Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Tales from nature: Owl by Magali Attiogbé

I purchased a book from this series, Rabbit, which was reasonably popular, but I wanted to check the other titles before I bought them - and nobody else owned any! So, I used inter-library loan to request Owl from Milwaukee.

The book has colorful, but not bright, pictures of slightly anthropomorphic, smiling animals. Each spread features a brown owl prominently with die-cut pages that include a hole through the front cover to see the owl, half-closed eyes that open at night on the following page, and shaped bushes and trees that change the picture or reveal details.

The text on each page is generally 2-4 sentences. Unfortunately, it is not very accurate, attempting to simplify concepts for kids and ending up with misleading information. The first spread says owls have "tufts of feathers on their ears". Owls' ears are located on the sides of their heads and those species that have tufts to not use them for hearing, as far as I am aware. The owl tries to catch a mouse but is too slow and on the next page they've found a whole in a tree. "Hiding behind it" are Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Owl, who are looking after babies. Regardless of the fact that an owl would eat a bird, this is really vague. How, exactly, is the owl "looking after" the babies if they can't catch anything?

I realize most people don't want to show their toddlers photo-realistic images of an owl devouring a mouse, or regurgitating it for their babies, but this kind of vague dancing around animal behavior does nobody any good. Far better to stick to basic facts - most owls hunt at night, they hunt small rodents and animals (hide the bodies behind a bush if you prefer) and they nest in hollow trees. There is no need to anthropomorphize them.

Verdict: Disappointing. I will look more closely at the bunny one that I bought and probably not purchase any more in this series.

ISBN: 9781682973875; Published in the US by QEB; Borrowed via inter-library loan

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Big Cat by Emma Lazell

There's a story in, I think, Clifton Fadiman's anthologies of children's literature about a little old lady who thinks she's found a friendly cat... but really it's a tiger! I don't know if there's a folktale origin for this story, but I've seen it pop up in several different stories and for some reason it never fails to amuse me. This latest iteration by British author Emma Lazell combines scribbly, exuberant pictures with humorous text for a silly story kids are sure to enjoy.

Grandma and her granddaughter are searching for her glasses in a backyard that clearly shows an interest in cats; There are cats hiding behind flower pots, in Grandma's skirt, and pictured on her shirts and undies on the line. Then the little girl finds a cat... a really big cat... the "cutest, prettiest, most handsome kitty cat" declares Grandma! They try to find the owner, but end up keeping the big, peculiar cat who is lots of fun for everyone, except the annoyed cats who want that tiger gone!

Just when it seems like the tiger will be there forever, there's an explosion of orange fur, Grandma's missing glasses are found, and the missing tiger's parents find him. Fortunately, all become friends and the story ends happily, even if Grandma is still a little absent-minded!

There's a charming reference to Judith Kerr's classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea and lots of funny signs from the other cats, silly jokes with the tiger, and fluffy orange fur flying across the pages.

Verdict: A delightful story for cat (and tiger) fans.

ISBN: 9781843654292; Published in the US July 2019 by Pavilion; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 29, 2019

Ocean: Secrets of the deep by Sabrina Weiss and Giulia De Amicis

This lovely volume is full of fascinating information and would make a great choice for a fluent reader, one who enjoys nonfiction, to browse.

The introduction, explaining what you will find in the book, does end on a slightly odd note, explaining why the ocean appears blue. However, the rest of the book is well-organized. It covers the ocean in its broadest sense, spanning the globe, discussing legends like mermaids and kraken, and then covers the zones. The sunlight zone, twilight zone, midnight zone, abyss, and hadal zone all show a representative range of creatures in brightly colored, minimalist illustrations, with an overview as well as interesting facts.

The book moves on to other ocean features, introducing marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangrove forests, kelp forests, and the polar seas. Each includes a variety of sea life and facts about the unique aspects of each place. The next section features marine life, starting with a detailed food cycle and general organization of species (arthropods, flatworms, cnidaria, molluscs, chordata, and plants). The authors focus in on more popular classes of animals and interesting facts - large animals like sharks, squid and whales and how certain marine animals cooperate in cleaning stations or in various symbiotic relationships. A frank but not graphic discussion of interesting facts about various mating and parenting discussions, sound and communication, camouflage, and migration finish the general information area of the book.

The last few pages are dedicated to the explanation of the many issues faced by the ocean, including over-fishing, pollution (especially of plastics), and climate change. There are several pages of "How to protect the ocean" and this is really my only critique of the book that they trot out either cliche suggestions or those that young readers are unlikely to have much, if any, control over. They suggest sustainable tourist, adopting animals, careful selection of seafood at the grocery store, planting trees, and choosing eco-friendly options for cleaning and personal hygiene. While a kid could, theoretically, make discussions, it's unlikely that they will have any real power over these areas. In addition, most of my population shops at Walmart and eco-friendly options are a luxury. Some of the suggestions, like not using straws and plastics and recycling may or may not have an impact and, of course, no mention is made of disabled people who actually need many of these things. The suggestion for kids to share what they've learned, volunteer for beach clean-up if they live near the ocean, and be respectful of nature are better options for the age likely to be reading this book.

A final page shows the location of many of the species discussed and then there is a detailed glossary and index. No sources are listed.

Verdict: Despite the lackluster suggestions at the back, which are pretty common for this type of book, the bright illustrations and detailed information are sure to make this a popular browsing choice. The font is fairly small and the text is dense, so it will likely only appeal to fluent readers since the art, while attractive, is not very interesting on its own without the text. If you have a lot of bright readers who like learning facts, this is a good choice.

