Saturday, August 31, 2019

This week at the library; or, Can summer be done NOW?

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-o-rama
  • Wednesday
    • Library on the Go: Immunization clinic
    • Friends meeting
  • Thursday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Maker Space: Sewing
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 41 hours; 10.5 hours on desk; 2 programs
Notes
  • Yay, summer is over! School starts next week. Book club resumes and there is a big program on Saturday. Note to self - next year end summer earlier... It's been a very eventful week and I am very glad it is over. I am tired.

Friday, August 30, 2019

This book is cute: The soft and squishy science and culture of aww by Sarah Wassner Flynn

Although there's some science mixed into this, it's mostly a mixture of cute pictures of baby animals, toys, food, and more.

The author makes an attempt at categorizing why things appear "cute" and the reasons for them; she visits the familiar theory that big eyes, round heads, and a soft, rounded appearance in general make viewers think of babies, triggering an impulse to protect. This is, of course, accompanied by lots of pictures of cute babies, puppies, and other infant creatures. The following chapter delves more into animals that may or may not be conventionally "cute" and this is where the book kind of derails. The book lists the "adorable adaptation" but it doesn't really explain why the adaptation is cute, just how the animal uses it. The next chapter jumps to Japan and kawaii as well as various toys around the world. Then miniatures, then cute food. The food section mentions studies that show people are more likely to eat "playful" or cute food. More tiny food is shown then a range of restaurants from a Hello Kitty cafe to a restaurant where giraffes and stick their heads in a window for a snack. How businesses use cute to sell, from advertisements to products themselves has a chapter and then a mix of cute jobs, some of which are a bit of a stretch like "voice-over actor" and various viral cuteness. The book ends with quizzes, photography techniques and some drawing tips, and a lengthy index and photo credits.

Although it starts out with a little science, the book quickly devolves into a mash-up of cute photographs, random facts, and tiny things. And that's not bad! I love tiny things and our miniatures maker workshop is a super popular program that I've had to add multiple sessions of each year. This is the epitome of fun browsing and giggling as readers go "awwww" over the cuteness.

Verdict: While this didn't live up to the "science" tag on the cover, and there's a notable lack of any mention of gender differences in the appeal and use of cute things (it's not really universal - even in four year olds I've seen kids make fun of boys for liking unicorns for example) it's an amusing factoid book to browse and for me it's worth purchasing because of the miniatures sections.

ISBN: 9781426332944; Published March 2019 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publicist, donated to the library

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Kitten Kingdom: Tabby's first quest by Mia Bell

As I've said before, I think it's fine to have lots of "fluff" in your beginning chapter books - and in your library for that matter. I read plenty of genre fiction, including trashy romance, and why shouldn't kids read books about kitten princesses, unicorns (with really bad dialogue) and so forth. But sometimes a book goes a little too far and I feel that the message is just not a good one.

On the surface, this is another fluffy beginning chapter book. Literally. Princess Tabby and her brothers, Felix and Leo, love the idea of going on a quest even though they've never done anything more exciting than sneak candy while Nanny Mittens sleeps. Tabby tries to take her brothers on a real adventure, sneaking a peek at the magical Golden Scroll, but they accidentally give it away - to someone they suspect is none other than the evil rat king Gorgonzola!

The kittens learn that Gorgonzola took over the peaceful kingdom of Rottingham and is trying to bring Mewtopia under his control. Instead of confessing the truth to their parents, the kittens sneak out of the castle, rescue the goldsmith's daughter Clawdia, and follow the track of Gorgonzola to the horrible underground kingdom of Rottingham. Tabby balks at entering the dark, but gathers her courage when her brothers are captured. She finds the rat kingdom in ruins, Gorgonzola plotting to turn Mewtopia into a trash dump, and the rats starving. Tabby uses a clever trick and some stinky cheese to free her brothers and they all work together to keep wicked Gorgonzola from reading his own laws onto the magic scroll. They keep their identities secret to the end, ready for another adventure.

So, this is a pretty straight-forward fluff adventure. But... the behavior of the cats and the rats just felt very... wrong. So, wicked king Gorgonzola is obviously oppressing the rats. They're literally starving. Yes, they threaten the kittens and would rather hope for a handout from Gorgonzola when he's in charge than ally with the cats to bring down their wicked king, but they're presented in a way that I can only call racist. The rats are dirty and starving because they are evil and deserve it, is the clear message I got. On top of that, I am a bit tired of feudal monarchies being presented as good. The kittens parents are clueless at best - why on earth should they be ruling? The kittens themselves originally get the idea for an adventure when they're stealing candy and then, rather than admit what they've done wrong, go out to fix it themselves. They have no concept of life outside the castle and somehow I really doubt that every cat in Mewtopia is happily employed and content with their lot...

Verdict: There really isn't anything worse about this than other fluffy series, but I feel like we really don't need any more books that "other" a different group and so I'll pass.

ISBN: 9781338292343; Published 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Small Readers: Hello, Hedgehog! Do you like my bike? by Norm Feuti

This is another new title from the Acorn line from Scholastic. This one is an original and it's got a hedgehog and a guinea pig! Cuteness!

Hedgehog and Harry (it doesn't SAY they are a guinea pig, but they look like one to me. Also, they are not gendered, which is nice) are friends, much in the vein of Elephant and Piggie. Hedgehog is enthusiastic, eager to try new things, and wants his friend to come along. Harry is not so sure about new things and a little reluctant to step outside their comfort zone.

The first chapter features Hedgehog alone. He wants to ride his new bike, but he can't find his helmet! In the second chapter, the longest one, Hedgehog introduces Harry to his new bike. Harry is worried, first by the speed with which Harry approaches and then, gulp, Harry wants them to RIDE his bike! Harry finally admits that they can't ride without training wheels and Hedgehog cheerfully says "You will learn when you are ready." In the last chapter, the friends ride to Hedgehog's house and he finds the perfect snack for them to share.

At the end is an introduction to debut author Norm Feuti, a tutorial for drawing Hedgehog, and a few questions to encourage kids to tell their own story. The story is arranged in simple panels with broad white lines between them. Some illustrations are full-page and some are spot illustrations on a white background. Harry's speech bubbles are a pastel pink background and Hedgehog's are a light violet. The text is bold but not as large as a typical easy reader. It's about 300 in lexiles, so about the right level for a child moving to the upper end of easy readers.

Verdict: This is a light and fun addition to the new imprint, with gentle humor and an example of friendship and kindness.

ISBN: 9781338281392; Published 2019 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dinosaur Juniors: Happy Hatchday by Rob Biddulph

A new dinosaur series roars onto the scene. It begins with "nine perfect eggs," eight of which hatch into colorful dinosaurs (and one mammoth) that trot off to begin life. But wait! One egg is left! It's poor Greg (short for Gregosaurus), who's been left behind. He hurries to catch up with his siblings, only to discover they've already found their places and are neatly paired off. His siblings are painting, cooking, putting on a show (Martin the dinosaur is just a pair of feet sticking out of the egg), and having fun without him. Sadly, Greg wanders off but Ziggy the dragonfly leads him to a big surprise - a big hatchday party for him, put on by all his siblings!

The colorful art shows a crew of dinosaurs most of which are very similar in shape and size - they walk on their hind legs with big noses and have spines or patterns down their backs. There's also a recognizable triceratops in yellow, orange brachiosaurus, purple mammoth, and blue pterosaur. Martin is just a pair of green legs sticking out of the egg. Naturally, this story is not intended to be remotely nonfiction - aside from the mammoth hatching from an egg, anthropomorphic dinosaurs, and extremely small dragonfly, the dinosaurs come from a variety of time periods.

Verdict: This will appeal to young listeners who like cheerful rhyming stories, dinosaurs (both factual and fictional), and colorful art. It's the start of a series that promises to be fun and makes a nice addition to dinosaur sections in your library.

