his hole, annoyed by Bear's stupidity (and not wanting her to figure out that he's the thief). Bear sticks her head into the hole to say thanks for the moldy carrot Rabbit gave her and sees Rabbit... eat his own poop? A discussion about animal habits ensues and Bear ends up saving Rabbit from the wolf, whereupon the two become friends and Rabbit Confesses All. In the end, Rabbit decides he'd rather be a bear and the two settle down into Bear's cozy den together.

The book is heavily illustrated with aqua blue and shades of gray, as well as black and white. The illustrations are cartoon in style, with a pop-eyed rabbit, kindly but rather dim-looking bear, and crafty wolf. The font is clear and slightly larger than average, a good choice for beginning chapter readers, and the book is between a 2nd and 3rd grade level.

I'm always looking for new beginning chapter books and I think kids might find this funny, but it was a weird conglomeration of different types of story. The animals are anthropomorphic, talking, stealing, feeling shame and guilt, but they are also portrayed with actual animal habits, like Rabbit being coprophagic. But not all of them, since bears are omnivorous and would happily chow down on a nice, accessible bunny. Not to mention that if you're going to be grossed out by rabbits eating poop (coprophagy is a very common habit among many different animals) then you should be aware that bears eat carcasses, a variety of bugs, grubs, and insects, and pretty much anything they can scavenge.

Verdict: This was ok, but didn't really stand out to me. It felt like it needed tighter editing and a clearer plot thread, as well as a distinction between narrative nonfiction and funny cartoon animals. Of course, as a nonfiction devotee I'm biased, but I don't find it helpful to give kids books that encourage them to be grossed out by natural animal behavior. On the other hand, what kid doesn't like poop jokes? In the end, know your audience.

ISBN: 9781684125883; Published January 2019 by Silver Dolphin; Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Into the forest by Laura Baker and Nadia Taylor

This board book is created by layered, die-cut pages to show a busy, colorful forest.

The first strip shows a family of playful foxes and a scurrying squirrel, looking for Mama. In the next strip, about half the book-height, the squirrel meets a bear cub and her mother. The next strip, almost full-size, introduces squirrel to a deer family as well as some frogs. The second-to-last spread shows an almost full-size spread with a family of bunnies amid a forest of popsicle-shaped trees. In the last spread, the squirrel meets her family and all the forest creatures reappear.

The colorful, simple shapes show a bright, cozy forest. Textures from dots to lines, leaf-shaped to stripes, cover the pages adding an additional sensory dimension.

The die-cut pages are thick and sturdy, although the binding is not as tight as I'd hope. Unless a kid goes waving it around by one page (which they are apt to do) it should last well.

Verdict: The text is rather bland, but the art is attractive and babies and toddlers will enjoy the sensory experience of touching the pages as well as identifying the animals.

ISBN: 9781419733543; Published 2018 by Harry N. Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Spend it! by Cinders McLeod

McLeod's first Moneybunny book featured a little girl bunny who wanted to be a famous singer but learns that hard work is the only way to get anywhere. The next title, featuring a little boy bunny named Sonny, clicked with me much more and it's one I can see recommending frequently to parents.

Sonny, an exuberant gray bunny with a striped shirt, blue shorts, and long ears, gets his allowance of three carrots every Saturday. He wants to buy EVERYTHING but he doesn't have enough carrots. His mom calmly tells him he will have to make a choice about what's important and goes back to raking leaves. Sonny does some basic math - he wants three things, he has three carrots, but his mom tells him he has to think it through a little more! The things he wants cost more than one carrot each. After some hard though, he decides on a pogo stick, which costs three carrots, and is happy with his choice.

This is a very simple introduction to the concept of buying things. The simple illustrations are humorous and don't detract from the lesson of the story, that Sonny has to make a choice about what he will spend his money on. Of course, the concept can be a lot more complicated, especially for kids who don't get an allowance, but this is a good, easy introduction for preschoolers about how money works. Future titles will cover saving and giving money.

Verdict: There are very few picture books covering money for the preschool crowd. Match this one with Lemonade in winter and Pretty Penny (now out of print) for a good beginning lesson on handling money.

ISBN: 9780399544460; Published March 2019 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, April 22, 2019

We travel so far... by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden

I'm always fascinated by migration and this is a beautiful and simple look at this complicated subject. In poetic language, Knowles introduces the great journey of migration and the stories of the creatures that undertake these epic journeys.

Each spread introduces a different creature and is illustrated in sharp detail by Madden art that focuses on the creatures and their natural surroundings. The migration of the sockeye salmon shows a group of red fish, determinedly leaping up frothy white falls as hungry bears lunge across the page. The monarch butterflies' page explodes in color and life as orange butterflies pour across a green and blue background. Fruit bats spiral up from the trees in Kasanka National Park, where they have migrated to feed on fruit. A close-up shows a sweet, furry creature peering back at the reader. Arctic terns glide across a cold, grey-blue page, "We are the arctic terns, the daylight dancers./We chase the summer, pole to pole." The book ends with a spread showing a diverse group of people and repeating the refrain, "We travel so far." that has been reiterated throughout the book. Just like the animals, humans travel for safety and food, but also to find freedom and adventure.