ISBN: 9781999968076; Published April 2019 by What On Earth Books (UK); Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, July 27, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 7

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Racine zoo
    • Maker Workshop: Crochet
  • Wednesday
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (3 sessions)
    • Yoga with Josie's Poses
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • STEM Challenge: Ozobots
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Herve Tullet
    • Teens after hours
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40.5 hours; 20 hours on desk; 7 programs
  • One more week of summer reading to go. I have a headache.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Sand Dog by Sarah Lean

Sarah Lean's stories, almost always involving animals and a kind of borderline magic realism, aren't well-known in the States but I have quite a few fans of her stories and was pleased to see a new title.

Azi lives on a small, unnamed Mediterranean island. He doesn't fit in - not with the busy, gruff uncle who cares for him, the other village boys who tease him for preferring the sea to soccer, or even the tourists who never stay for long. But Azi knows that everything will be fine when Grandfather returns and he's able to go back and live with him. While he waits, he slowly befriends a lost dog, Sandy, and a girl who's visiting but not a tourist. Eventually, he learns the truth behind the secrets of his life, his Grandfather leaving, and how to accept and return friendship.


It's cloaked in a lot of descriptive language, but eventually readers will learn that Grandfather has a problem with alcohol and inadvertently injured Azi, who is not his biological grandson but was found as a baby in the sea and is probably a refugee, hence some of the village prejudice. Azi deals with guilt, struggles to connect with his busy uncle and the kindly waitress Maria, and with the friendship of Beth he slowly learns that he can be himself even without Grandfather and that his family includes many different kinds of people.

This isn't a white savior story; Beth struggles just as much as Azi and her longing for friendship and feelings of displacement, while acknowledged, are clearly shown to be very different from Azi's experiences. Both she and Avi handle their problems in different ways and while they grow to be close, there's always the knowledge that Beth will eventually leave and Azi needs to reconnect with his own family, even though he can keep the connections he's forged with Beth.

Verdict: For sensitive readers who like Lean's other titles, this is a satisfying and beautiful story of family and friendship.

ISBN: 9780008327583; Published July 2019 by HarperCollins Children's Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Diary of an ice princess: Snow place like home by Christina Soontornvat

Earlier in 2019 I changed the organization of our juvenile series (paperbacks), with input from one of my associates, to labeled tubs instead of labeled shelves. This means that I can add to the collection throughout the year instead of once a year when I weed and update the collection. I am planning a post analyzing the mix of my beginning chapter books, in both level and subject, and identifying gaps but meanwhile I'm adding whatever looks good. Sometimes, "good" means "what the kids will check out.

In other words, this series made me gag a little but it absolutely will be popular.

Princess Lina is a windtamer just like her mother, her ancient and powerful grandfather, the North Wind, and many other members of her family. Unfortunately, her powers just don't... quite work. After one disaster too many, her parents (her dad is a normal human pilot, or groundling) decide to send her to a regular human school. Lina is thrilled and excited to be with her best friend Claudia, but her out-of-control powers cause all sorts of problems. Eventually, she discovers her own powers, passes her grandfather's test, and makes up with her friend Claudia.
The book is told in diary format with illustrations. I looked at an unfinished galley, so the illustrations weren't complete but in the final book they're in two colors - pink and grey. Lina is biracial; her mother's side of the family looks South Asian, her father appears white, and her friend Claudia is black.
This is the pink and princessy type of book, full of breathless emotions, that I am really not the audience for. It's overly dramatic, trite, and the short sentences are choppy. The "issues" are quickly resolved with no real conflicts and Lina is, even for a kid in school, very unaware of anything going on with the other kids outside of how it affects her. However, this is the type of cotton candy book that lots of girls, fans of Rainbow Magic, Unicorn Princesses, Frozen, etc. will devour. At least there's some diversity included.

Verdict: This is absolutely not for me and it's certainly not of particularly high (or any) literary quality. But it's a good filler that will get kids at the series stage to love reading and keep reading until they're ready for more substantial fare. And who am I to criticize what kids read for fun? I read plenty of trashy romances and serial mysteries that are certainly of no more literary quality than this! It won't win any awards and doesn't particularly stand out, other than being a rare beginning chapter fantasy with non-white characters, but it's certainly worth adding to your collection. Hand to fans of Rescue Princesses, Disney, and similar fare.

ISBN: 9781338353938; Published July 2019 by Scholastic; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Small Readers: Incredible Dinosaur Facts by Ruth Owen

This is from a Bearport set called The Dino-Sphere, part of their Little Bits! first readers series. The Dino-Sphere has ten books, ranging from books about modern paleontologists, fossils, and overviews of different aspects of dinosaurs from their eggs to their extinction.

This title is a general collection of facts about dinosaurs. It covers their name, general time period, and a variety of unusual dinosaurs - the biggest and smallest dinosaurs, most horns, hardest skull, smartest, etc. Illustrations include artist's depictions of dinosaurs, photographs of fossils, and models. Back matter defines four words - crest, fossils, mate, and scientists. There is also a short index, two books (both from Capstone) to read further, a link to the publisher's website for the series, and a brief note on the author.

The book is physically not the traditional size of easy readers; it's an 8x8 square. Little Bits is marketed to "beginning readers" but the vocabulary and text complexity is actually much higher than that. It comes in at a 600 lexile and the highest I put in my easy readers is between 500-600. It needs a fairly competent reader to tackle these books.

Verdict: While I wouldn't necessarily recommend these as easy readers, they're perfectly acceptable picture books and that's exactly what I needed. My dinosaur picture books needed new titles and these have been flying off the shelf. I think they will also be popular when we get back to school and teachers and younger kids are looking for books to read together or browse.