ISBN: 9780008325503; Published May 2019 by HarperCollins; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 26, 2019

Soar high, dragonfly! by Sheri Mabry Bestor, illustrated by Jonny Lambert

I really like Jonny Lambert's soft but vibrant collaged colors; they make me think of a more pastel Eric Carle. This book combines his lovely art with a fact-filled look at a fascinating insect - the dragonfly!

The end pages show a vivid green pond with fish, lily pads, and cattails. We first meet the green darner dragonfly in spring, as it migrates. Simple text runs along the top of the page while lengthier explanations are tucked at the bottom. As readers follow the dragonflies' journey, they will see them lay eggs, hatch into nymphs, molt and grow, and finally crawl out of the water and hatch into a dragonfly. As a dragonfly, the male shows off his flying skills, catches insects, mates, and migrates.

From the detailed text, readers will learn the meaning of "migrate," "predator," and several other terms. It isn't clear from the text if all of the characteristics refer to green darner dragonflies, or if some other abilities (like dragonflies changing color to cool off) were woven in from other species. This also demonstrates my frustration with nonfiction books that focus on the male of the species with no clear delineation between the sexes - it starts with the females laying eggs, then a male hatches, but it's not clear if the males migrate, since they wouldn't be laying eggs, apparently a prime reason for migrating. Which leads to another item of confusion - it says the dragonflies migrate to lay eggs, but has them laying eggs when they return from migration at the beginning.

Verdict: So, it's not perfect. However, it's a great introduction to an interesting insect that's often overlooked and which many children can see at a local pond or other body of water. The multiple levels of text make it accessible to many ages and reading abilities. A good starting point for kids interested in insects and dragonflies.

ISBN: 9781585364107; Published March 2019 by Sleeping Bear Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, August 25, 2019

What's on my to read shelf

I just got a Very Exciting box of review books from Capstone, so I thought it would be fun to make a list of everything on my to read (and to review) stacks and shelves.

Review copies to read

  • Capstone
    • Sadiq and the desert star
    • Charlotte spies for justice
    • Hercules and the pooper-scooper peril
    • My furry foster family (just bought this for the library!)
    • Could you escape Alcatraz
    • Golden acorn by Katy Hudson
    • TV exposes brutality on the Selma March
    • Adjectives say incredible!
    • Escape of Robert Smalls
    • Brave cyclist
    • My footprints by Bao Phi
    • Bears make the best math buddies
    • Make circuits that glow or go
    • Questions and feelings about racism
    • Grace Hopper (Smithsonian Little Explorer)
    • U.S. Ghost Army (graphic library)
    • Esports revolution
    • Mars or bust
    • Mr. Kazarian alien librarian
    • Why we cry the science of tears
    • Katie Woo's neighborhood, helping Mayor Patty
    • Real Benedict Arnold
    • You are eating plastic every day
  • Forgotten beasts by Sewell
  • Filigree's midnight ride by Berkman
  • I love my dragon and Are you my monster (board book editions)
  • Oscar the octopus (pop-up)
  • Very very far north by Dan Bar-El
  • Firefighters handbook by Megan McCarthy
  • Save the crash test dummies by Swanson
  • Amy Wu and the perfect bao
  • Twin trouble by Rosemary Wells
  • Storm keeper's island by Doyle
  • Unspeakable unknown by Sappingfield
  • Secret in the stone by Benko
  • Simple art of flying
  • Order of the majestic
Review copies in to be reviewed pile (read)
  • Captain Aquatica's awesome ocean
  • Truman by Reidy
  • I'm trying to love math by Barton
  • King of kindergarten
  • Goodbye friend, hello friend
  • Your amazing digestion by Joanne Settel
  • Two brothers one tail
  • Spencer's new pet by Sima
  • Angelina Ballerina (new edition)
  • Now you know what you eat by Valorie Fisher
  • One fox
  • Bird count
  • How I met my monster
Library books in read, to be reviewed pile (the to read pile is too big!)
  • Digging deep by Scandiffio
  • Hangry by Brockington
  • Buried lives by McClafferty
  • Slug days by Leach
  • Mango moon by De Anda
  • Count on me by Tanco
  • Road trip by Ingalls
  • Space cows by Seltzer
  • Can cat and bird be friends
  • What can you do with a toolbox by Carrino (ILL)
  • Don't feed the bear by Doherty (ILL)
  • Truth about dinosaurs by Genechten (ILL)
  • Night monster by Mishra (ILL)
Other
I have a total of 92 books checked out at the library, 19 on hold, and about 10 or so that I bought. I have lots of books.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

This week at the library; or, Can summer be done now?

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Craftorama
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (3 sessions)
    • Open Storyroom
  • Thursday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Antoinette Portis
    • Free Lego Build
    • Knit-in
  • Worked 41 hours; 10.5 hours on desk; 5 programs
  • A couple hours at home on collection development
Notes
  • Finished and sent out the STEAM and Early Literacy calendars for the rest of the year. My subscriber list is now over 200! If you would like to be included, email me at jwharton(at)elkhorn.lib.wi.us.
  • We have a baby! (no, not mine. cataloger. very organized cataloger, who kindly scheduled the birth after her last desk shift). That means I have to get going on the cataloging...
  • Sorted all the books with the help of a volunteer - Library in a Box, prizes, donations I'm saving for teachers, etc.
  • Sorted and cleaned the basement with the help of my aide and volunteer. I haven't totally finished - there's still a table of stuff to be sorted and put away - but it's much more organized.
  • Finished the last table of stuff to be sorted and put away. Now I just have to start on the to-do list - update and clean all the maker kits, plan new outreach storytimes for the fall, and an endless list of other things.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The greatest treasure hunt in history: The story of the Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

I was just going to skim this, thinking that at over 300 pages it was just too long for middle grade, let alone teen. But I couldn't put it down and now it's back on my order list.

I was aware of the Nazi looting of art treasures, but this is a whole new perspective on it, starting with the recruitment of the Monuments Men from artists, museum curators, architects, and others and plunging them almost immediately into a seemingly impossible task; protect and repair thousands of damaged monuments, museums, and art treasures in Europe. Their task was almost immediately complicated by the discovery of widespread looting by the Nazis; they even had a specific unit devoted to the theft of art treasures, including the belongings of wealthy Jewish families, and the sale and destruction of modern art, deemed "degenerate."

Edsel meticulously traces the work of a handful of men and one woman, French curator Rose Valland, on their trek across Europe. Like detectives, they traced the journey of various treasures while at the same time struggling to protect surviving monasteries, statues, museums, and other cultural treasures. Throughout the book there are sketches and letters from the soldiers, reflections on how and why they did what they did, explorations of the art itself, and a careful tracing of how the Monuments Men fit into the wider theater of war.

An extensive bibliography, credits, and notes, and glossary are included. At the end, the author reflects "is art worth a life?" circling back to the reasons the Monuments Men, many of whom were past military age and volunteered and several who died on their missions, chose to protect the treasures not only of the nations conquered by the Nazis but also those allied with them and Germany itself.

Verdict: Nonfiction on World War II is almost always popular, and although this initially seemed too obscure a topic to interest young readers, Edsel's reflections on art and war and the copious original documents, in addition to the framing of the story as a mystery or treasure hunt, make this something that I think will appeal to history buffs after all. Perhaps not for every collection, but I can see this circulation enough to make it worth the purchase.

ISBN: 9781338251197; Published January 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bots: The most annoying robots in the universe by Russ Botts, illustrated by Jay Cooper

This beginning chapter graphic novel tries hard to mimic the success of similar black-and-white titles like Bad Guys but ultimately falls short.

The story begins with Earth scientists sending out an exploratory rocket with a space camera. After many years, most people (and scientists) have forgotten about the rocket but it finally reaches the end of the universe and the camera shows them… an alien planet! It’s Mecha Base One and everyone on it is a robot! The cameras are released and quickly found by a couple robots.