Back matter includes a world map (the migrations are not marked on it) and data about the land and sea migrations.

Verdict: A beautiful and informative book, a great addition to school curriculums and for reading aloud in sections and discussing.

ISBN: 9781770859852; Published August 2018 by Firefly; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, April 21, 2019

You are light by Aaron Becker

Technically this is a board book, but it's a more complex concept than the average board book. However, it's not really a picture book either, since it has the traditional format, in some ways, of a board book.

The die-cut circles on the cover are repeated throughout the book, with some blank and some having colored, thin vinyl behind them. The colors shift throughout the book, so you get a different set of colors as you hold it up to the light. The pattern of die-cut shapes in the center of the cover are repeated in flame-like colors throughout the book. The accompanying text at first seems poetical, but a more careful read shows that it actually takes readers through the water cycle and how light effects it.

The text is abstract and the light plastic coverings on the individual circles probably won't stand up to vigorously poking little fingers. However, it's a lovely book with rich language and a unique design that will attract kids of a variety of ages.

Verdict: While I don't often suggest buying "novelty" books, this one is so beautiful and overall much more sturdy than, say, a pop-up book, that I think it's worth purchasing for use in art programs especially

ISBN: 9781536201154; Published March 2019 by Candlewick Studio; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to an art teacher to use in her classes

Saturday, April 20, 2019

This week at the library

What's happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to read
    • Art show opening
    • Manager's meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • Teen sewing club
  • Wednesday
    • Train Tracks (4K collaborative event)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Book Explosion: Wings of fire
  • Friday
    • Library closed
  • Saturday
  • Worked 32.5 hours; 19 hours on the desk; 3 programs
  • 8 hours off (holiday)
  • 2-3 hours work at home (emails and collection development)
  • I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to do two conferences in quick succession, along with our annual big collaborative event and the art show... it seemed like a good idea at the time? Anyways, I'm done with CE for the year now (except two local things).
  • We had about 200 people come through for the art show Monday night and then on Tuesday all the 4K directors came in for set-up for the big train party. I'm desperately trying to finish another chunk of weeding before I'm gone-ish next week.
  • Feeling a little overwhelmed when I think about what still needs to be done:
    • update field trips (still waiting for some teachers to schedule their classes)
    • update summer reading materials and send to the school to print
    • update and add to activities we give away for summer reading prizes
    • summer newsletter
    • finish staff schedule - I'm waiting to see if I need to hire another teen to fill in the schedule
    • plan sewing maker workshops coming up
    • update STEM calendar for the summer
    • waiting on grant money to order LOTG books for summer, including Spanish, and some big chunks of juvenile fiction and graphic novels
    • write-up and publicity for Walmart grant - I think we will finally start open storyroom in May
    • plan summer programs, including new maker workshops and art programs
    • recruit and schedule teen volunteers

Friday, April 19, 2019

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

I've seen a lot of enthusiasm and love for Peirce's new book, including blurbs from Pilkey and Kinney, but frankly when I heard about it I thought it sounded weird. Now that I've read it, I still think it's kind of weird and there are going to be SPOILERS ahead because I can't talk about it without exposing the big twist halfway through.

So, the story is framed as Big Nate hands in a book report on Max and the Midknights for his "history" report. The story itself is done in the same graphic blend/notebook novel style as Big Nate and the art style is the same as the Big Nate cartoons.

The story opens with Max and Uncle Budrick traveling the countryside as troubadours. Max, however, doesn't want to be an entertainer, especially not one who's as bad as Budrick. After they're robbed and Max uses Budrick's broken lute to knock out the robber, they arrive at Budrick's home city of Byjovia. Budrick explains that there people are required to follow the trade of their father and he didn't want to go to knight school so he ran away when he was ten. But he assures Max that everyone in the city is friendly and kind, due to the good rule of King Conrad. Turns out, Conrad is gone and his treacherous and evil brother Ghastley has taken his place. Uncle Budrick is hauled off to be Ghastley's fool, his alternative being a dungeon or execution, and Max is revealed as a girl, and declares her intention of being a knight. With the help of a rather bumbling magician, two street children, and another new friend, Max and the Midknights set out to save Uncle Budrick, defeat Ghastley, and break the evil spell on the city of Byjovia.

The book is a weird mixture of medieval history and contemporary language and attitudes. Things like children following in their father's profession, the limitations on girls, being jailed for being a vagrant, and beliefs in wizardry and magic blend with the sometimes incongruous attitudes of the characters, using slang and making jokes like picking up a book of prophecies at a yard sale, etc. I'm not familiar enough with medieval history to recognize all the parts that are accurate though; were medieval people familiar with zombies, for example? There's also a very contemporary attitude throughout; after some initial surprise, Max's gender nonconformity is quickly accepted (a secondary character agrees that boys' clothes are easier to fight in) and King Conrad allows her to attend knight school.