ISBN: 9781642801866; Published 2019 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased set for the library

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The new neighbors by Sarah McIntyre

This cute book tries to defuse prejudice in a child-friendly way, but makes a few false steps. The news comes first from Mr. Pigeon on the roof - there are new neighbors! And they're rats! The bunnies have never lived with rats before and are excited... until they and their older sister, Lettuce, start talking to their other neighbors. Vern the sheep is worried that the rats might be messy. The pigs have heard that rats aren't just messy, they smell bad! Things get more and more scary, until the panicked animals meet their new neighbors - a very nice couple of rats who are clean, tidy, and have cake to share!

Cute cartoon illustrations and cheerful, onomatopoeic text show the animals' increasing panic until they realize all their fears were misplaced. I can see what the author was trying to do, and I think this is a perfectly fun book for storytime, but I see a couple problems with it and I don't know that it will really click with kids. First of all, kids are generally pretty literal. They're not going to connect an apartment of animals scared of a new animal with, say, immigrants from a new country moving into their neighborhood or a new kid in class with special needs. Second, there are some odd things in the book, most especially when Bertram the rat says he knows rats aren't everyone's idea of the best neighbors, so they baked some cake. That kind of implies that rats normally are smelly, messy, thieves and he had to reassure everyone? Not the best message for a book supposedly promoting not pre-judging people or being prejudiced.

Verdict: On the whole, it's a cute book and some older kids might find the humor amusing, especially when the pigs worry about the rats being messy, but it's not a necessary purchase in my opinion.

ISBN: 9781524789961; Published February 2019 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 22, 2019

Becoming an astronaut by Ellen Lawrence

This is part of Bearport's Space-ology set, a smaller set inside the Science Slam! series collection. There are six books, each addressing a different part of space technology - living on a space station, space research, or, in this case, a career-style approach to what an astronaut does.

The book begins with an exciting emergency - the spaceship is on fire! Luckily, it's just a simulator. The book goes on to talk about the requirements for an astronaut, picturing NASA's 2017 trainees. Following images show the trainees preparing for space, primarily picturing a white man. The astronauts train for six years, learning the many things they will need to know from medical procedures to moving in zero gravity. Finally, they are ready to launch.

Back matter includes a logical thinking test to "think like an astronaut," six thumbnails and descriptions of words, and a short index and three recommended books, including another title from the Space-ology series.

Bearport's titles tend to be in the hi-lo range (high interest, low reading level) and work really well for my school classes doing research, as well as kids who want to read about nonfiction subjects but aren't able to read a full-length chapter book or middle grade title. This is an 800 lexile (if you care - I don't particularly) because of the specific vocabulary of the subject most likely. It has short, simple sentences and paragraphs in bold type.

Verdict: If you are looking to expand your space offerings with something that appeals to younger or less-fluent readers, this is a good choice to fill in your collection.

ISBN: 9781642801743; Published 2019 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library; Purchased the set for the library

Saturday, July 20, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 6

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Fox & Branch
    • Maker Workshop: Woodworking
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
    • Early literacy outreach: Learning Curve
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (2 sessions)
    • We Explore Outdoors: Butterflies
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: Summer School
    • Art Workshop: Printmaking
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Deborah Freedman
  • Worked 32 hours; 16 hours on desk; 8 programs
  • 8 hours PTO on Monday
  • Yes, I'm behind writing up programs. I'll do it later. It was too hot for the summer camp that was coming to the Deborah Freedman art program to walk over on Friday, I took the program to them and it worked well - it's nearly all water colors. Had a small but enthusiastic group for woodworking, and a small group for the art workshop - Thursday afternoon isn't a good time.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Tooth and Claw: The dinosaur wars by Deborah Noyes

This is the kind of history that I find fascinating and thoroughly enjoy but, alas, does not have a wide appeal to the average library reader.

In 150 pages, Noyes details the rivalry of two early paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who began their careers at a time when "paleontologist" wasn't even a word, let alone a concept. While she follows the ups and downs of their lives, their passionate investigation into the early science of paleontology, and the discovery of strange bones, she also details the rise of a new culture of science and investigation. Both started their work at a time when "gentleman scientists" investigated the world for their own amusement and education, when "dinosaurs" were only a suggested name for a few mysterious bones, and when Darwin was still researching his theory of natural selection. By the time their careers crashed and burned in the fires of their rivalry and both died relatively young, they had captured the imagination of the public and spurred on research into fossils, but they had also done incalculable harm to the scientific reputation of the United States and the science of paleontology was overlooked for years.

The book includes inset facts and stories about contemporary and historical science, historical context, and the personal lives of both men and their contemporaries. Noyes mentions women like Mary Anning who led the way in fossil research and respectfully references the tragedies and brutalities of westward expansion, a major factor in Cope and Marsh's research. Full back matter is included; bibliography, index, and notes for each chapter.

Verdict: A fascinating book for history and science buffs; Although I've found that few middle grade readers have the interest or ability to read a more challenging nonfiction book like this title, I do think it's important to include some of these more challenging books for those able to read them and to supplement school research. I've been pleased to discover that teachers from neighboring districts often visit our library for a more extensive collection of upper grade nonfiction so I feel it's worth spending money on a diverse array of these titles and this covers a topic both popular and at the same time little-known.