Extremely dumb robots named Joe and Rob. They spend a chapter taking turns swallowing the robot to start with. Eventually, they realize it’s a camera and start doing dumb tricks and making lame jokes. The kids on earth decide it’s their favorite show and only one scientist (the narrator) believes the bots are real. A little tension is added with a tiny female robot named Tinny, who realizes the cameras are real and wants to rule/destroy the universe, but it seems unlikely that she will effect this goal. Meanwhile, the cameras follow Joe and Rob around their daily life.

The black and white illustrations show a robot universe, mainly by making everything more or less square and giving it antennae. There was no need to make the robots gendered, but the humans on earth are shown as a diverse group.

Verdict: This was really boring. Nothing happens, just a lot of lame jokes. Kids who are obsessed with Captain Underpants-style humor and spend a lot of time watching utube videos will probably like this, but there are so many other better things out there that I think I can pass on this.

ISBN: 9781534436886; Published 2019 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My first interactive board book: On the farm by Auzou

I was disappointed by this board book. It seemed to start out well, but ultimately didn't go where I'd hoped. It has pull tabs and lift the flaps, according to the cover, so I wouldn't expect it to last long, but for something that's only going to make a few circs I want something worth the money.

The cover shows a red-headed girl milking a cow. A slider turns the cows spots from black to white. This... doesn't really make any sense, but ok, let's see what's next. The first spread shows a variety of chickens. A black hen with red wattles and comb has a movable head and a hole under her to show an egg. But there's no tab - you have to catch the cardboard and move it up and down, which slides the egg into place as well. Ok, next page is sheep. A slider moves wool on and off the sheep (the farmer is another red head). That's a reasonable one. As is the next, a slider which puts mud spots on and off the pig. The second to last spread has a cow chewing her cud. There's a hole for your finger, to wiggle the cardboard grass around, and that's all it does - wiggle. Now, this did come out in 2017 BUT the library I borrowed it from only got it in May so it's unlikely it could have been broken by then. I would think the kids would get frustrated, just wiggling the grass around. Wait, we were promised pull tabs and lift the flaps? Ah, the lift the flaps are on the last page, all four of them. Each asks a question about a farm animal "What does the hen lay?" and the answer is underneath. There are no pull tabs, unless they are equating those with sliders, which they apparently are. Sliders are not pull-tabs.

Verdict: A rather flimsy binding and flimsy flaps mean this won't last long - and it just didn't have much quality or interest to me. I don't recommend this one, unless you are happy buying anything interactive that comes along.

ISBN: 9782733859131; This edition published 2018 by Auzou; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A tiger like me by Michael Engler, illustrated by Joelle Tourlonias, translated by Laura Watkinson

There are plenty of books showing kids pretending to be animals, but the illustrations in this import make this an especially attractive iteration of the trope.

The end pages show a dark forest, in night shades of blues and grays, with just a few orange leaves amongst the trees. Sprawled on a heap of pillows and blankets is a little tiger... or is it a child in a tiger suit? On the title page the lights come on, he stretches and yawns... and the little tiger, er, boy, wakes up with a roar! He avoids a morning wash and brush, devours breakfast at a stone table with cave paintings, and finds a great hiding place. Unfortunately, the laundry basket turns out to be more of a trap and he needs rescuing...

The little tiger puts on boots and explores the snow, hunts tasty food in the jungle of the kitchen, stalks his dad (and gets sent to his room), has a crafty evening making tigers with his parents, and finally goes to bed... but he doesn't stay there! He ends the day cuddled up in his parents' bed and then finally back in his den after "a long, exciting day."

The text is lengthy for a read-aloud, but could easily be shortened since it consists of a series of short sentences. Each scene ends with a refrain, "Because I am a tiger, a [adjective, adjective] tiger." The tiger is by turns clever and cunning, whirling and swirling, crafty and creative, wild and wary. The swirling, messy illustrations are especially attractive, showing the little boy's bedroom turning into a jungle, a messy craft time on the floor of the living room with orange paint splashed about liberally and the boy cuddled in his father's lap, and a determined little boy, his shadow a big, brooding tiger, refusing to brush his teeth before bed.

Verdict: This story won't be for everyone - a lot of parents prefer more consequences for bad behavior and the longer text will make it hard for wiggly kids (or tigers) to sit still, but with a little judicious editing, every family's wild child, with or without furry stripes, will enjoy this imaginative romp.

ISBN: 9781542044561; English edition published September 2019 by Amazon Crossing; Review copy provided by publicist; Donated to the library

Monday, August 19, 2019

My Happy Year by E. Bluebird by Paul Meisel

Paul Meisel's first Nature Diary, about praying mantises, My Awesome Summer was hilarious and informative. Well, I thought it was hilarious anyways. Who hasn't dreamed about eating a sibling or two when hunger pangs strike?

A new title joins the series featuring bluebirds. The end pages, front and back, contain in-depth information about the Eastern bluebird, their habits, behavior, status, and a glossary of terms. There are also some simple resources.

The story itself works equally well as a read-aloud and an easy reader, unsurprisingly since Meisel is a Geisel Honor winner and has written a number of excellent easy readers. The story begins with E. Bluebird, naked, blind, with just a few tufts of feathers, stretching her body up for food. Day after day, she eats bugs and grows feathers with her three fellow chicks. Mom takes out their poop sack, keeps feeding them, and warms them with her body until they get feathers. Eventually, her fellow chicks fledge and she herself finally make the leap.

Still an immature bird, she follows her family south, eating bugs along the way. Arriving in the south, there are cats and other dangers, but also plenty of bugs. In March they return home. Now an adult, she finds a mate, a house, and lays her own eggs.

Meisel's paintings are lovely, showing a wealth of insect life, birds, and greenery in the bluebirds' habitats. The most outstanding thing to me, however, is that in both nature diaries he has focused on the female's life cycle. Stop and think about how many books about animals focus on the flashier of the pair - usually the male - or a sentimental version of the "mother love" type of story, or feel like they read from the male perspective. I enjoyed not having to consciously remember to change genders to add a little diversity to the read-alouds.

Verdict: Informative and humorous, this is an excellent addition to storytime read-alouds and nonfiction picture books. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823438372; Published March 2019 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Saturday, August 17, 2019

This week at the library

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Manager's Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Library on the Go: Immunization clinic
    • Craft-o-rama
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
    • Yoga with Josie's Poses
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (3 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Book-a-Librarian Sewing
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Gianna Marino
    • Teens after hours
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40.5 hours; 5 hours on desk; 6 programs
Notes
  • I had a bad sinus headache (and some residual back pain from gardening) on Monday and didn't write the meeting minutes as carefully as I should have, oops, sorry staff that I freaked out, we are NOT changing everyone's schedules!... cleaned off my desk, worked my way through some professional development, still cleaning up various bits of collection development, starting placing holds for fall programs.
  • Still a bit muzzy, but with the help of my associate and aide (who were very flexible and helpful) we handled the summer camp, VIP volunteers, and craft-o-rama clean-up with me spending most of the afternoon at the clinic.
  • Second to last LOTG visit to Learning Curve - kids loved using watercolors and oil pastels and I agreed to visit the regular four year old room in the fall. I think my collaboration has made a big difference in involvement with our most distance elementary school (which they feed into) so I'm all for keeping it going! I heard that we had a big group for yoga.
  • Cleaning the basement on Wednesday; on Thursday I had some sewing sessions and then cleaned the meeting room/maker space.
  • Finished the newsletter on Friday, in the midst of a nerf gun battle no less. Also very pleased to see a family from the clinic come to the library!
Professional Development
  • Niche Academy: Librarian's guide to homelessness

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Wendy Mass' contribution to Scholastic's Branches series launched last year and there are now four titles in this time-traveling series.

Siblings Chase and Ava (white) are selling their parents' junk sculptures at the flea market and, after their work is done, get some money to fund their own purchases. They find an old suitcase and at first the woman at the booth refuses to sell it - then she pushes it on them when Chase tells her how interested he is in history and science. Inside the suitcase are a number of strange artifacts. The two are exploring their find when a mysterious stranger starts yelling about his missing suitcase.