To some extent, I felt there were a lot of stereotypes in the characters. Max is a spunky redheaded girl, the pudgy boy is nerdy, liking stories and making books and always looking for food. One of the street children she befriends is black, but is almost completely silent throughout the book and only at the end does he suddenly declare his own intention of being a knight with Max, although no prior discussion of his interests was made. The pudgy boy's father has a wooden leg and is shown as a child with it, so presumably something he was born with (although missing limbs would have been more common in medieval times I would guess and that's not even approaching the whole medieval attitude towards birth defects or deformity of any kind). One major historical incongruity was the complete lack of religion of any kind; there are no churches, priests, or anything similar mentioned or shown.

Verdict: It's funny yes, and I think Big Nate fans will pick it up, but the inconsistencies really made me uncomfortable and I'd hate to think of any kids, like Big Nate ha ha, using this as a guide to medieval history. In the end, it's just a fun book that probably won't have the wide appeal of Big Nate but will surely check out regularly.

ISBN: 9781101931080; Published January 2019 by Crown; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Small Readers: Duck, Duck, Dinosaur: Snowy Surprise by Kallie George, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Readers who have previously encountered Spike the dinosaur and his duckling siblings, Feather and Flap, will be delighted by their next funny adventure, this time in easy reader, rather than picture book, format.

Winter is full of surprises and Spike can't wait to experience them all! Skating, sledding, building snowmen, he wants Feather and Flap to join him for everything. There's just one problem - Feather and Flap are really, really cold. Much too cold to play outside, even if they want to. Can Spike come up with a special surprise that will let the siblings play together?

Bright, colorful cartoons illustrate this predictable but satisfying adventure of the Ugly Duckling family that accepted their own odd duckling (or dinosaur as it might be) and created a family all their own. This is the lowest reading level of the I Can Read! imprint, My First Shared Reading, but it still comes in at a guided reading level of E, and a lexile of 260. This would be what I'd give a red sticker and call a first level reader, usually for 1st graders and some kindergarteners. It's not a true emergent easy reader, those are few and far between, but it's certainly a good choice for kids who are ready for sentences and multi-syllable words.

Verdict: A silly and fun book for beginning readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062353191; Published November 2017 by HarperCollins; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animals with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz

I do love Schwarz's cats. After several popular and beloved (at least in our library) picture books with flaps, pop-ups, and other elements, Schwarz eventually returned to the smallest of her characters, Tiny Cat, in several sweet board books.

In this little book, Tiny Cat dresses up as various animals and mimics their sounds. The first spread, shows Tiny Cat, grinning widely, saying "purr" as himself, a cat. He holds up rings to make big mouse ears, a long tube for an elephant nose, a tied-on beak for a bird, long boots for a horse, a brush for a porcupine, wraps himself in a carpet for a snake, gets tangled up in yarn as a spider... but this leaves quite the pile of things. Which come together to make a scary dragon! Luckily, Tiny Cat has one more animal, which doesn't need any disguise - a lion with a loud roar!

Scharwz needs only a few lines and strokes to convey her mischievous and imaginative cat. While this isn't one I'd hand to actual babies, or even the average toddler who is unlikely to grasp the humor of the story, preschoolers are sure to adore it and with a caregiver to encourage sounds and their own dressing up, toddlers will catch on quickly.

Verdict: I love Tiny Cat. You will love Tiny Cat too!

ISBN: 9780763698188; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Rosie and Rasmus by Serena Geddes

This sweet story about a lonely girl making friends starts out well, but I didn't care for the ending.

Rosie, a white girl in an old-fashioned village, is shy. She stands back as kids walk by in pairs and triples, fly kites, and play around the fountain. Outside the village is Rasmus, a pudgy green dragon with no wings. Rosie wishes the other kids would see her. Rasmus wishes he could fly. When Rosie wanders under his tree, he gives her a flower and they become friends, sharing their favorite things with each other. But when Rosie sees how sad Rasmus is that he can't fly, she sets out to find a way to help him. She tries many plans, but it's not until she gives him goggles and a scarf that he finally grows wings and can fly! The friends say a sad goodbye and Rosie is left alone again, this time with a flower to remember Rasmus by... until she sees another shy girl and offers her the flower, starting a new friendship.

The soft, pastel art is very enticing for readers who like fantasy and warm fuzzy feelings. Most of the kids pictured appear to be white, and the small village is very picturesque with a blue sea in the distance and no cars or machinery in evidence, although the kids wear modern clothes as they freely run across the cobbles of the main square.

On the one hand, most kids will just see this as a cute story about a dragon. On the other hand, several things about the ending especially bothered me. Rosie and Rasmus originally become friends because Rasmus makes an overture to her and they're both lonely. But their friendship quickly devolves into Rosie's efforts to "fix" Rasmus and help him fly and in the end he spontaneously sprouts wings. That feels like a weird call back to books like Heidi where the kids are friends with the "poor cripple" and they just magically lose their disability. There's no reason given for Rasmus having to leave - maybe he was imaginary all the time? On the other hand, there's also kind of an implication that he doesn't fit into their perfect little world in the village. I also noticed that the solitary girl Rosie makes friends with wasn't there in the first place - so maybe it isn't just that she needs to make overtures, but that she has to wait for the right time and the right person.