ISBN: 9780425289846; Published April 2019 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Nixie Ness, Cooking Star by Claudia Mills, illustrated by Grace Zong

Nixie and her best friend Grace have spent their whole lives together, ever since they met in preschool. Now they're third graders and ready for extra-special after school fun at Nixie's house every day! Then her mom hits them with the news that she's going back to work and Nixie is going to after-school camp while Grace will stay with Elyse from school.
Nixie has a lot of confused feelings about all the changes she's facing. After-school camp is lots of fun, and she kind of likes the new kids she meets. Even more exciting, they get to cook! But she misses Grace and starts to feel that Elyse is stealing her best friend. She struggles to adjust to the changes in her life and ends up saying something cruel to Grace. Can Nixie use her new skills, both in cooking and in socializing, to fix things with her friend?
Mills specializes in realistic, everyday stories of kids navigating life. While the after school program at Nixie's school is a lot fancier than those I've worked with, I've no doubt it's realistic based on some other programs I've looked at. Grace's family can't afford the after-school program and they meet Elyse's family through their church. Nixie is an enthusiastic, bright girl who has to learn to listen to others and not only think of herself - something all third graders (and older kids) often struggle with. She learns to speak up at the right time and that it's ok for friendships to change and grow.
Grace Zong's pencil illustrations were only sketches in the galley I saw, but they look like a good fit for the story, showing a diversity of body types and a wide range of emotions. It looks like there is a variety of races shown as well, although it's not immediately clear from the sketches.

Verdict: Mills' stories are circulate at a steady pace for my library; while they may not fly off the shelf like the latest popular graphic novels, unicorn books, or exciting adventures, they're safe, comforting reads for kids who are struggling with everyday issues with friends, learning to navigate the social waters of elementary school, and enjoy a dose of quiet humor. Mills also matter-of-factly includes mentions of kids who struggle in school, whose families don't have a lot of money, and includes church attendance as a social activity. While these may not meet the needs of every library, they're a good choice for my small town and a popular book club choice.

ISBN: 9780823440931; Published June 2019 by Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Up Up Up Down by Kimberly Gee

A chubby, brown-skinned toddler with a mischievous grin, toddles through his day, followed by a sometimes harassed but loving father. From the moment the baby demands "UP!" out of his crib, starting to climb out on his own, and then "DOWN!" on the floor, he's on the go! They go swimming, visit the park, have ice cream, and lots of "fun, fun fun!" until mom, dressed in a purple suit and chunky heels, comes home and the little family settles down for a little quiet time.

Simple text and art make this a fun story for one-on-one reading as well as storytime. Little listeners can lift their arms up, make yummy and yucky faces, and more throughout the story. The art has light, pastel colors; the soft browns of the family's skin, blue of the water, and plain colors in clothes. The pictures are small vignettes set against a white background, simple enough for young listeners to note but complex enough to take time to look at the details.

Verdict: A simple but delightful picture book, fun for families and storytimes, about a toddlers' fun day. The added diversity of the father and brown-skinned family are a nice note.

ISBN: 9780525517337; Published May 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Max Explains Everything: Soccer Expert by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Deborah Hocking

The curly-haired expert is back to explain soccer! He's an expert, since he's been playing it for three whole weeks! Hilarity ensues as Max puts his own particular spin on the game. Max isn't particularly... focused and kids who have a hard time concentrating, or taking a game seriously, will certainly appreciate Max's antics as he watches a butterfly in the team huddle, empties his pockets as the game starts, and misses the ball while watching bugs and examining dandelions.

Max has no problem being pulled out of the game - sometimes you have to cheer on your teammates after all! He's having so much fun, that he almost forgets something important... snack! Meanwhile, of course, his teammates and the fans are yelling at Max to kick the ball as it zips by him into the goal. Although his teammates look disappointed, they quickly cheer up as they shakes hands with the other team (Max introduces himself), and give him friendly smiles as he leaves, hands full of dandelions and a blanket tied around his shoulders like a cape.

While this may be a bit idyllic, not to mention unrealistic (I suspect that even a team that's very laid-back about sports isn't going to be quite so forgiving of someone like Max who is completely off in his own world for most of the game) it's a nice picture of a team playing together just for fun. Although the coach and teammates get a little exasperated with Max at times, they are always kind and Max clearly never realizes he's any different than his teammates. A range of skin-tones and genders is shown in the team and the coach is an older woman with white hair.

Verdict: Both sports fans and non-sporty kids will get a kick out of this book, laughing at Max's antics and unique perspective, and perhaps take their own sports experiences a bit more lightly, as well as being accepting of kids who aren't as focused on the game.

ISBN: 9781101996409; Published February 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 15, 2019

Predator and prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

Beautiful illustrations show the relationship between predator and prey in this unusual picture book, accompanied by short poems.

Each large spread, some expanded with gatefolds, shows a delicate painting of a predator and their prey, a poem or short series of poems, and a box of information about the animals pictured. For example, one page shows a criss-crossing of bare branches and a sharp-shinned hawk, beleaguered by a "feisty mob" of chickadees. The first illustration is accompanied by a poem featuring the alarm call of the chickadees and a section explaining that a perched hawk is unwelcome but not immediately dangerous while a flying hawk is ready to attack. The facing page shows the hawk soaring into the air and two poems, one featuring the chickadees stealth warning call as they perch still on a branch and the other the hawk's reply, warning them that she will be back.

Other pairs featured are a bluejay trying to decide between poisonous and non-poisonous butterflies, a rattlesnake stalking an angry squirrel, bats hunting moths, assassin bugs and spiders. These aren't the "exciting" large carnivores, but the small creatures of backyards and grasslands, epic mini battles going on all the time right under our eyes.

Back matter consists of citations, primarily of academic papers and resources. This isn't one I can see the average kid picking up off the shelf for fun, but it's an amazing resource for teachers and, with a little booktalking, will interest kids who like biology and observing the natural world.

Verdict: A beautiful, well-researched book that can be introduced to children in a variety of ways. A great classroom resource or curriculum supplement.