Chase and Ava take off on their bikes, but when they stop in the park a weird dragon doorknob flies out of the suitcase and the next thing they know, they've been thrown back in time to the reign of King Arthur! The dragon doorknob is the hilt of Excalibur and only they can keep history from being destroyed. But what does the strange, threatening man have to do with the suitcase? How does it work? Are all the artifacts stolen? Only time will tell!

Black and white sketches show a predominantly white, male cast. The story is written in third person and an odd tense - I'm too far from my literature study days to define it, but here's a sample, "They're both breathing hard when they reach a dead end. Light peeks through the edges of the stones. They wedge their hands into the tiny gaps." While this is the starter book for a series, it feels very disjointed and doesn't really give much information or set-up for the series, other than defining the "magic" object. There isn't much effort put into historical accuracy either.

Verdict: This checks out, due to being part of the popular Branches imprint, but, as Kirkus says, it's really just a "riff on the Magic Treehouse series." An additional purchase only.

ISBN: 9781338217360; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Small Readers: A friend for dragon by Dav Pilkey

While most kids - and adults - think of Dav Pilkey only as the author of the riotously popular Captain Underpants and Dogman graphic blends, he originally started his career in the early 90s with picture books and other titles for a young audience, one of the first being the Dragon series. It was well-reviewed at the time, suggested for readers age 6-8 and marketed as a beginning chapter book.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and Pilkey is extremely well-known in his field, children are being pushed to read younger and younger, while reading abilities continue to decrease (hmmm... can't be any connection there, can there?) and Scholastic is turning out a new line of easy readers marketed to kindergarten through 2nd grade, for kids who are not yet ready for their Branches chapter books. Among their original titles for the Acorn line, they are also republishing higher-level easy readers (or low-level chapter books, depending on how you look at it) and one of the first is Pilkey's Dragon books.

The story is simple; Dragon, a blue, dinosaur-like creature, goes out to find a friend. A snake plays a mean trick on him, and he takes home his new friend - an apple - thinking it can talk to him. The apple, while at first just what he was looking for, eventually doesn't seem well and Dragon takes it to the doctor, where a hungry walrus transforms the apple into a skinny, white core. Sadly, Dragon buries his friend. He grieves throughout the fall and winter, but in the spring, a new tree appears with lots of apple friends!

Pilkey's trademark humor isn't quite fully realized here, although his apparent dislike of female characters is in the grossly overweight female walrus. A note in the newer edition says that Pilkey taught himself to use watercolors, with a child's paint set from the grocery store, when making this book. According to original reviews, later books in the series are funnier; this one has a bit of a melancholy feel to it, especially with the mean snake and Dragon's extended grief.

I compared the original and the new edition; the text remains the same (right down to words like "catsup") and the art appears the same as well, if slightly brighter on some pages, but that could be just that it's a newer book. The layout has changed a little - the original was just 47 pages long and the new edition is 51, plus some bonus features in the back, like how to draw Dragon. This was done by splitting up some of the pages; some text is against a white background and the art has been shrunk to fit in the smaller format.

Scholastic recommends this for 1st grade and it has a lexile of 460. As I mentioned above, the Acorn books are being marketed as easy readers but because of the simultaneous push for kids to read younger (I get a lot of parents of four year olds asking for leveled readers) and the drop in reading ability (I only know a handful of 5th graders who read - and comprehend - what is being produced for middle grade) I've decided to put the Acorn titles in our beginning chapter books. This will satisfy kids and parents who want to read "real" books while offering something more accessible.

Verdict: I've realized before that I'm not really a fan of Pilkey and don't necessarily "get" his sense of humor. However, name recognition he's got in spades and I think this will be a popular series once there are more available so kids can get past the sad first book.

ISBN: 9781338341058; This edition published June 2019 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Little Senses: Nope. Never. Not for me! and This beach is loud! by Samantha Cotterill

These two titles are part of a new series of picture books for "wonderfully sensitive kids." They are fun stories that depict protagonists on the autism spectrum or with sensory issues interacting with the world.

In Nope. Never. Not for me! a little girl (identified as such in the publisher's description) wears a dinosaur cape and hood and dinosaur pajamas as she has a meltdown over trying a new food, broccoli. After lots of dramatic yelling and flinging herself on the floor, her mom gives in gracefully, saying "Oh well, then... Not every dinosaur likes trees." The girl perks up immediately and cautiously tries it... only to realize she really, really doesn't like broccoli! She's sad that she's not a brave dinosaur after all, but her mother gentle explains that she's a brave "try-ceratops" and the girl tries out a lot of different foods, a little at a time, discovering new things she likes. Both mother and child are white with black hair and a little brother, also white, shows up on the last page. The girl's "try-ceratops" chart, with pictures of food that she likes and food that she doesn't is something that may appeal to parents with kids who have difficulty trying new foods.

In This Beach is loud! a brown-skinned boy eagerly wakes his dad up at 4am, ready for a day at the beach. He's got Sharkie, everything packed, and even manages to get dressed after a struggle with tags and itchy clothing. His enthusiasm lasts until they arrive at the beach, accompanied by a stream of chatter... only to discover that the beach is loud, crowded, and just too much! His dad gently coaxes him to a quieter spot, but there's sand on everything and he just wants to go home. Fortunately, his dad knows just what to do and with some familiar rituals the swirling explosion of noise and sensation calms down and the little boy manages to enjoy his beach trip after all, regaling his dad with excited chatter all the way home.

Cotterill's charcoal and ink prints, especially in the second title, show a diverse range of people enjoying the beach and clearly depict the growing wave of sensory input that overwhelms the little boy, dimming his enthusiasm and leading him near a meltdown. The pictures in the first title are simpler, largely showing the main character against mostly plain white backgrounds, with a wide range of facial expressions as she reacts to the new sensations.

Verdict: These books appeal on a range of levels, not only to children with sensory processing issues or autism, but any child who's ever had a bad day or something that's just too much to handle. They offer a gentle story as well as a window and mirror for children to see themselves and others. Not only this, but there's help for parents and caregivers as well, suggesting ways to help children dealing with these issues or encouraging compassion when observing other caregivers dealing with meltdowns. A strong addition to any library or storytime collection.

Nope. Never. Not for me!
ISBN: 9780525553441

This beach is loud!
ISBN: 9780525553458

Published June 2019 by Dial Books; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 12, 2019

Awesome Achievers in Science; Awesome Achievers in Technology by Alan Katz, illustrated by Chris Judge

Alan Katz, best-known for his silly rhyming books like Take me out of the bathtub dives into an entirely new genre, nonfiction, but still retains his well-known silly humor.

Both were published simultaneously, in paperback, at the beginning of August. Science includes twelve scientists. Each is covered in a brief chapter on their achievements, influence, and inventions. Additional facts are sprinkled throughout the book, as well as jokes and humorous interjections, mostly at the end of chapters and in separate sections. There are also black and white sketches, mostly of the people included. There is no back matter, only a silly note from the author and a blank page for notes.

The people included in this book are Michael Collins (astronaut), Dr. Henry Heimlich (I believe there is some controversy about the use of the technique, but this was not mentioned), Dr. Patricia Bath (African-American opthalmologist who pioneered a technique for laser surgery on cataracts), George de Mestral (inventor of Velcro), Dr. James Jude (pioneer of CPR techniques), Katherine Blodgett (inventor of anti-glare glass coating, among many other things), Edwin Land who invented the Polaroid, Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Sally Ride, Dr. Roy J. Plunkett (inventor of Teflon), Dr. Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry (creators of Sticky Notes), and Dr. Hugh Herr (current researcher in bionic prostheses)

Awesome Achievers in Technology focuses on people who invented, improved, or made unique uses of technology. Like the Science volume, it starts with a brief introduction, profiles twelve people in two or three pages each, includes extra facts, jokes, and silly chat from the author after most chapters, and finishes with a humorous note from the author and a blank page for notes.