Verdict: Kids probably won't pick up on all the things that confused/bothered me as an adult, so ultimately it's a sweet book with a nice message about making overtures to make friends. I would say it's an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781481498746; Published April 2019 by Aladdin; F&G provided by publisher

Monday, April 15, 2019

Avalanche Dog Heroes: Piper and friends learn to search the snow by Elizabeth Rusch

So much doggy fun! This is a delightful account of the training and testing of Piper, a three-year-old border collie who is learning to be a rescue dog at Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington. Rusch introduces readers to Piper and her friends and trainers and then her day begins.

Readers will learn how Piper is trained, the science behind avalanches and dogs' abilities to smell, and the equipment and training needed to equip dogs and their handlers. The book ends with Piper taking - and passing - the test to be a real rescue dog. Back matter includes links to social media to follow the dogs, more information on dog training, and resources to learn about the science.

The book has a picture book layout and briefer sentences/exclamations, as well as the framing story of Piper's day, but it's essentially a nonfiction book for older readers with large chunks of text. Photographs, graphs, maps, and facts are included throughout the book.

Verdict: Rusch has a very readable style and this is a subject that is sure to fly off the shelves. Add this to your collection on working dogs and recommend it to third grade and up.

ISBN: 9781632171733; Published October 16, 2018 by Little Bigfoot; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Early Childhood Conference

I haven't been to this conference before - apparently it's quite a big deal in the early childhood educator world. It's pretty inexpensive, compared to most library conferences, and is at a local university. I wasn't sure how much it would apply to library work, especially since I already have my school colleague who does most of our early childhood storytimes, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to see ways the library can support our local early childhood centers, from daycares to four year old kindergartens. Conclusion - I'm glad I went, but once was probably enough, since I got the feeling a lot of it repeats. I was the only librarian at the pre-conference on Friday, but I did meet two other librarians from the Gail Borden library on Saturday (those in the library world may be familiar with this Illinois library as the one of the first to go to bisac/subjects and it's a pretty innovative - and massive - library.). Anyways.

Friday preconference
 - Inevitably, I drove back and forth several times on the highway before deciding on an exit. Amazingly, I then quickly found the university, even with detours!
 - Robin Fox, a professor with a lengthy background experience in early childhood education, was the morning speaker. She talked about the changes in education, inclusiveness, policies, having difficult conversations, etc. After lunch, there were casual break-out sessions. I don't think these went too well since a lot of people seemed very much at a loss what to do without a facilitator, but I had some good conversations with a couple people, especially a teacher in a county next to ours and we exchanged several different library-related resources that I'll be following up on.
 - Robin Fox finished with a final conclusion and a number of resources
 - I then drove in CIRCLES for an HOUR trying to find my way out of the town. No, it is not a big town. I couldn't find the highway again! I finally found it, after an HOUR but I have no idea how.

 - Found the exit with no driving back and forth this time!
 - The keynote was... not for me. The speaker was someone who was apparently well-known in early childhood circles and she gave a very "inspirational" speech but I'm really not much on inspiration, I prefer practicalities. Other people seemed to get a lot out of it, but I personally thought there was no substance, just a lot of talk. And she incorrectly attributed several quotes from children's literature, including a Winnie -the-Pooh one, my particular bete noire. But, again, I wasn't really the audience for this.
 - Children and Play by Sandy Queen. Apparently this presenter has been presenting at the conference for a long time. I think it was the first time I've seen her though - very lively and personable, lots of stories, and some good information on the importance of play with ways to frame it. I think she was used to having longer sessions, as she kind of ran out of time at the end and I was sorry she had to end it - I could have listened to her longer. I'll be using things from this session in my work on our play areas and grant-writing, as well as how I frame/plan programs.
 - Secrets from your SLP by Tammy Myers. I was supposed to go to a different session, but I decided to be the rebel librarian and changed my mind and went to this one instead! I wasn't sure if you could do that or not, but apparently the only sessions that were completely filled were the, uh, essential oils and something else. So... yeah. Anyways, SLP does NOT mean what it means in the library world, it means speech language pathologist! The presenter did kind of put me to sleep - very soothing and somewhat monotonous voice - but she had really interesting things to say, especially in how we talk with/read to children and I'll be interested to incorporate some of her ideas, especially doing more matching and less identifying "this is red what else is red?" rather than "what color is this?"
 - During the lunch hour I checked out the vendor hall - they had a couple booths with puppets, toys, and the rest were things like the Registry and sponsors. Library exhibits are more fun lol.
 - Learning continues at home with Bev Schumaker - I was familiar with this person, she and her husband do learning games that many libraries circulate (I've got them in a list somewhere to add... sometime). This was super practical and useful, full of simple ideas for things parents and caregivers can take home to keep learning going. Lots of great recyclable ideas, things we can use for our activity table and/or in storytime.
 - Project Wild Child with Becky Bender and Sarah Nogee. Oh, how I wish our local kindergartens used this approach! These two amazing teachers take their early childhood and kindergarten classes out to the woods every Monday, rain, sun, or shine. So many wonderful experiences and ideas! I'm not sure how or if I can apply this to the library, but I'd certainly love for our outdoor garden space to be an exploratory space like theirs! Unfortunately, because it's right on a main road there are not only safety concerns but also issues with it looking "messy" since people drive by it. However, I really, really enjoyed this session.
 - Science it's electric by Karen Evans - this is a preschool teacher from Chicago who teachers her kids to make circuits and use electricity. It was hands on and I'm excited to see what I can incorporate into our programs - I think a maker kit for electricity and seeing if the kids can wire the dollhouses we make this summer for electricity would be a cool start...
 - Amazingly, I did NOT get lost leaving this time! I have no idea how, but somehow I magically ended up at the highway exit. So all's well that ends well.