ISBN: 9780763695330; Published April 2019 by Candlewick Studio; Review copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Saturday, July 13, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 5

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Colossal Fossils
    • Maker Workshop: Hand Sewing
  • Wednesday
    • Summer school kindergarten field trip: Michael Hall
  • Thursday
    • Explore Elkhorn field trip
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: Summer School
    • Family Book Club: The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella
    • Art Workshop: Photo Collage
  • Friday
    • Anime Club
  • Saturday
    • Library Make Day
  • Worked 40 hours; 13 hours on desk; 7 programs
  • Monday - bills, answered emails, last-minute planning for programs, processing new stuff, cleaning off my desk
  • Tuesday - went in at noon, we all played desk roulette, switching around to cover different desks, big group for Colossal Fossils - a summer camp came and they were surprisingly well-behaved - even their counselors were impressed! This is a new performer for us so I wasn't sure how it would go, but everyone loved it. Actually managed to grab lunch before on to hand sewing at 3:30, mixed group of experienced and beginners, some with adults some without. The last couple kids reluctantly left around 6pm, then clean up and I set up for tomorrow's field trip and managed to send a small book order.
  • Field trip in the morning, then clean-up, then sending orders, then on the desk and working (again) on the missing/lost list.
  • My associate did the field trip (mostly international students) and the family book club - it went really well. I took a volunteer to summer school, covered the desk for a while, then supervised volunteers and our art workshop. A small turn-out, but everyone stayed for a long time and enjoyed the project.
  • Covered the desk Friday morning and went through a bunch of papers and lists.
  • Saturday - disappointing turn-out. Last year I had a LOT of people, this year we invited some community groups and had barely 25 people. On the bright side, several kids got really into sewing and a few painted, plus some kids had fun playing with the spheros. This summer is just hard. We're doing even more programs, we're all tired and burning out, we've got more foot traffic and roughly equal circulation to last year, but our programs just aren't getting the attendance.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy

[This review was originally published in 2013. It has been edited.]

A companion to Nursery Rhyme Comics, this follows the same format with a different artist interpreting each different classic fairy tale. I was skeptical about the appeal of Nursery Rhyme Comics, since anthologies and short stories of any kind are a hard sell at my library, but it did surprisingly well, circulating 16 times in less than a year.. I decided to give this one a closer look and see if it would have the same appeal.

Sweet Porridge by Bobby London (Brothers Grimm) will be familiar to those who know tales with magical mills or other implements that produce food until told the magic stopping words. In this story, of course, the bowl produces porridge. The art has a classic newspaper strip look, not surprising since the illustrator drew Popeye strips for many years. It's a light and funny story that younger kids will enjoy.

The 12 Dancing Princesses by Emily Carroll (Brothers Grimm) has a classic, fairy tale look. The panels have strong swathes of color and while it's not my favorite art, being a bit distorted in parts, it's mostly very attractive. It's pretty much a straight retelling of the story, not trying to get around the more icky parts of this story (some adaptations say the princesses were enchanted, but this one pretty much sticks to the original - the girls like to go dancing and don't really care that men are being beheaded for trying to find out their secret). It's a bit wordy and there's not much new to the story.

Hansel and Gretel by Gilbert Hernandez (Brothers Grimm) The art is one-dimensional with strong lines and bland colors and the humor is a bit warped. Kids will love it.

Puss in Boots by Vanessa Davis (Charles Perrault) I really don't care for Vanessa Davis' art style (her other book is a memoir, Make me a woman) but I have to admit the appeal of this story. The art is very distorted and kind of ugly, but it's undeniably funny, from the cat trying on his boots from the "itty-bitty bootery" to the princess and king taking the air in the back of a pickup truck.

Little Red Riding Hood by Gigi D.G. (Brothers Grimm) Very digital art and nothing really added to the story except the woodcutter is a heavily-muscled woman. Didn't care for this one, I don't think kids will either.

The Prince and the Tortoise by Ramona Fradon, Chris Duffy, James Campbell and Jack Morelli (1001 Nights) This story will probably be new to most kids, but seeing the prince marrying a tortoise will tickle their funny bone. The art has a classic comic book look, think Prince Valiant. There's lots of humor and odd bits in this story and it was interesting to read - it's been a long time since I read 1001 Nights.

Snow White by Xaime (Jaime Hernandez) (Brothers Grimm) This one was just weird. It's the same basic story, but the art was really freaky. Snow White has these weird, long, wibbly arms that gave me the creeps. She is also, literally, dead white. Props for showing the wicked queen dancing in red hot iron shoes, but it's still weird. I know there are a lot of fans of Love and Rockets, but that's waaaay too old for this age group and frankly I've never understood the appeal. I thought that was weird too...

The boy who drew cats by Luke Pearson (Japanese, retold by Lafcadio Hearn) This is the same person who wrote the Hildafolk books, which I adore, so of course I will love this. It's very, very funny in a laidback way. I think kids will find the cats drawn all over everything hilarious and I especially loved the final droll joke.

Rumpelstiltskin by Brett Helquist (Brothers Grimm) I don't really think of Helquist as a graphic novelist, but he does a good job with a sort of distressed oil painting look, which ages his usual rich oil style. Now, I'm not going to say I'm biased (although I'm still mad about the awful covers he did for my beloved Green Knowe books) but I didn't really see the appeal of this story. It's just the same fairy tale with illustrations, it doesn't even address why the miller's girl is apparently perfectly happy to marry the horrible king who was willing to kill her (and looks about 20 years older than her).

Rabbit will not help by Joseph Lambert (Bre'r Rabbit) This story didn't really work for me. I'm familiar with the Bre'r Rabbit story, but it's a particularly confused one and Lambert's button-eyed creatures, many of them sporting creepy overbites, didn't help. I'm not sure kids will like this or not. The random violence and events might be kind of interesting, but the animals are sort of freaky-looking and the story doesn't really move smoothly.