People included in this book are Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari and early computer games), Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus (creators of SIRI), Nils Bohlin (inventor of the seat belt), Roberta Williams (computer game developer who pioneered graphics and character development), Robert Adler (creator of the tv remote), Mary Anderson (inventor of windshield wipers), Martin Cooper (cell phones), Marie Van Brittan Brown (used existing technology to create personal camera security system), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (African-American pioneer in physics and fiber optics), Percy Spencer (microwaves), and Patsy Sherman (Scotchgard).

These brief vignettes don't go into any depth about the characters or their experiences; there's no reflection in the technology book, for example, about the continued issues of sexism and discrimination. Prejudice and historical sexism are mentioned casually, but not dealt with in any in-depth manner. The collection of people is varied with no really strong core holding them together. They also focus on the single, brilliant idea concept rather than the more realistic version where a group of people works together to come up with an invention.

So, these are not the books you'd use for research on the topics. Katz' humor is juvenile and, to an adult, rather annoying. However, these don't purport to be research books or thoroughly cover the subject. They're a nice introduction to some different people, many who are not well-known, and will certainly be new to children.

Verdict: This is the perfect new series to hand to Who Was fans. They whet the appetite with a brief introduction to the topic and kids can go on from there and learn more. A strong addition to biography and science collections, adding browsing materials for younger readers.

Awesome Achievers in Science
ISBN: 9780762463381

Awesome Achievers in Technology
ISBN: 9780762463367

Published August 2019 by Running Press; Galleys provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I will eat you by Giada Francia, illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi


Anyone who knows me, knows that my perennial complaint about books featuring animals is that they never accurately show food chains. Cute owls hanging out with their natural prey, sentimentalized pigs on farms that produce meat, etc. It drives me nuts! Kids can handle the natural life cycles of the world, it’s adults who have the problem with facts!

So this book, although the novelty aspect was a little problematic, was balm to my soul. The whole thing is basically things eating other things. The book opens vertically and you unfold the pages to show the food chains. The first spread gives a basic overview of food chains and then each page shows two creatures, one proclaiming “I will eat you!”. The pages fold out, showing an unexpected predator joining the mix. A big fish and little fish are joined by an even bigger fish, a mouse is ready to eat a beetle, but is being chased by a snake who in turn is followed by an owl. The sequences continue to the very last page, which has an array of every creature in the book and a label for each.

The back of the flaps add some lovely background to the following picture, and the stylized illustrations are attractive while still being identifiable. The pages are a sturdy paper, not as thick as a board book but stronger than the average page. This isn’t something I’d want to put in the general collection, due to the many folds, but I can see it working well in a special collection or one of my storytime kits.

Verdict: A unique and interesting book, useful for caregivers who want to teach about food chains or kids who are interested in nature.

ISBN: 9780823440313; This edition published 2018 by Holiday House; Borrowed via inter-library loan

Saturday, August 10, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer part 2

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Department meeting/summer wrap-up
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-o-rama
  • Wednesday
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve (3 sessions)
    • Drop-in We Explore activities
  • Thursday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Saturday
    • The Big Splash
    • Teen volunteer ice cream party
  • Worked 40 hours; 18 hours on desk; 3 programs
  • A couple hours doing collection development at home
Notes
  • Summer reading as such is done. People can still pick up their end of July prize (a free book) for pretty much the whole month. We're also doing a drawing for a quilt each week. But other than that, finished. If they really, really need to mark something off, they can grab one of our year-round reading programs.
  • At our meeting we discussed how things went, what we want to change next year, and what we'll be doing this fall. One thing I've noticed is that the middle schoolers are very sad that the program is over - we might continue it longer next year as it's very little work and, even if they pooh-pooh it, they really like getting a piece of candy or little prize. With only about 150 kids, it's doable.
  • This week's projects are making a list of the projects we're going to do this August and into fall. Also, some last-minute weeding so I can send orders before our cataloger is unavailable. Some of the things I already know we'll be doing - organizing 11 years of photographs, organizing flyers and marketing, lots of weeding and collection development, inventory (not sure how since I fried the scanner...), cleaning out the basement, updating program plans, adding new stealth activities, a couple grants... oh, and the cataloging. See, we're having a scaled-back fall because of all the cataloging, I have to keep reminding myself of that...

Friday, August 9, 2019

Nina Soni, former best friend by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky

I liked Sheth's young middle grade chapter book, The No-Dogs-Allowed-Rule, when I read it back in 2012 although I felt it had some flaws. She's since published some picture books, but I hadn't really followed her work much until I got a galley of her newest work, returning to the young middle grade audience, and this time starting a new series.

Nina Soni has a hard time keeping track of, well, everything. She tries to make lists, but with all the things going on in her life it's so hard to remember stuff! On top of all that, she starts the book with a disaster, accidentally ruining her best friend Jay's art project. Now he won't even talk to her! Nina has to figure out how to repair her friendship, help her mom get ready for her little sister's birthday party, fix her sister's hair disaster, and finish her personal narrative project in only a few days. Can she do it?

In the end, although Nina doesn't solve all her problems without help, she does work things out, repair her friendship, and help her sister have a memorable birthday party. She also discovers some things about herself and her family along the way.

Nina is Indian-American and her best friend Jay is part Indian, part Caucasian. Part of their issues stem from his family from Texas moving to Wisconsin and taking up more of his time with fishing, camping, and other outdoor sports. Nina worries a lot, as Jay tells her at the end, and her father being on a long business trip doesn't help. With her family pulling together, and Nina finally telling her friends and family her worries, things get much better though.

The issues I had with Sheth's earlier work aren't apparent here. Nina's Indian-American culture is smoothly woven into the narrative and the text is much smoother and less choppy, though still at an approachable reading level. The book is about 150 pages long, just right for fluent 2nd grade readers up through 4th grade. Peachtree sometimes has iffy covers for their chapter books, but this is a good choice, showing Nina on the cover with her mixed feelings clear in her face.

Verdict: Add to Claudia Mills' Franklin School Friends, Eleanor and Owen, and other realistic school and family fiction. This is especially attractive to me, since it's casually mentioned that it's set in Wisconsin!

ISBN: 9781682630570; Published October 2019 by Peachtree; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Binder of Doom: Brute-Cake by Troy Cummings

Long ago I read and reviewed the first book in the "Notebook of Doom" series, Rise of the balloon goons. Unlike some Branches series *cough* Owl Diaries *cough* where I was totally wrong that they would be popular, I knew right away that this one would fly off the shelf. This series has certainly followed through on its promise, producing book after book of mildly creepy, funny, and wacky monsters. The format and reading level have attracted readers of all ages - I even have middle schoolers who love to read it, as well as parents reading it with their kids!

Naturally, when I saw the series was set to continue, I had to pick up the first book in the new series. The story opens with Alexander Bopp, (black) hero of the Super Secret Monster Patrol, feeling down in the dumps. They've fought off all the monsters (well, except for the members of the patrol themselves...) and now his friends are busy for the summer and he feels lonely. His dad signs him up for a summer class at the library and there he starts encountering strange occurrences which lead him to discover... a whole new set of monsters! He starts a new binder and gets back with his friends, but will they be able to defeat the Brute-Cake?

I love that Alexander is still the leader, not the sidekick or the "friend" of the white kids. I love the positive image of the library - although I don't know of any libraries around here that offer "summer camp" type experiences where you can drop off your kids, there are many libraries that do this, so it's not unrealistic to include. The book is full of silly monsters, just the right amount of peril, and lots of black and white images. Of course, there are also the monster stat pages, goofy jokes, and clueless parents.

Verdict: Sure to fly off the shelves just like the Notebook, make sure you've got plenty of copies of the Binder - and maybe think about trying some of those library activities!

ISBN: 9781338314670; Published May 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium (all my copies are checked out!); Purchased two copies for the library

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Small Readers: Can you find pup? by Vincent X. Kirsch


Kirsch has a string of picture books dating back to 2008, many of which are out of print. Last year he published an easy reader for Holiday House's I Like to Read line, and it is certainly different from the average easy reader, although it appears to stay true to his quirky style.

Colorful, cartoon-like sketches show a young artist, named Tate, and his playful, rainbow-colored Pup. Tate draws everything around him, challenging readers to find and count the creatures he displays. Pup, meanwhile, juggles, stands on his head, and tries everything he can to attract Tate's attention, but to no avail. Finally, after Tate has drawn, and reader's have counted, flowers, birds, bugs, cats, clowns, and more, Tate notices what he's missing. Pup, complete with red clown-nose and bright pink bow and color, returns home, and Tate promises to always see and include him in his pictures.

Kirsch's quirky art style reminded me somewhat of retro, pen and ink drawings, but his rainbow-colored pup and ubiquitous cats are all his own. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about mixing seek-and-find elements into an easy reader, especially for younger children who are trying to decipher words, but it certainly adds a fun aspect and I think kids will be enthusiastic about it. They would also make really cool coloring pages...

This book series is an unusual size for easy readers, more of a picture book size, about 8x10. This particular title is a level D.

Verdict: I think this is too busy to be a really superlative early easy reader, but it's certainly an excellent mid-list title to fill in that important early level section.

ISBN: 9780823439409; Published 2018 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora

I tend to be a little, well, skeptical about award-winning books. They don't often, in my experience, make good read-alouds for my audience. So I had this one sitting on my shelf for a while and when I finally read it... it was awesome!

Bright collages, a mix of solid colors and patterns, introduce a cityscape and Omu, a comfortable-looking woman with a white head wrap and brown skin. She's mixing a "thick red stew" and the tasty smell drifts out the window. One by one, her neighbors knock on the door and she offers them a bowl. She feeds a hungry little boy with dark skin and hair, a white, female police officer, a big hot dog vendor with a beard, and so on. Finally, it's dinner time... but Omu's stew is gone! There's one more knock at the door and when she goes to tell them she has nothing to share, she finds the whole neighborhood who tasted her stew there to share with her!

An author's note explains that "Omu" is the Nigerian for queen, but for the author it meant her grandmother and this is the best grandmother, a wise, generous, and loving woman who spreads warmth throughout the neighborhood. But a touching story and child-friendly illustrations aren't enough to make a good read-aloud. Oge Mora's text combines with the art to make a delightful read-aloud with the perfect amount of repetition, a simple storyline, and a smooth rhythm that kids will love to listen to again and again.

Verdict: Truly an award-winning book, this is one that will be a storytime staple for years to come. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780316431248; Published October 2018 by Little, Brown, and Co; Purchased for the library

Monday, August 5, 2019

Luna: The science and stories of our moon by David Aguilar

I have never really been all that interested in space. There, I said it. Even though I don't bother much with themes, I did try to keep up a little with the summer's "Universe of Stories" theme though, and that meant reading more space books than I really wanted to! However, David Aguilar is always a good read, even for someone who's not into the subject.

His latest book is about the moon, and there's a lot more to this satellite than you might think. Aguilar opens with the familiar facts and stories associated with the moon and the moon landing, but then goes far back in time to the origin of the moon. Chunks of text are set against artist's conceptions and photographs of space as Aguilar leads readers through the evolution of the moon, both in myth and fact.

The book goes on to compare earth and the moon, compare earth's moon to other moons in the galaxy, talk about the early history of moon exploration, and how earth is affected by the moon. These facts are interspersed with legends, from werewolves to hoaxes of moon people. In addition to explaining eclipses and tides, Aguilar also offers suggestions for using a telescope to explore the moon, identifying various features and specific topography. The last section of the book is devoted to the first moon landing and continued exploration of the moon, as well as a prediction of the future of the moon (hint - it's explosive).

Back matter includes several experiments of varying complexity, an index, additional resources, credits, and a final illustration showing Jules Verne's 1865 imagined space voyage.

Verdict: I consider Aguilar's work to be a good basic foundation for space books. This newest offering on the moon is no exception and will be an excellent resource for kids writing reports or just interested in learning more about space.

ISBN: 9781426333224; Published June 2019 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Library Collections: Beginning Chapter Series


  When I began my current job, over eleven years ago, there was a paperback section of the juvenile fiction. Whatever works for other libraries is fine, but I have never liked the idea of collections based on physical format. It gets too close to "shelving books by size" out of convenience for the staff with no thought for how patrons look for things. Of course, there are reasons to do it - some people like paperbacks, some books only come in paperback, they can get lost on the shelf, etc. Still, I didn't like the current arrangement.
  Over the years, I've refined and shifted this section until it is now our beginning chapter section. It contains the bulk of popular, younger chapter series, although a few (Geronimo Stilton for example) are kept with the regular juvenile fiction and there are beginning chapter books among the juvenile fiction. So I never totally got away from the "arranged by format" thing.
  For the past few years, I've weeded and added to the collection each December/January, so we only had to relabel the shelves once. Earlier this year, I brainstormed with my staff a better method and we came up with tubs - I just used cheap plastic shoeboxes from Walmart - with tags stuck to them that can be removed and moved as needed. The top shelves of this range were kept with slotted shelves and hold the biggest collections - Scholastic Branches, Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Rainbow Magic, and My Weird School.
  Currently under discussion is the idea of moving the Who Was books to this section. Pros - kids ask for these as a series, they disappear on the shelf due to their size, schools no longer assign biography projects. Cons - nonfiction with a mostly fiction section (Blast Back, Magic Tree House nonfiction companions and My Weird School fast facts are already in this section), harder to find books when looking for specific people, biographies in different areas (although there are biographies in the easy readers and picture books...). Really the pivotal point is whether these are, first and foremost, nonfiction or a beginning chapter?
  As I just finished going through the series, I thought this was a good time to stop and assess what we currently have and what we are adding. I have a complete list of juvenile series on my series spreadsheet here, including which ones are complete and which are still being published. (checkout and owned numbers below are as of late July, so not representative of the school year)

Total collection size: 1,152 (approximately 100 titles on order or to be published this fall)

New series
  • Acorn books
  • Scholastic Branches: Binder of doom, Once upon a fairy tale, Diary of a pug, Unicorn diaries
  • Diary of an Ice Princess
  • Frankie Sparks
  • My Furry Foster Family
  • Kitty (Paula Harrison)
  • Seaside Sanctuary
  • Super Turbo
  • Winnie: The early years
Older series that are being republished/expanded
  • Cam Jansen
  • Horrible Harry
  • Jigsaw Jones
  • Milo and Jazz

Genres
Interestingly, mysteries used to be the biggest genre - you can see that most of our mysteries are older series. Funny series aren't the biggest collection, but they are among the highest circs. Fantasy is a large section, but primarily includes fairies, mermaids, etc. traditionally seen as "girl" books.

  • Mysteries
    • A to Z Mysteries: 29 owned, 13 checked out
    • [Sports] Ballpark Mysteries: 17 owned, 7 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Hilde cracks the case): 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Cam Jansen: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Doyle and Fossey: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Encyclopedia Brown: 16 owned, 2 checked out
    • Hardy Boys Clues: 9 owned, 1 checked out
    • Jigsaw Jones: 5 owned, 3 checked out
    • Milo and Jazz: 7 owned, 3 checked out
    • Museum mysteries: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • [Sports] MVP: 4 owned, 0 checked out
    • Rider Woofson: 9 owned, 3 checked out
  • Funny stories
    • Acorn books (multiple series): 8 owned, 6 checked out
    • Bad Guys: 20 owned, 19 checked out
    • Black Lagoon: 7 owned, 6 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Boris, Haggis and Tank, Kung Pow Chicken, Monkey and Me: 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Ninja Meerkats: 7 owned, 6 checked out
    • Super Turbo: New, on order
    • My Weird School (and all related series): 46 total owned, 36 checked out
  • Fantasy
    • Beast Quest: 21 owned, 11 checked out
    • Beasts of Olympus: 8 owned, 3 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Olive and Beatrix, Princess Pink, Dragon Masters, Last firehawk, Time Jumpers, Stella and the Night-Sprites): 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Diary of an Ice Princess: New, on order
    • Ella and Owen: 10 owned, 1 checked out
    • Fairy Animals of Misty Wood, Fairy Bell Sisters: 16 total owned, 6 checked out
    • Kitty (Paula Harrison): New, on order
    • Kitty's Magic: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Magic Tree House: 77 owned, 40 checked out
    • Mermaid Kingdom, Mermaid Mysteries, Mermaid Tales, Mermaids to the rescue: 34 total owned, 13 checked out
    • Rainbow Magic: 131 owned, 80 checked out
    • Rescue Princesses: 13 owned, 11 checked out
    • Tales of Sasha: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • Unicorn Academy, Unicorn Princesses: 12 total owned, 8 checked out
    • Wish fairy: 4 owned, 2 checked out
  • School, Friendship, and Every Day Life
    • Arnold and Louise: 2 owned, 0 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Owl Diaries, Silver Pony Ranch: 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Craftily ever after: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Frankie Sparks: New, on order
    • Heidi Heckelbeck: 24 owned, 7 checked out
    • Horrible Harry: 6 owned, 2 checked out
    • [Sports] Jake Maddox: 24 owned, 12 checked out
    • Junie B. Jones: 53 owned, 27 checked out
    • Lola Levine: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Owen and Eleanor: 3 owned, 1 checked out
    • Princess Posey: 15 owned, 1 checked out
    • Ready Freddy: 9 owned, 3 checked out
    • Roscoe Riley: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Sarai: 4 owned, 2 checked out
    • Sofia Martinez: 16 owned, 7 checked out
    • Sophie Mouse: 14 owned, 7 checked out
  • Animal stories
    • Animal Inn: 5 owned, 4 checked out
    • Critter Club: 18 owned, 11 checked out
    • Dog Diaries: 14 owned, 13 checked out
    • Dr. Kitty Cat: 18 owned, 9 checked out
    • My Furry Foster Family: New, on order
    • Horse Diaries: 4 owned, 3 checked out
    • Magic animal friends, Magic animals (Bentley): 36 total owned; 16 checked out
    • Puppy Place: 43 owned, 20 checked out
    • Seaside Sanctuary: New, on order
    • Secret rescuers: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Vet Volunteers: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • Winnie: The early years: New, on order
    • Zoey and Sassafras: 10 owned, 8 checked out
  • Adventure
    • Scholastic Branches (Press Start: 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Dino-Mike: 8 owned, 2 checked out
    • Disaster strikes: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Flat Stanley: 19 owned, 3 checked out
    • Race the wild: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • S.W.I.T.C.H.: 13 owned, 4 checked out
  • Scary/Ghosts/Monsters
    • Scholastic Branches (Boris, Haggis and Tank, Kung Pow Chicken, Eerie Elementary, Monkey and Me, Notebook of Doom, : 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol: 8 owned, 5 checked out
    • Haunted Library: 9 owned, 2 checked out
  • Nonfiction
    • Blast Back!: 16 owned, 3 checked out
    • Magic Tree House (nonfiction companions): 77 owned, 40 checked out
    • My Weird School (Fast Facts): 46 total owned, 36 checked out
Listed by Protagonist (non-white protagonists highlighted)
I only counted a book as having a non-white protagonist if they were the main protagonist (not a friend or sidekick) in at least one book in their series. It's interesting that there are almost no series with a boy-only group; the only two feature brothers. The series with a female main character have far more non-white protagonists than the series with male main characters. A lot of the animal characters skew male.
  • Collective (mixed gender)
    • A to Z Mysteries: 29 owned, 13 checked out
    • Ballpark Mysteries: 17 owned, 7 checked out
    • Black Lagoon: 7 owned, 6 checked out
    • Blast Back!: 16 owned, 3 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Time Jumpers): 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Craftily ever after: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Disaster strikes: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Doyle and Fossey: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Jake Maddox: 24 owned, 12 checked out
    • Magic Tree House: 77 owned, 40 checked out
    • Milo and Jazz: 7 owned, 3 checked out
    • Museum mysteries: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • MVP: 4 owned, 0 checked out
    • Owen and Eleanor: 3 owned, 1 checked out
    • Race the wild: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Vet Volunteers: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • My Weird School (and all related series): 46 total owned, 36 checked out
  • Collective (girls)
    • Scholastic Branches (Olive and Beatrix): 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Critter Club: 18 owned, 11 checked out
    • Fairy Bell Sisters
    • Mermaid Kingdom, Mermaid Mysteries, Mermaid Tales, Mermaids to the rescue: 34 total owned, 13 checked out
    • Rainbow Magic: 131 owned, 80 checked out
    • Rescue Princesses: 13 owned, 11 checked out
    • Unicorn Academy
  • Collective (boys)
    • Hardy Boys Clues: 9 owned, 1 checked out
    • S.W.I.T.C.H.: 13 owned, 4 checked out
  • Girl - main protagonist
    • Scholastic Branches (Princess Pink, Hilde Cracks the Case, Silver Pony Ranch, Stella and the Night Sprites): 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Cam Jansen: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Diary of an Ice Princess: New, on order
    • Frankie Sparks: New, on order
    • Heidi Heckelbeck: 24 owned, 7 checked out
    • Junie B. Jones: 53 owned, 27 checked out
    • Kitty's Magic: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Lola Levine: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Princess Posey: 15 owned, 1 checked out
    • Sarai: 4 owned, 2 checked out
    • Secret rescuers: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Sofia Martinez: 16 owned, 7 checked out
    • Winnie: The early years: New, on order
    • Wish fairy: 4 owned, 2 checked out
    • Zoey and Sassafras: 10 owned, 8 checked out
  • Boy - main protagonist
    • Beast Quest: 21 owned, 11 checked out
    • Beasts of Olympus: 8 owned, 3 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches (Dragon Masters, Eerie Elementary, Monkey Me, Notebook of Doom, : 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Dino-Mike: 8 owned, 2 checked out
    • Encyclopedia Brown: 16 owned, 2 checked out
    • Flat Stanley: 19 owned, 3 checked out
    • Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol: 8 owned, 5 checked out
    • Haunted Library: 9 owned, 2 checked out
    • Horrible Harry: 6 owned, 2 checked out
    • Jigsaw Jones: 5 owned, 3 checked out
    • Ready Freddy: 9 owned, 3 checked out
    • Roscoe Riley: 6 owned, 3 checked out
  • Animals
    • Acorn books: 8 owned, 6 checked out
    • Animal Inn: 5 owned, 4 checked out
    • Arnold and Louise: 2 owned, 0 checked out
    • Bad Guys: 20 owned, 19 checked out (male)
    • Scholastic Branches (Boris - male, Haggis and Tank - male, Kung Pow Chicken - male, Owl Diaries - female, Press Start - male, Last Firehawk - male, : 137 owned, 102 checked out
    • Dog Diaries: 14 owned, 13 checked out
    • Dr. Kitty Cat: 18 owned, 9 checked out
    • Ella and Owen: 10 owned, 1 checked out
    • Fairy Animals of Misty Wood
    • Horse Diaries: 4 owned, 3 checked out
    • Magic animal friends, Magic animals (Bentley): 36 total owned; 16 checked out
    • Ninja Meerkats: 7 owned, 6 checked out (male)
    • Puppy Place: 43 owned, 20 checked out
    • Rider Woofson: 9 owned, 3 checked out (male with negative female portrayal)
    • Sophie Mouse: 14 owned, 7 checked out
    • Tales of Sasha: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • Unicorn Princesses (female)
Reading Level
I've used Lexiles because that's what my school district uses. These are just approximations. Lexiles being what they are, most individual books in series have a different lexile and the range can be 100 or more. Even more so than "reading level" is, to my mind, number of words on a page and illustrations. Even if it's a low level, a lot of kids won't pick up a book that looks too dense. I've highlighted books that are heavily illustrated and have large, bold text.
  • 300-500
    • Acorn books: 8 owned, 6 checked out
    • Animal Inn: 5 owned, 4 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches: Boris, Eerie Elementary, Notebook of Doom
    • Critter Club: 18 owned, 11 checked out
    • Jigsaw Jones: 5 owned, 3 checked out
    • Junie B. Jones: 53 owned, 27 checked out
    • Magic Tree House
    • Milo and Jazz: 7 owned, 3 checked out
    • Princess Posey: 15 owned, 1 checked out
    • My Weird School
  • 500-600
    • A to Z Mysteries: 29 owned, 13 checked out
    • Arnold and Louise: 2 owned, 0 checked out
    • Bad Guys: 20 owned, 19 checked out
    • Black Lagoon: 7 owned, 6 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches: Owl Diaries, Press Start, Princess Pink, Dragon Masters, Hilde Cracks the Case
    • Craftily ever after: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Doyle and Fossey: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Ella and Owen: 10 owned, 1 checked out
    • Encyclopedia Brown: 16 owned, 2 checked out
    • Haunted Library: 9 owned, 2 checked out
    • Horrible Harry: 6 owned, 2 checked out
    • Mermaid Mysteries
    • Roscoe Riley: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Sofia Martinez: 16 owned, 7 checked out
    • Sophie Mouse: 14 owned, 7 checked out
    • Tales of Sasha: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • Wish fairy: 4 owned, 2 checked out
  • 600-700
    • Ballpark Mysteries: 17 owned, 7 checked out
    • Scholastic Branches: Last Firehawk, Time Jumpers
    • Cam Jansen: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Diary of an Ice Princess: New, on order
    • Dino-Mike: 8 owned, 2 checked out
    • Disaster strikes: 4 owned, 1 checked out
    • Dog Diaries: 14 owned, 13 checked out
    • Dr. Kitty Cat: 18 owned, 9 checked out
    • Fairy Animals of Misty Wood
    • Fairy Bell Sisters
    • Frankie Sparks: New, on order
    • Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol: 8 owned, 5 checked out
    • Heidi Heckelbeck: 24 owned, 7 checked out
    • Jake Maddox: 24 owned, 12 checked out
    • Kitty's Magic: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • Lola Levine: 6 owned, 0 checked out
    • Magic animal friends, Magic animals (Bentley): 36 total owned; 16 checked out
    • Mermaid Kingdom, Mermaid Tales
    • Museum mysteries: 6 owned, 4 checked out
    • MVP: 4 owned, 0 checked out
    • Owen and Eleanor: 3 owned, 1 checked out
    • Puppy Place: 43 owned, 20 checked out
    • Race the wild: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Rainbow Magic: 131 owned, 80 checked out
    • Ready Freddy: 9 owned, 3 checked out
    • Rescue Princesses: 13 owned, 11 checked out
    • Rider Woofson: 9 owned, 3 checked out
    • Sarai: 4 owned, 2 checked out
    • Seaside Sanctuary: New, on order
    • Secret rescuers: 6 owned, 3 checked out
    • Super Turbo: New, on order
    • Vet Volunteers: 15 owned, 9 checked out
    • Zoey and Sassafras: 10 owned, 8 checked out
  • 700-900
    • Beast Quest: 21 owned, 11 checked out
    • Beasts of Olympus: 8 owned, 3 checked out
    • Flat Stanley: 19 owned, 3 checked out
    • Hardy Boys Clues: 9 owned, 1 checked out
    • Horse Diaries: 4 owned, 3 checked out
    • Magic Tree House nonfiction companions
    • Mermaids to the rescue
    • Ninja Meerkats: 7 owned, 6 checked out
    • S.W.I.T.C.H.: 13 owned, 4 checked out
    • Unicorn Academy, Unicorn Princesses: 12 total owned, 8 checked out
    • My Weird School nonfiction companions
  • 900+
    • Blast Back!: 16 owned, 3 checked out
Conclusion
  I've built a pretty balanced collection overall. The current trends for humorous, heavily illustrated titles and unicorns are covered. Mysteries and animal stories will probably always generate steady circulation. I've found a couple series with religious themes (Eleanor and Owen, Winnie) but would be interested in others. The couple areas I would like to expand in are finding series with non-white boy protagonists, more series with Hispanic kids as these have shown to be popular, and as kids seem to struggle more and more in reading, I will surely need more lower level titles.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 8