In some ways this was very different from a library conference. It was much more structured - people signed up for sessions ahead of time and I am pretty sure you weren't supposed to change (rebel librarian here though...). The educators have a lot of different concerns - much more attention is paid to policy, regulations, etc. I also noticed that there wasn't as much of the same "sharing" culture as I usually see in library groups - people stuck to their own groups and although I chatted with a few people it wasn't anything like a library conference. Especially before and after sessions, most library conferences people naturally (in my experience) chat to their neighbors and introduce themselves, but that's apparently not a thing for this. I also didn't see many people exchanging ideas as I'm used to.

So, as I said at the beginning, some great presenters and I got good ideas, but I don't think I'll need a repeat visit. I'm certainly glad I went (although that's not how I felt at 6am in the morning after a long week...)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

This week at the library

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Discovery Playgroup
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Paws to Read
    • Teen volunteer
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books
    • VIP Services volunteers
    • Teen volunteer
  • Wednesday
    • Book a librarian sewing
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Anime Club
    • Early Childhood Conference
  • Saturday
    • Early Childhood Conference
  • Worked 27.5 hours; 11.5 hours on desk; 3 programs
  • Two-day conference
Projects and Notes
  • Redoing signage for maker spaces - my associates have almost finished with this last-minute project. They are now the STEAM labs.
  • Bills, summer schedule for staff (first step - just putting in shifts)
  • Back to work on weeding projects.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Ingeniously Daring Chemistry: 24 experiments for young scientists by Sean Connolly

I had originally requested this book in the hope that it would have great ideas for easy, quick experiments I could do at the library. That didn't turn out to be the case BUT I did discover that it was a fun, interesting book that sparked ideas for me in other ways.

The book has a unique and interesting arrangement; it's set up around the periodic table. So readers learn about the properties of, say, nitrogen, its history and uses, and then there's a section of experiments based around the element. 20 elements are discussed, from sodium to oxygen, and a final chapter tackles the more dangerous elements - radium, arsenic, etc.

The experiments are all fairly simple - using vinegar and fluoride rinse to test the enamel on an egg, growing crystals, or making a potato clock. They're things that a typical middle-class household could do in their kitchen. However, most of them aren't things that would work well in a library setting; they are messy, take multiple hours or days to complete, or don't translate well to multiple kids. So, using it in a STEM program at the library is out.

However, it's a great book for at-home experiments; full of humor, history, cartoons, and science. It also sparked a lot of great ideas for me to have science demonstrations at the library! I'm going to combine this with another book I've looked at, Mason Jar Science, collect jars, and periodically set up experiments on a display! The kids can come in and see how they are progressing and we'll post updates on Facebook. That's the plan anyways.

Verdict: A great addition to your science experiment books and full of fun ideas to inspire experimentation.

ISBN: 9780761180104; Published October 2018 by Workman; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Klawde: Evil alien warlord cat and Enemies by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth

The story opens with the redoubtable tyrant, General Wyss-Kuzz, betrayed and sentenced to exile in a terrifying alien world... otherwise known as earth, specifically Elba, Oregon. He's not the only exile, although he's certainly the most outraged; Raj has been forced to move from his cool apartment in New York, his best friends, and handy pizza and comics. To add insult to injury, his parents sign him up for wilderness survival camp! On the bright side, he's just found a stray cat. That... can talk?

The chapters alternate between Wyss-Kuzz (or Klawde, as he is now known) and Raj. Klawde has many outraged pronouncements on the indignities visited upon him by the strange troll-creatures of earth, details his attempts to raise an army, and reluctantly admits his growing admiration for Raj. Ok, maybe "tolerance" is a better word. Raj, meanwhile, is exuberantly fond of his first-ever pet, and hopeful about the possibilities of making friends, although the weirder the camp counselor and other kids he meets get, the more nervous he is about survival night - especially since he's not sure he will survive!