Rapunzel by Raina Telgemeier (Brothers Grimm) It's Raina Telgemeier, everyone will love it. I loved that Rapunzel saved the day and her final innocent remark to the wicked witch made me choke with laughter. I'm not sure kids will get the joke, but they'll love the art and movement. Telgemeier is huge here, so anything she's done will be devoured.

The Small Tooth by Charise Mericle Harper (English tale) When Harper is good, she's good. When she's not she's WEIRD as heck (see Henry's Heart). This one doesn't quite fall on the weird side of the line, and I do have a lot of Fashion Kitty fans, so it will probably be quite popular. It's nice to see some of the old English tales as well.

Goldilocks and the three bears by Graham Annable (English tale) Apparently this author does something called the Grickle cartoons and comics? They sound vaguely familiar, but I can't quite place them. This is a pretty straight-forward retelling, but the pictures are funny.

Baba Yaga by Jillian Tamaki (Russian tale) I love Baba Yaga tales and this artist really caught my attention. Lovely art, well-suited to the story and she did a good job of picking a harmonious run of elements. I really look forward to seeing more work from her.

Bremen Town by Karl Kerschl (Brothers Grimm) I didn't like this art at all, sort of glowy watercolors and why does one robber have a blue face? I don't know if kids would like this one or not, but I didn't care for it. I thought he took the fun parts of the story out too.

Give me the shudders by Mazzucchelli (Brothers Grimm) I was so glad they included this story, it's one of my favorites! Basically, the youngest son (it's one of those third youngest fool stories) can't get the shivers and spends three nights in a haunted castle. I didn't care for the way they changed the ending, but it was ok I guess. The art is different but fun.

Azzolino's Story Without End by Craig Thompson (King and His Storyteller by Petrus Alphonsi) This made a nice ending for the collection, even if it's a bit obscure and possibly overly clever as well.

Verdict: Will kids like this as much as Nursery Rhyme Comics? Well, I didn't think they'd like that at all and they did. I see this collection as much more appealing, so possibly that means it won't be at all! Regardless, it's a great introduction to lots of different comic artists and styles, and would make a great book to help kids find their next favorite graphic novelist, although it's a little annoying that many of the artists usually only do adult things. Overall, I'd buy it and intend to do so.

Revisited: Some of these illustrators, like Jillian Tamaki, have gotten much bigger in the intervening years! This is not one of our most popular graphic novels, and has been sitting on the shelf for a while, but earlier this year I introduced kids to Capstone's Far Out Fairy Tales and they've been popular, which has led a lot of kids to try this title with its fractured titles. Not an extremely popular choice, but steady circulation keeps this from being weeded any time soon.

ISBN: 9781596438231; Published 2013 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lola Levine is not mean by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

[Originally published 2016. This review has been edited.]

This is the book I have been waiting for my whole life.

Lola Levine loves soccer, as does her younger brother. She loves writing - in her diario, notes to her parents, and letters. She also loves animals and she has a "strong personality." She worries sometimes when the other girls tease her for having a boy for a friend and being "weird," but mostly she's happy with herself and her life.

Then, while playing soccer at recess, she accidentally hurts Juan, another player. The principal says she is too competitive and can't play sports until she has "learned her lesson" and only her friend Josh will talk to her. The mean girls have gotten everyone to call her Mean Lola Levine and she's miserable. But after some time spent helping her little brother with a girl he likes, saving his class pet, and talking to her parents, she decides to handle her problems herself. She writes a letter both promising to be more careful and reminding her principal that accidents happen; Juan forgives her and Josh stands up for her to the mean girls, and her parents decide she has shown enough responsibility to finally have a pet!

Lola has a "strong personality" and is enthusiastic and competitive, but she's not obnoxious and is willing to learn and think things through. She's a great role model for girls who love sports and want to speak up for themselves at home and at school. She handles her mixed heritage - Peruvian/Jewish/Catholic matter-of-factly; it's not a non-issue and she's had uncomfortable experiences, but she accepts herself and enjoys the many different facets of her family.

Verdict: I am have been waiting SO LONG for a beginning chapter book with a strong female protagonist, who's into sports, and who is diverse. I can't wait to introduce Lola to my patrons!

Revisited: Sadly, this did not fly off the shelves as fast as I thought it should. It is still in print in paperback and prebound editions and it circulates regularly, especially when I promote it at book clubs, but it's not as popular as some of my other series. To be fair, the only realistic fiction at this level that really circulates heavily is Junie B. Jones. I still think it's worth purchasing and am happy I have the series available.

ISBN: 9780316258364; Published 2015 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2016

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Whose Tools? by Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz

[This review was originally posted in 2016 and has been edited]

I actually got the later book in this series, Whose Truck? before I realized there was an earlier title. I'm a little leary of lift the flap board books, but sometimes they're worth it.

The page on the left is a bold color with a simple border and starts with a question about the layer of the house they are building. On the right side are the tools and their names. The entire right side lifts as a flap, showing the worker beneath using the tools. So the first spread is brick red and says "To build a house, start down low. Whose tools are those? Do you know?" and on the right is pictured a chalk line, chisel, joiner, and float. Lift the page and see the masons laying a foundation.

The pictures are cute and cheerful with little eyes on the tools, silly details to look for, and a diverse population of smiling workers, including many different skin colors and women as well as typical male construction workers.The big flaps feel pretty sturdy, but I can see them separating at the fold fairly soon. However, with something this fun and potentially popular, it's worth a few replacements and some strengthening tape would probably help too.

Verdict: This is a must-have series for little ones who are obsessed with how things are made and you may even find older kids sneaking it out of the board book section.