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Zoey and Sassafras party
  • Wednesday
    • Library on the Go: Learning Curve
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40.5 hours; 20 hours on desk; 2 programs
Notes
  • Last week of summer reading. We still have plenty of stuff going on in August, but it's mostly drop-in and we're switching to a weekly raffle for reading next week.
  • Finished weeding the manga - where are all the book-ends? I'm going to go crazy because my book-ends keep disappearing! Looking at the young adult graphic novels next (and all the adult stuff that's gotten mixed in.) I think I'll put superheroes aside for later maybe. Next the ya nf.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

I'm generally suspicious of realistic fiction in middle grade, especially anything that's heavily blurbed as "heartwarming" or "lyrical" especially when it includes dead parents. I've found that only a few kids pick these up on their own; if a teacher reads it in class it will go (witness the sudden run I had on Kelly Yang's Front Desk when a teacher read it in class) but just on the shelf, no.

However, this was blurbed by Melissa Fox, who is a reader and bookseller I trust, and once I started the book I found it both mesmerizing and beautifully written.

Caterpillar and her younger brother Chicken (their nicknames come from her mother's series of children's books) have always been together. Cat is responsible for Chicken, who is on the spectrum, and sometimes she feels responsible for everything as they try to keep their family running after her father's death. She's anticipating a few weeks of relaxation when they go down south to spend time with her best friend, Indian-American Rishi. Then, at the last minute, the Krishnamurthys have to go to India to take care of their sick grandmother. Cat's mother makes a difficult decision and sends Cat and Chicken to stay with her parents in North Carolina, on an island, for three weeks while she teaches a class.

Cat starts to feel overwhelmed almost immediately. Why doesn't her mother get along with her parents? If she dislikes them so much, why is she willing to leave Chicken and Cat with them? She feels responsible for her brother, whose sensory difficulties and growing propensity for running away both feed her protective instincts but also make her long for independence. Her gruff grandfather is hard to understand - does he like her or not? She also comes up against culture clashes, moving from their home in San Francisco to rural North Caroline and prejudice against her brother and herself, who are biracial.

There are no perfect and happy endings, but a slow growing of understanding and sense of family. Cat gains the sense of self she longs for, finds more independence, and stands her ground, requiring the adults in her family to stop depending on her so much. Although all the misunderstandings aren't fixed, Cat's mom talks to her parents and they forge new bonds. Cat makes it clear that, while she loves her brother and will always take care of him, and that her grandparents do need to recognize his different needs and listen to her experience, she also wants more independence and a life of her own.

Dunn's debut is a worthy effort indeed. She blends her own experience growing up in California with a special needs sibling, living in North Carolina, and the feelings of being a preteen girl, yearning for more independence and yet still a child to create a pitch-perfect book. Her careful inclusion of what if feels like to experience prejudice and Cat's identity as biracial feel authentic to me - she references the different reactions of people, both well-meaning and otherwise, and things like Cat's different needs for her hair.

Verdict: Recommended as a serious but hopeful summer read for middle grade lovers of realistic fiction. Dunn's characters ring true and readers will have both mirrors and windows in this excellent debut.

ISBN: 9781681197432; Published April 2019 by Bloomsbury; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library