The second title, Enemies, increases the parallels between Klawde and Raj. Klawde, betrayed by, well, he doesn't have friends so let's say a general previously thought to be loyal, and Raj, already unbalanced by attending a new school and now forced to meet an old "friend" who he had a huge fight with before leaving New York, are both off their game. Klawde works hard to battle an old enemy, recruit new soldiers and maintain their loyalty, and uphold the great traditions of his planet. Raj, on the other hand, alternates between anger and humiliation at his erstwhile friend's behavior and finally, just when he's decided to take the high ground and resist showing up his friend, Klawde plays an unexpected role. Both Raj and Klawde have unexpected, if not entirely happy, endings and the stage is set for another wacky adventure.

Spot illustrations in shades of blue and black show a scruffy, decidedly un-fluffy cat, the hapless Raj, and his motley crew of friends and enemies and they scramble their way through their adventures. It's not a beginning chapter book persay, more of a lower middle grade title. It will appeal to fluent readers in 2nd grade up to about 4th grade. Yes, the kids are in middle school but it's really written for a younger audience.

Verdict: This will appeal to readers who like Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid-style humor, although Raj is a much nicer character and shows moral growth despite his somewhat difficult situations. Readers will need a fairly high tolerance for goofiness of the "Planet Lyttyrboks" style of humor. Hand this to readers who like Binky the space cat and Dragonbreath.

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat
ISBN: 9781524787202
Klawde: Enemies
ISBN: 9781524787226

Published February 2019 by Penguin Workshop; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Small Readers: King and Kayla and the case of Found Fred by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

The latest King and Kayla easy mystery throws a little foreshadowing, for readers in the know, about a lost dog.

King, a golden retriever, and Kayla, his sweet owner, both love to solve mysteries. The two are visiting Kayla's grandmother in the country, at a lake, when they find a cute white dog named Fred. Fred is lost and Kayla and her family think he's a stray - but King knows he's not really a stray, he just can't find his family! With King and Kayla both working on the case, they soon have Fred reunited with his family.

Meyers' cartoon illustrations show a perky set of dogs and carefully follow the steps Kayla takes to collect and organize her clues and solve the mystery. Kayla interacts with Fred to see if she can determine if he's a stray or not, finding that he knows several commands. She visits neighbors to see if anyone has seen Fred around or knows who owns him. Finally, with the nudging help of King, they set out on a trip across the lake and locate Fred's family, who are camping in the area.

This is a transitional easy reader, just right for kids who are in the process of moving from easy readers to early chapters. The story is complex enough to hold their interest but simple enough to allow them to spread some of their focus to the mechanics of reading. The layout is excellent, spreading pictures throughout the story that enhance the text and offer additional clues to the plot. An aspect I also appreciate in this series is seeing an African-American family in a suburban/rural setting, rather than an urban one.

Peachtree was recently purchased by a big company out of Shanghai and I was interested to see if there would be any changes, although the previous owner had said that it wouldn't affect the books published. The only difference I saw was a Chinese character on one of the blank pages - otherwise it's still the excellent series it's always been.

Verdict: This is a must-have series for your readers transitioning to chapter books and those who love mysteries and animals. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781682630525; Published March 2019 by Peachtree; F&G provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Not your nest! by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Any kid that is being forced to share will appreciate this mischievous story about a diligent little bird and the animals who keep appropriating her nests.

A small yellow bird is just finishing her perfect nest... when she discovers it has been co-opted by a hoopoe! "You can build another" he says. Slightly annoyed, the bird builds another from scratch... and a fox takes it! Another nest, built by an even more annoyed bird, gets taken over by a warthog! The story builds to a ridiculous scene with the tree full of nests and Bird loses it and evicts EVERYONE. Sadly, this destroys all her nests and when she looks miserably at the resulting chaos, saying "this WAS my nest" the animals feel guilty - and build a huge nest, just for her. Bird kindly invites them all to share the new nest, and in a last aside builds her own cozy little nest away from the snoring animals!

I felt like this was a different art style than the work I've seen before from Tsurumi; it still has that cartoon humor, but it's more sketchy and realistic and less of the minimal lines and figures of her other work. It's also one of my newest, favorite books and a hilarious take on the Little Red Hen, even if nobody besides me gets it. It always drives me crazy that most of the retellings take out the original ending and have her sharing, even though the animals did none of the work! The outraged bird and her charging buffalo was deeply satisfying - especially when the animals fixed their mistake and all ended happily! And the part where Bird gets her own nest in the end! I can't wait to add this one to my storytime repertoire and to my funny read-alouds that are kind of naughty list!

Verdict: A much more nuanced view of sharing, perfect for kindergarteners and some preschoolers who can think about sharing as more complex than just "give the other kid what they want because they asked." There's also the additional element of identifying the different animals! It's ridiculous, satisfying, and funny - all the things needed for the perfect storytime book.

ISBN: 9780735228276; Published March 2019 by Dial; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, April 8, 2019

Animal Antipodes by Carly Allen-Fletcher

This is a really interesting and unique animal book. The opening spread, showing a colorful earth against a dramatic black background, explains that antipodes are the opposite sides of the earth. Then the book jumps into various antipodes. The top half of the spread is divided from the bottom half by the text. On the left side of the page is the text that does with the top, then you turn the book upside-down to read the bottom-half.

Antipodes included are the North and South poles; the Okavango Delta in Botswana and Big Island of Hawaii; Desert National Park in India and Easter Island; Palembang, Indonesia and La Jagua, Huila, Colombia; Kaoh Nheaek, Cambodia and Machu Picchu, Peru; Lake Baikal, Siberia, and Monte Sarmiento, Chile; Xi'an, China and Santiago, Chile; Hong Kong and La Quiaca, Argentina; Whangarei, New Zealand and Tangier, Morocco; Yasawa, Fiji and Timbuktu, Mali; then readers arrive back at the North and South poles.

The final two spreads explain more about antipodes and the book, including showing how the light changes slightly in each image, how the solar system works, and the angle of the earth. A final spread encourages readers to find their own antipode, although it's probably in the ocean! The back endpapers are covered with sketches of the many different animals included. The art is glowing with color, almost as if each place is set in the heat of the desert or shimmering glow of the Northern lights. Some places contrast wet, dense jungles with arid deserts, high-rise cities with empty tundra, while others are very similar.

Verdict: A fascinating new way to look at habitats around the world as well as an introduction to earth science and the solar system. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781939547491; Published September 2018 by Creston; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, April 6, 2019

This week at the library; or, It's spring! Ha ha April Fool's

Happenings this week
Stuff I did this week
  • Catch up on email and all the work from vacation - my entire desk was covered with stacks of books!
  • Request upcoming book club books
  • Prep for this week's outreach
  • Collection development project
  • Schedule a new volunteer
  • Put together materials for April Kohls grant
  • Staff schedule for May. Also putting together schedule for teachers to book field trips in May. So. much. schedule.
  • Reports (bills next week)
  • Manager-ey things.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Mangoes, mischief, and tales of friendship: Stories of India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy

This collection of intertwined folktales has a classic feel and will appeal to folk and fairy tale fans.

Prince Veera and his best friend, Suku, discover it's not so easy to be a ruler when they get the opportunity to preside over Veera's father's court. They solve eight different cases, involving both traditional and original stories, from a man who wants to charge his neighbor for smelling his wares to a man who is prosecuted for spreading bad luck.

Black and white illustrations, some showing people in traditional occupations and others showing traditional motifs of birds, fruit, and other items, are scattered throughout the book.

Originally published in the UK in 2010 as separate books, this collected volume is an engaging read for middle graders who enjoy folktales. Unfortunately, that's really a very small number of kids. As a voracious reader of folk and fairy tales myself, both as a child and adult, I recognized several general plots and the story overall had a classic, traditional feel to it. There are few if any women mentioned, no sources for the original tales, and only a few contextual clues for the culture represented, as well as no time period given.

If the creators were hoping to bring Indian culture and traditions to a new, contemporary generation, more information would have been useful, as well as considering more modern sensibilities; while the gap between impoverished Suku's family and Prince Veera's wealth is mentioned, it's quickly brushed aside. The fairy tale king, wise, just, and all-knowing, is a little updated with Prince Veera sometimes coaxing his father into a different mindset, but there's still no doubting the greatness of a feudal society.

Verdict: Families that enjoy more traditional folktales or those who are already familiar with Indian culture and history may find this enjoyable, but it will have a very limited audience for the average public library.

ISBN: 9781536200676; Published December 2018 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publisher

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Arnold and Louise: The Great Louweezie and Lost and Found by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Chris Chatterton

I'm always hunting for new beginning chapter books, especially those right at that transitional cusp from easy reader to early chapter. So I was very eager to read these, but I'm... not sure they'll really click with the kids.

Arnold, a stolid and steady bear, and Louise, a scatty-brained chipmunk, are friends. Mostly. In their first adventure, The Great Louweezie, Arnold visits his friend to tell her they can't go on their picnic because it's going to rain. But Louise has other ideas anyways! She's a fortune-teller who can see the future and she's going to make a prediction - if Arnold gives her ten cents. Arnold offers her his lucky marble instead and instantly regrets it, especially when Louise takes him on a wild (and wet) adventure to make her prediction come true! In the end, Arnold helps Louise feel better after her failure to predict the future and the two are friends once more.

In their second adventure, Lost and Found, Louise really wants to borrow Arnold's best treasure. But Arnold likes to collect things - and Louise is really good at losing them! She promises to be careful and not lose this one... but she does. Will Arnold lose his good feeling - and his friend?