Revisited: This was certainly popular! I did have to replace our copy after a little less than two years, but it's still in print (along with the Truck and Boat titles) and circulates regularly. Still a must-have.

ISBN: 9781419714313; Published 2015 by Abrams Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2016; Replaced in 2018

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The home builders by Varsha Bajaj, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

I love a good animal homes story, ever since I was fascinated by Berniece Freschet's Beaver on the sawtooth as a child. This title, by the author of the sweet This is your baby, born today and illustrated by Mulazzani, who illustrated some very interesting titles by Giovanni Zoboli, hit all those spots for me.

Rhyming text describes the wide variety of homes animals build, "Do you see the builders work? Burrow and hide,/ Tunnel and creep,/Nibble and gnaw,/Explore and keep." The art is what really caught my eye. Soft colors show a beautiful woodland kingdom with animals, bugs, and birds peacefully building and settling into their homes. Above and below ground, in the trees and the water, animals find safety, raise their babies, and live their lives.

I realize it's a bit hypocritical that I love this so much when I'm usually very annoyed by books that don't depict predators realistically. Of course the foxes, beavers, eagles, owls, and deer are not going to sit around peacefully like neighbors in a suburban backyard. But I think it does do a good job of depicting the different kinds of homes animals build and the more peaceful aspect makes this a soothing bedtime story with a nonfiction twist.

Verdict: Not for everyone, although the lovely artwork is universally appealing, but I loved this book and would recommend it if you have kids who like animals and need more bedtime stories.

ISBN: 9780399166853; Published February 2019 by Nancy Paulsen; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 8, 2019

When plants attack: Strange and terrifying plants by Rebecca E. Hirsch

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of Rebecca Johnson's 2014 title, When lunch fights back. That title focused primarily on animals, but with a similar layout, and finished with a brief mention of how some plants seem to use a kind of thought process to fight back against creatures trying to eat them. This book starts where Lunch left off with the many clever defenses of plants.

Of course there's the traditionally carnivorous plants, pitcher plants, Venus fly traps, and so forth, but Hirsch goes beyond this with the horrifically painful and sometimes deadly stinging tree, the clever defense of the thorn acacia, which protects itself from elephants by attracting stinging ants, or the apparently inadvertent killer, the Pisonia grandis, which sticks its seeds to seabirds in such numbers that it kills many of them, littering the ground about with corpses and skeletons.

Hirsch goes beyond anecdotes and dramatic tales of deadly plants to question how and why plants developed these defenses, how they use them, and what it means for considering how plants react, behave, or even think. Extensive back matter includes an author's note, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading, websites, and videos, and an index.

Verdict: The dramatic cover and introduction will draw in reluctant readers who will find themselves learning quite a bit about plants - and scientific research - as they devour the gruesome stories of plant defenses and survival tricks. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781541526709; Published January 2019 by Milbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, July 6, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 4

Teens came to Miniatures Maker Workshop
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Managers' meeting
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday - closed for holiday
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Julie Paschkis
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 28.5 hours; 10 hours on desk; 4 programs
  • 8 hours holiday
  • I'm tired. I took some time off this week to make up for the extra hours I worked before. Working on the schedule and calendar for the fall. The Friday art programs were supposed to be for groups, but I haven't had any groups yet - just a trickle of attendees. So honestly I was glad nobody came today b/c I was pretty tired and had a ton of other stuff to do.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Unbelievable Oliver and the four jokers by Pseudonymous Bosch, illustrated by Shane Pangburn

This is a young middle grade book - I think some people would push it into beginning chapter, but it's just under 200 pages and includes fairly complex vocabulary so I don't think it qualifies as a beginning chapter book. When you consider how many kids struggle to read, it's interesting that books seem to be pushed more and more to older/more fluent readers. Anyways, I digress.

Bosch is (was?) a very popular chapter book author. My library only has the first book of his best-known series, The name of this book is secret and although I've considered more titles, I've never gotten enough interest from the kids to purchase more, since they're all available in my consortium. I was interested in this book because I'm looking for younger middle grade and because the magician theme is usually a popular one.

Oliver, an under-sized Jewish eight-year-old, dreams of being a great magician. But with a deck of cards that's incomplete and a lack of, well, magic that has even his best friends, twins Beatriz (Bea) and Martina (Teenie) unimpressed, he's ready to give up. Then the twins get him invited to the most popular (and nasty) third grader's birthday party - as the star entertainment! Oliver is desperate and begs his cousin, who works in a magic shop, for help. But all he gets is a moldy old hat. A hat with... a talking rabbit inside?

When Oliver arrives at the party, he soon finds out he has more problems than his lack of magic, a bunny on the lam who thinks they're in Vegas, and some mean kids. Bea and Teenie's present for the birthday boy, a robot cat their dads helped them buy, has disappeared and Oliver is accused of being the thief! Can he switch from magician to detective and solve the mystery?

The pages are decorated with frequent line drawings in shades of grey and purple. There are occasional speech bubbles, but I would call this an illustrated chapter book or at most a graphic blend, not a notebook novel or graphic novel.

I wasn't very taken with the book. Benny the bunny talks about a lot of "professional magic" that includes gambling, running from the police for undisclosed reasons, and lots of jokes that I think will pass over most of my readers' heads. There's not really any reason given for the sudden transition from magic tricks and a talking rabbit to solving a mystery; even when it is solved, although the solution is given in the form of a magic trick, it feels forced and the culprit doesn't make any sense. The bullies are over the top, "mean rich kids" and overall the humor felt forced. However, I'm not the audience for this and the real question is, will fluent second graders and third graders enjoy it? I think the answer is yes.