Two-toned illustrations, in gray and teal, decorate the stories showing a big, rather grumpy bear in overalls and the bouncy, silly Louise in a striped sweater. The text is simple, a good level for 1st and 2nd graders transitioning from easy readers to chapters. The stories are definitely on the easy reader side as far as content, featuring the classic oddball friends and simple woodland adventures. They're not likely to appeal to kids who are eager to read up, especially realistic stories, fantasy, or other popular genres, but they fit well into the Cynthia Rylant and Arnold Lobel classic style of gentle animal adventures.

I did feel that the friendship depicted was rather one-sided. Arnold gives up his special marble, goes on an uncomfortable walk in the rain, falls in the mud, and then has to comfort Louise in the first adventure; In the second he gives up his treasure twice, once to Louise to borrow and then again when she loses it and then gives it away to a bird family. Then he has to comfort Louise and give her another treasure, telling her that she's more important than anything he collects. It's a nice message of people over things, but at the same time I can't help but feel that Louise is a bit of a taker, not even trying to adapt or compromise for Arnold.

Verdict: While this is unlikely to be extremely popular, like the Scholastic Branches or Bad Guys, it's a nice filler book and will especially appeal to younger kids who are reading at a higher level and aren't ready for more complex plots.

Great Louweezie
ISBN: 9781524790394

Lost and Found
ISBN: 9781524790424

Published January 2019 by Penguin Workshop; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Zoe and Zack: Opposites by Jacques Duquennoy

Zoe, a lanky zebra, and Zack, a sometimes colorful chamelon, demonstrate opposites in this die-cut board book.

The cover has a cut-out, with a clear plastic insert, that reveals Zack jumping excitedly. The first spread shows Zoe and Zack dancing down their own sets of stairs. On the second page is a cut-out, revealing Zack. When this page is turned, it changes the images into Zoe and Zack going up the stairs. This pattern is repeated, with the two watching a bird in the cage, then setting the bird free, Zoe fighting off a biting mosquito and Zack slurping it down, Zack fixes Zoe's broken castle, and Zoe cheering up Zack by sharing her ice cream.

The opposites are more abstract than usual, focusing on emotions rather than concrete examples of direction or size. Zack changes colors to match the pastel backgrounds, from beige to blue, and simple illustrations decorate the pages with flowers, birds, blocks, and ice cream.

This is part of a series; the pages are thick and sturdy and children who have met the characters before will recognize their cute appearance.

Verdict: This is cute but a little abstract for my taste. An additional purchase for large board book collections.

ISBN: 9782747087001; This edition published 2018 by Tourbillion Editions; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Thunder Pug by Kim Norman, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

Long ago, I reviewed the first book in this series, Puddle Pug, even though I've never been a fan of pugs, and found that it was such a sweet story that I fell in love. So I was very excited to see another book in the series, even though it's been five years!

Percy the Pug and Petunia the Pig are best friends... until Petunia wins a prize. Now everyone is eager to congratulate her, play with her, and she's got so many fans she doesn't need Percy any more. Percy decides to do something on his own - be a superhero! He gets a cape and becomes Thunder Pug, coming to the rescue of animals everywhere, big and small! But it's just not the same without Petunia. Maybe they both still need each other?

Pastel spot illustrations show a cute pug and slightly smaller, plump pink pig. Percy and Petunia have humorously expressive faces that express sadness, determination, and worry. Careful readers will see that Petunia isn't necessarily happy with her fans, while Percy has mixed feelings about his superhero work. On the surface, this is a funny story about friendship with two cute animals and lots of silly adventures. But underneath it has a gentle lesson about how to react when you feel overshadowed or lacking in talent and ability. Although Percy still misses his friend, he turns his feelings outward and starts helping others, which makes him feel better even if he's not always good at it.

Verdict: A sweet book with humor and a gentle lesson that fans of cute animals will grab off the shelf. It will also make a great storytime read, especially for preschool and kindergarten listeners.

ISBN: 9781454923589; Published January 2019 by Sterling; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, April 1, 2019

Rodent Rascals by Roxie Munro

I feel like Munro isn't very well-known in the easy nonfiction genre, but I have quite a few kids who enjoy her books. They work well across age groups and this new title is a favorite for us, due to our library gerbils.

Each animal gets a life-size picture, starting small with the pygmy jerboa and working all the way up to the snooty nose of a capybara, all that fits on the page. As the animals get larger, they start stretching across pages, like the beaver whose tail is on one spread and the rest is on the following pages. The rodents are shown in motion, running on wheels, nibbling snacks, or just posed against the bold white backgrounds. Each has a paragraph of description to themselves, listing their unique qualities. Readers will learn that the male house mouse sings to his mate, about famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, and about the unique sounds made by a capybara. White outlines of the various rodents are shown on the endpages (not to scale) and there is a detailed introduction, additional information on each animal, glossary, sources, suggested websites, and index in the back.

Verdict: A great introduction to this oft-maligned family of animals, this book is sure to intrigue rodent-lovers and pique their interest. It can work as a read-aloud, and young children will enjoy looking at the pictures, but it is better suited to browsing and research by 2nd to 3rd graders in my opinion.

ISBN: 9780823438600; Published January 2018 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library