Verdict: I prefer Kate Egan's Magic Shop series, but I admit they don't have a high circulation in my library - not enough pictures would be my guess. I think this will circulate more, especially due to the more extensive graphics. While I don't see it having the staying power of humorous illustrated titles like Dragonbreath, it's certainly a perfectly acceptable filler book for kids in that transitional chapter book phase and features a diverse cast.

ISBN: 9780525552321; Published May 2019 by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Parker Bell and the science of friendship by Cynthia Platt, illustrated by Rea Zhai

Parker Bell plans to be a famous scientist, like her heroes Jane Goodall and Mae Jemison. So she's thrilled when her school sets up a big science competition! With her best friend Cassie, who's also an excellent scientist (and, more importantly, willing to let Parker decide things) they're sure to win. But Cassie insists on bringing her new friend, Theo, into the mix and he's not scientific at all - in fact, back in 2nd grade he messed up Parker's assignment and it seems like all he cares about are chickens!

Can Parker come up with a great scientific presentation and keep her friendship with Cassie at the same time?

I've been going through a slew of beginning chapters/early middle grade titles that feature girls interested in science and, to be honest, this one isn't rising to the top for me. It falls back on the "sidekick of color" formula and I'm skeptical about the realism of the school presented and the big science competition. I also didn't care for the illustrations, although they are only early proofs. The cover didn't grab me and I'm doubtful it will grab kids. Naturally, I approve of the guinea pig theme, but would elementary-age kids be able to create and program guinea pig robots, even if one is a coding whiz?

Verdict: The book has generally good reviews and, although a bit predictable (nobody will be surprised that Parker eventually realizes she has things in common with Theo and can be friends with him and Cassie) it's a plot that will keep fans of science and realistic fiction reading. Ultimately, I'd call it an additional purchase, preferring Frankie Sparks, Zoey and Sassafrass, and Ellie Engineer for my collection.

ISBN: 9781328973474; Published May 2019 by Clarion Books; ARC provided by publisher

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to give your cat a bath in five easy steps by Nicola Winstanley and John Martz

The cover shows an optimistic-looking girl with brown skin and pink hair; and a decidedly expressionless white cat with a bulbous pink nose. This is the first hint that things aren't going to go as planned!

The first step is simple: "Fill the bathtub with warm water." Things go wrong almost immediately though, as first the water overflows, then there's not enough... and that's when the cat disappears. The chase is on and confusion - and destruction - mount. By the time the narrator is up to step 10, the girl and her cat, Mr. Flea, have had enough instructions. Especially when it turns out that... cats lick themselves clean??

The cute illustrations and rapid chaos contrast with the enigmatic text and will have listeners overcome by the giggles very quickly!

Verdict: Although physically a little small for a storytime read-aloud, this funny book is sure to be a hit in small groups or with one-on-one reading. It will also be a good choice for teachers wanting to do units on instructions or processes.

ISBN: 9780735263543; Published January 2019 by Tundra; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ten rules of the birthday wish by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

Periodically, people come in and ask for birthday books. I have a couple, but nothing that I really, really like (feel free to recommend your own favorite birthday books but I'm kind of grumpy as I write this and I don't promise to like them.) However, I think this may be the best birthday book ever.

In this exuberant, colorful book, a series of cheerful animals in Lichtenheld's inimitable style march through the rules. You must have a birthday, a party, a cake, some candles... unless, of course, you're a camel! Or a puffer fish! There are, naturally, exceptions. The excitement builds until the saying of the wish, then is followed by a quiet reflection as the wisher drifts off to sleep, dreaming of their wish.

This is a very traditionalist view of birthdays; it insists on some kind of treat, a light that can be blown out (whales are encouraged to try glowing jellyfish), and a wish with the expectation that it just might come true. Lichtenheld's illustrations shows a cute bevy of cartoon animals from a furry bear sleeping peacefully in bed at the end to a partying group of bugs playing "pin the stinger on the human." There's room for deviation though, as Ferry reminds readers that it's ok to combine rules, have your own treat, or get friends to help!

This is exactly what my patrons are looking for; it's mildly humorous, walks readers through a pretty typical birthday celebration in my area, and gently coaxes readers down from their sugar and excitement buzz to a peaceful sleep.

Verdict: Sure to circulate briskly, this is a sweet, funny, and accessible book on birthdays. I suggest multiple copies.

ISBN: 9781524741549; Published February 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 1, 2019

Beware of the crocodile by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

You never know quite what you're going to get with Martin Jenkins' nature picture books. Some of them have an interesting mix of science concepts and animals, and most have different illustrations which makes each book unique.

This title is paired with British-Japanese author and illustrator Satoshi Kitamura, whom most Americans probably won't be familiar with, but who I know as the author and illustrator of comics about funny cat Boots. So how does this comic artist work as an illustrator of a nonfiction book about crocodiles? Quite well as it turns out.

Jenkins' prose adds a bit of humor as he describes the habits of the crocodile and Kitamura decorates the pages with gentle colors and big brownish-gray crocodiles, grabbing prey, caring for their babies, and floating through their watery world. The text glosses over the actual killing of prey, "What happens next is rather gruesome. In fact it's so gruesome that we should skip the details." This is really an introduction to crocodiles, focusing first on their hunting habits and then on their nesting and care for their babies. It ends with a lengthier author's note with more information about crocodiles, a brief index, and two websites for more information.

This is a good starting book for readers checking out their first reference materials, learning how to use an index, or learning some basic crocodilian information to urge them into more research.

Verdict: I'm looking for more books on reptiles and amphibians and this is a nice addition to Jenkins' work as well as a fun book on a favorite animals. A good choice for animal sections in your picture book collections.

ISBN: 9780763675387; Published March 2019 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium