Monday, September 30, 2019

Now what? A math tale by Robie Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton

This simple story introduces basic problem-solving to the youngest of children and makes an excellent addition to block or math programs for little ones.

The story starts with a cute little puppy dragging a purple bag across the floor. They dump it out to reveal a small selection of classic wooden blocks. The puppy addresses a teddy bear while examining the blocks and identifies a rectangle - but it's too short to sleep on. The puppy continues to investigate the blocks, discovering more shapes by looking at their sides, and comparing them to the rectangle block to build a larger bed. Eventually, the puppy puts together rectangles, squares, and triangles to make a little bed. They curl up for a snooze, covered by a blanket and in company with the teddy bear.

The backgrounds are white, pastel blue, or yellow. The pictures are simple, including only the puppy, set of blocks, green blanket, and teddy. The teddy is not anthropomorphic; it's just a stuffed, old-fashioned teddy bear. The simple illustrations put the emphasis on the wooden blocks, which are photographs of classic blocks produced by Community Playthings, who are mentioned in the back.

This joins Harris' other math tale, Crash! Boom!, also illustrated by Chatterton, in explaining simple math and problem-solving to very young children. Read it before a block party, use it in a storytime on shapes, or with simple math programs for young children.

Verdict: A strong addition to both library and school collections, filling a gap in books for the youngest-readers and math-focused offerings.

ISBN: 9780763678289; Published May 2019 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by LT Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Saturday, September 28, 2019

This week at the library

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Girl Scouts
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books
    • Library on the Go: ELL night outreach
  • Wednesday
    • Open Storyroom
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 8 hours; 3 hours on desk
  • Tuesday - Friday off
  • I took the rest of the week off after Monday. I had intended to go to a workshop on Monday, but various things intervened and since one of my staff was already going I figured that was covered.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Save the Crash-Test Dummies by Jennifer Swanson, illustrated by TeMika Grooms

This is an interesting take on the history of cars from a safety point of view, but I felt that it missed a couple points.

The book begins by imagining a self-driving car and then introducing the crash-test dummies that helped make cars safer - with the supervision of humans of course. The basic introduction to a car shows the parts - engine, brake, tire, battery, etc. and then the parts that make it safe - crumple-zone, seat belts, mirrors, and airbags. It explains the function of a safety designer and how crash test dummies are used as well as showing the range (male, female, and children) that are the basic designs.

The main section of the book introduces the evolution of safety apparatus in cars; bumpers, seat belts, brakes, airbags, and mirrors. Swanson traces the history of cars from their beginning, when these things did not exist, to how they are used today. Along the way, she shows how crash-test dummies have evolved and are used. The final chapter focuses on self-driving or autonomous cars and looks at their safety records and the work still to be done.

Back matter was not included in this galley, but from the contents it will include notes, photo credits, and an index. There is a brief section on page 62-63 that discusses the "new members of the family" in adding to the crash-test dummies. This does briefly address that the "average" human dummy created in the 1980s, was based on a male at the time and overlooked women, the elderly, etc. However, it fails to address the pervasive and dangerous misogyny in safety tests around cars. There is data on this if you look for it, as well as a recent article here that covers it in a variety of industries, including car safety, voice-recognition, etc. The implication of the article is that now there are "female" dummies and heavier dummies of both genders, these issues are solved and they... are not.

Verdict: Despite the gap in addressing women, this is an interesting book that takes on a unique subject. It's full of bits of auto history and science, past and present, and is sure to intrigue your mechanically-minded readers.

ISBN: 9781682630228; Published October 2019 by Peachtree; Galley provided by publisher

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena

This has been getting a lot of buzz and rightly so - it's a joyous celebration of family, culture, and optimism for the future, even when families face changes. And, of course, motorcycles! The only drawback for me is that I'd love to see more books with Hispanic characters set in the Midwest, rather than the Southwest, but I'll take what I can get.

The main character, Daisy Ramona, has learned to love motorcycles through her Papi's own love. When he comes home, she grabs their helmets and they take a spin on his motorcycle through the neighborhood. They ride exuberantly past the small businesses, waving to neighbors and recognizing their favorite places. But as they go, they notice more and more businesses are closed, more and more changes are coming to their home. They ride past the construction sites where Daisy's Papi works, building new homes for other people, and finally return home; where they see that their neighbors have found new ways to adapt to their changing world.

An author's note talks about their own experiences with the changing landscape and the history of immigrants who have built the country and the workers who still labor to build houses and cities but are often forgotten. This is a poignant and timely reminder, not only showing a wonderful father-daughter relationship but in my own area of the Midwest, of the Hispanic communities that suffer prejudice and poverty with many people conveniently forgetting how much labor they have put into our history, and still continue to contribute.

Earth colors and soft but vibrant pinks, greens, and oranges cover the pages and Daisy zooms across the streets with her Papi in her purple unicorn helmet. The pages are sprinkled with Spanish words, tastes, and sounds and the reader is taken right into a wonderful community with a colorful past and a bright future, no matter what obstacles they may face.

Verdict: I don't often say this, but I do think this is one book that every library should have. Read it with children of recent immigrants to encourage them to feel pride in their parents' accomplishments and hope for their own future. Read it with children of not-so-recent immigrants to help them gain empathy for the struggles of others. For Hispanic children to feel pride in their communities and their heritage, for other children to honor that culture and trace their own families. And just for fun motorcycles and unicorn helmets! It is a longer story, best-suited to an elementary audience.

ISBN: 9780525553410; Published May 2019 by Kokila (new imprint from Penguin); Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Small Readers: Space Cows and Party Pigs by Eric Seltzer, illustrated by Tom Disbury

This light-hearted easy reader features a rhyming story about space cows! What are space cows? Just cows in space suits. They fly through the sky, dance, make funny sounds, and otherwise have fun in space.

There's not much storyline to this easy reader, but that's fine. It's a low-level reader, for kids who know a few words and can sound out more (yes, I am an unapologetic phonics proponent). The rhyming text "Space cows are big. Space cows are tiny./Most of them are happy...but this cow is whiny." will help kids decipher some of the more complex words. The font is bold, black on white or white on black backgrounds.

Lightly sketched pictures show oblong cows, mostly traditional black and white, with a few outliers in blue and green, floating around in orange, blue, and gray space suits. Space is mostly black sky and a sprinkling of stars with a few imaginary planets scattered around.

In Party Pigs, an equally boisterous group of animals, porcine rather than bovine, come on the scene. After waking up and eating a pancake breakfast, a family of pigs loads up their "big pig van" and sets out for a party. Pigs travel by boat and car and the party gets started! There's a slip 'n' slide, boating, and, of course, lots of tasty treats! Of course, being pigs, there's not just games and fun but also burping and napping. Finally, they jump so high on the trampoline they meet the space cows! Then it's time to clean up and say goodbye.

The main color scheme here is pink, naturally, but there's also a nice spread of green grass and blue water. The pigs are enthusiastic and clearly having fun, with amusing small details like the littlest pig in sunglasses and a pacifier, riding in the boat.

Verdict: Two solid choices to fill in your lower-level easy reader section.

Space cows
ISBN: 9781534428768; Published 2018 by Simon Spotlight; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Pig party
ISBN: 9781534428799; Published January 2019 by Simon Spotlight; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Just like my brother by Gianna Marino

A gap-toothed and knobbly-kneed giraffe calf is playing hide-and-seek with her older brother. As she gambols across the savannah, she asks various animals if they've seen her brother, and describes him. The animals are confused - she's looking for a tall giraffe, but she's tall! "Not as tall as my brother." Says the calf. Her brother is brave, but she's brave too. Is she really as brave has her brother? When a leopard shows up, the calf will show just how brave she can be... just like her big brother.

Marino's sweet, repetitive story and light-filled watercolors combine to create a delightful story that kids and caregivers will want to read over and over again. The gentle call and answer, "You are tall" "not as tall as my brother." encourages listeners to read along and the numerous little secrets in the art will repay multiple reads. In most of the spreads, it's easy to see the watchful big brother, guarding his little sister as she playfully searches for him, but a more careful look shows a possible danger - a furry, spotted leopard who's stalking the calf. Or is he? The various animals stand out sharply against the yellow grass and green-blue sky, luminous with light. Rollings waves of the hills hide various creatures behind curled ferns, grasses, and a plump baobab tree.

Verdict: A lovely addition to Marino's comforting, thoughtful work and a great book to add to your storytime rotation. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780425290606; Published April 2019 by Viking Children's Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 23, 2019

Now you know: What you eat by Valorie Fisher

The second book in the Now You Know series, written and illustrated in Fisher's trademark toy/photo style, is a fun, wandering journey through the origins of various foods.

Curious kids will delight in the carefully organized exploration. It begins with a picture index, listing all the foods explained in the book, and then a key to the organization. There are mathematical combinations that show which things come from something else (like milk and butter from a cow), plus and minus signs to indicate ingredients combined, and a picture key to check out more about different ingredients.

In the book itself, readers will learn what goes into an ice cream cone, the complexity of ingredients in a cookie, how maple syrup is made, and even simple items like an apple or popcorn have an interesting history to show. Kids are sure to recognize favorite foods like macaroni and cheese or chocolate as well as learning new facts about everyday items like eggs and honey.

The book ends with a picture showing a plate of five food groups and a reminder to make healthy food choices, a spread showing which vitamins and minerals are included in a variety of different foods, and two pages of a picture glossary defining terms such as bacteria, digest, and pollination.

I did find a few typos in the galley, but alerted the editor and assume these will be fixed in the final edition. A couple things seemed off to me, like the range of cheeses - there's plenty of goat and sheep cheese in the US, not just in Europe, but those are really minor quibbles. Fisher's illustrations are created with a vast array of tiny toys and she shows a nice diversity in the little dolls pictured. None of the items include meat, so caregivers can put off the discussion of where meat comes from for another time.

Verdict: A delightful and fascinating look at the origins of food for curious minds, from kids to grown-ups. This is a great pick for your classroom library or bookshelves at home and kids will love poring over its pages. It should spark many conversations about where food comes from - don't forget to let the kids try their own hand at cooking after reading it! Pair it with cookbooks on a display and it's sure to fly off the shelves. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781338215465; Published October 2019 by Scholastic; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, September 21, 2019

This week at the library

Happening this week:
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
    • Girl Scouts
    • D&D Gaming
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
    • Book Explosion: Realistic Graphic Novels
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
    • Wonderful Wednesday
    • Consortium youth services meeting
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: OPtions
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 40 hours; 13.5 hours on desk; 1 program
Projects and Notes
  • This week's projects
    • Collection development and weeding (easy readers)
    • Cataloging
    • Updating maker kits
    • Dealing with stuff. Where does all the stuff come from? I do not know.
  • Collection development notes
    • I put together a list of books relating to food for a summer school class last year. Some of the teens who worked with that class came back looking for the same titles to use in their child development classes.
    • Reader's advisory for reluctant/struggling readers, kids whose parents want them to move away from fantasy/comics/Dogman/Wimpy Kid, younger middle grade (Hardy Boys too scary), audiobooks for family listening.
    • Teacher request for sports books with very specific parameters - internet librarians to my rescue!
    • Owl Diaries, Nutmeg and Tumtum, Todd Strasser
    • Small child wanting "the whale book" that I read them at school (I'm the biggest thing in the ocean) I lent them my professional copy.
    • School request from 4th graders for Janet Tashjian's My life as a... and Branches Monkey and Me.
    • Need to go through teacher requests and fill in some classic picture books I am missing, if they are still in print.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades by Mike Cavallaro

Adventure, mythology, and war-weary unicorn veterans. For the right reader, this book will be an instant success - I only hope the promised sequels arrive in timely fashion!

The story opens with a mysterious figure paddling across the ocean in a giant pot. What are they searching for? Readers won't find out until later, as first they have to meet the characters of Vulcan's Celestial Supply Shop. Nico Bravo is an ordinary kid who likes to make marshmallow lasagna. Lulu is a sphinx and Buck is a veteran of the Unicorn Wars (Although nobody else has ever heard of them - or of any other unicorns.) The three of them run a shop in an odd corner of a hidden dimension where gods and other mythological and celestial beings come for their supplies.

Things are no more exciting than usual until the mysterious figure reappears and turns out to be a descendant of the great hero Beowulf. They're determined to prove their worth as a monster-slayer by slaying the terrible Hound of Hades. Nico is horrified - not only is Cerberus the only thing holding back the masses of undead in the underworld, its also a pretty decent dog. But Beowulf's descendant, Eowulf, doesn't care about any of that. On top of everything, Vulcan gives them the most amazing, magical sword he's ever made! Nico decides to set out, with just his wits, a magic backpack, and a few helpings of marshmallow lasagna, to try and stop Eowulf - and try to explain that just because something is a monster doesn't mean it needs to be killed.

Humor, peril, and adventure ensue. Buck and Lulu get caught up in their own crises, ranging from time travel to falling through dimensions. Some of Buck's mysterious history comes to light and readers will get to meet some really monstrous monsters. The book ends on a surprising cliffhanger, with hints of Nico's secret past while at the same time resolving Eowulf's plot line.

Cavallaro's art wasn't very familiar to me, but others may recognize him from his work on Jane Yolen's Foiled duology. His characters are short and stocky, with stick-like legs and arms and cartoon-wide eyes. As much of the action takes place in the underworld, there's plenty of opportunity for melting red and orange scenery, goo-dripping monsters, and piles of skeletons, but there's little to no actual gore and kids who are reading Bone, Amulet, and other fantasy adventures should have no problem with it.

Verdict: A funny, exciting, and interesting start to a new series. Hand this one to fans of Percy Jackson, Bone, Dream Jumpers, and other fantasy adventure verging on creepy stories.

ISBN: 9781626727519; Published April 2019 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The very impatient caterpillar by Ross Burach

Anyone who has ever met, however briefly, a toddler or preschooler will laugh hysterically as they recognize the combination of wild enthusiasm and complete lack of patience in this silly caterpillar.

The story opens with neon orange endpages and a series of white caterpillar outlines tromping across them. Then, we meet the caterpillars. Green with orange stripes and black dots, they are journeying up the tree. Our main character (with additional purple spots - you can't miss her) is thrilled to find out that they are going to meta, meta, er, change into butterflies. Next comes the chrysalis. But how does she build it? "Is it a spin? Or more of a twirl?"

Next comes patience.

Unfortunately, the caterpillar just isn't so good at the patience part! She quickly drives the other caterpillars nuts and there's a hilarious spread showing the caterpillar inside her chrysalis freaking out! Two weeks! "What if I need the bathroom?" She breaks free and flies! Or not. Back to the chrysalis. A curious squirrel looks blankly at the endless arguments coming from the wiggly chrysalis. Finally, the caterpillar manages to find her quiet place and she slowly fades into goo as she metamorphoses... and emerges as a butterfly!

Phew! All that patience paid off! Now it's time to migrate. Wait, WHAT??

Burach's bug-eyed bugs with wild spots, flashy wings, and vibrant colors explode across the page in a wildly wiggly story that teaches some simple facts of the caterpillar life cycle as well as the importance of patience!

Verdict: Funny, informative, and delightfully illustrated, enjoy bugging out with this buggy tale in storytimes and one on one. Don't forget lots of Muppet-arm flailing and yelling!

ISBN: 9781338289411; Published February 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Small Readers: Tip and Tucker: Road Trip by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Andre Ceolin

I was interested when I saw this coming out - Sue Gallion has done some fun things, but I was too busy at the time (also, I felt the publisher may have only seen my reviews and not my inappropriate hamster stories, which my previous staff are not around to curtail. Heh.)

Tucker and Tip are two hamsters. Tucker likes new things, Tip does not. When Mr. Lopez visits the pet sore, Rosa helps him choose a pet and he picks Tip and Tucker! What will their new home be like? Tip and Tucker speculate about their new home, which turns out to be something called a school. What will school be like? They'll find out tomorrow!

Sweet, friendly illustrations show two fuzzy hamsters, their pet store, and the busy classroom they are moved to, full of fun things to discover and explore. Mr. Lopez is light-skinned and wears glasses; he sprinkles some Spanish into his conversation. Rosa, the only person at the pet store, has darker skin and wears a red tunic with gold embroidery. There's not much plot in this set-up; presumably the two have lots of adventures ahead of them.

I appreciate that the publisher put a range of reading levels on the back - guided reading level (K), Lexile (270) and ATOS as well as word count. Publisher reading levels vary so much that it's very difficult for teachers, parents, and librarians to sort easy readers into reading levels. (for my thoughts on that, you can see this earlier post)

Verdict: A nice start for an easy reader series, with promises of Hispanic characters which I am looking for. I will be interested in seeing how the series continues.

ISBN: 9781534110069; Published 2019 by Sleeping Bear Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

I had intended to review this much earlier, before school started in fact, but life goes on and the book pile grows ever higher.

Derrick Barnes, author of the award-winning Crown: Ode to the fresh cut teams up with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, known for her joyful and colorful illustrations featuring black children, to show an enthusiastic little boy on his first day at kindergarten. A smiling sun looks in the window and a sleepy-eyed little boy with brown skin and messy black curls sits up on his quilt, surrounded by trucks, a stuffed lion, and a robot. "Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!" He brushes his teeth, gets dressed in "handpicked garments from the far-off villages of Osh and Kosh." After breakfast with Mommy and Daddy, and a last check of how much he's grown, he boards the school bus and sets off to school.

The King of Kindergarten joins a flood of diverse children and parents arriving at school. His teacher is black and smiles warmly at the children as "you recite your name with pride." The children are shown surrounded by a sea of numbers, letters, and more as the teacher talks about what they'll be learning and reads aloud to them. On the playground he makes new friends and they fight an imaginary, fire-breathing dragon together. The rest of the day is just as wonderful, with sharing at lunch time, a "royal rest" and a ride home on the bus, eager to tell parents how wonderful the day was.

This isn't, of course, a realistic look at what to expect in kindergarten. For one thing, there are only four children shown in his class. The average class in my small town is 18 at a minimum, usually closer to 20-odd children. I don't know of any full-day kindergartens that still allow the kids to nap (although they really should!) and most schools have strict rules against swapping lunches due to allergy and diet concerns. But, the point isn't to depict a realistic day in kindergarten - it's to celebrate a milestone for a child who's kind, enthusiastic and deeply loved by his family and community.

Verdict: A joyful celebration of a sweet little black boy and his confident step into new experiences. This is a great book for first day of kindergarten or preschool reading, and to encourage nervous kids on their first day of school.

ISBN: 9781524740740; Published July 2019 by Nancy Paulsen Books; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 16, 2019

Doggy Defenders: Dolley the fire dog, Tiger the police dog, Stella the search dog, Willow the therapy dog by Lisa M. Gerry, photographs by Lori Epstein

I am totally in love with this new series from National Geographic. Each book features a different working dog and, in simple language, explains what they do and how they are trained. The four titles I looked at featured dogs that work with the police, fire department, and as a therapy dog.

Dolley, a perky golden lab with adorable ears, works with the fire department to detect arson. Dolley works with Captain Herndon to detect accelerants at fire scenes. Readers will see how Dolley is trained and practices regularly, and how she can detect scents at an actual scene. She also works as an educator with kids to teach them about fire safety. When her work is done, Dolley gets carefully bathed and cared for, then gets to go home with Captain Herndon and hang out with her family of dogs and people. Back matter has a brief interview with Captain Herndon, introduces his other dogs and son, and talks about what Dolley likes to do to relax. A page of safety tips from Dolley gives simple ways that kids and their families can practice fire safety.

Tiger, a Belgian Malinois, is a police dog in Washington D. C. He works with his human partner, Aida Rodriguez, to sniff out "dangerous things." I'm guessing this means he primarily detects bombs, but probably drugs too. The book takes the reader through a typical day with Tiger. After getting ready for the day, the officer and Tiger ride to the police station in a K-9 unit. They get their assignments for the day, then check a Metro car and a school. Tiger works with another dog and then with a robot to check other areas. His busy day done, Tiger goes home with Rodriguez and plays a game of fetch. In the back matter Officer Rodriguez answers questions about Tiger and her work as a police officer, then there is a page of safety tips like looking both ways before crossing a street, not petting working dogs, and knowing how to call 911.

Stella, a bloodhound, works with the state police and Trooper Enzo Diaz as a search and rescue dog. Today, she starts out by training at the police station, then goes on patrol. She and Trooper Diaz get a call and it's off to the rescue, in a helicopter. SHE HAS DOGGY GOGGLES. The doggy goggles kill me. Stella takes off through the woods, searching for a missing hiker. And, incidentally, creating the most awesome photo of the book and possibly the series, as she leaps over a fallen log and all her saggy skin goes in different directions. Stella finds the missing hiker and gets lots of appreciation from him and the rest of the state troopers back at the station. The interview at the back talks about how Stella likes to hang out at home with Diaz, his wife, baby, and other dog, and some of her quirks as well as Diaz' own work as a police trooper. There are more safety tips at the back, although some of these are random, like not keeping secrets from your parents. There are some about not getting lost and what to do if you get lost though.

Willow, a rescued greyhound, is a therapy dog. Along with her owner and trainer Megan, she does something different every day. An older man, Jim, is shown helping get Willow ready for the day and then she's off to a hospital with a large group of therapy dogs, to visit patients and staff. Next, she and Megan visit a school, where she cuddles with the kids to help them relax. She visits a home for retired veterans, and finally a library where the kids read to her. Her day finally over, Willow relaxes with her family of greyhounds, Jim and Megan, then gets into a cozy pair of pajamas for bedtime. Megan answers questions about Willow at the back and then there is a page of tips on being a "good friend and neighbor" including volunteering, listening to and respecting others, and donating things you don't use any more.

Of these four books, Willow is probably the weakest title; I'm skeptical that they would do that many therapy appointments in one day and overall her training and life were not described very clearly. Some of the books, like Tiger's, went a bit overboard in trying not to get detailed about the dogs' work with crime. Stella probably has the best pictures! Overall, the whole series is awesome though. Lots of great photographs, clear, simple explanations of the dogs' work, and a diversity of trainers and people who work with them. The books are 8x8 and have large text and bold fonts. Although marketed as picture books, they would also work well as easy readers and because of their smaller size that's probably where I would place them. A fluent reader could easily follow the text with only a little help and kids are already familiar with the yellow spines of easy nonfiction by National Geographic in our library.

Verdict: A fun and informative new series; at least one new title is planned for next May, featuring a working farm dog, and I'm hoping for service dogs as well. The publisher's description suggests these to fans of the popular tv show Paw Patrol, but I think any kids who like dogs will be enthusiastic about these. Recommended.

Stella the search dog
ISBN: 9781426334504

Tiger the police dog
ISBN: 9781426332982

Dolley the fire dog
ISBN: 9781426333002

Willow the therapy dog
ISBN: 9781426334481

Published September 2019 by National Geographic Kids; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, September 14, 2019

This week at the library; or, Outreach begins

What's happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Books for Bedtime
    • Managers' Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • VIP Volunteers
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Open Storytime
  • Friday
  • Saturday
    • Day of Action (volunteers)
  • Worked 40 hours; 11 hours on desk; 12 programs
  • I said I was cutting back on outreach this fall. I lied. Projects this week:
    • Bills
    • Budget, staffing and other stuff for next year
    • Cataloging
    • Collection development - almost done with the neighborhoods, just two sub-categories left to update. Tub books done.
    • Painting the storyroom.
Collection Development Notes
  • 18 four year olds went into hysterical laughter when I read Higgins' Be Quiet!
  • Had a kid ask for Hades Speaks! I'm guessing as a result of the new read-alike bookmarks I put out by the Rick Riordan books.
  • Realized a key problem with doing a display about how books help you travel to other lands is the singular lack of juvenile fiction set in other lands...
  • Another obsessive reader tackling all the Who Was books and another request to put them all together.
  • 5th graders - Basketball fiction
  • Homeschool family wanted math overviews/simple math. I've never found anything that I really felt worked in that area.
  • I thought we had all the Avatar: The last airbender movies but apparently not.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Buried Lives: The enslaved people of George Washington's Mount Vernon by Carla Killough McClafferty

McClafferty has previously written a number of nonfiction titles for children, including several about George Washington. In her latest book, she proves that while history may not change, the parts of it we choose to commemorate and remember certainly do.

George Washington is a primary historical figure and his military campaigns, political work, and position as a symbol of American independence has been assured (except for the third graders that got him mixed up with Abraham Lincoln...) But what about the slaves he owned? McClafferty follows Washington's changing views on slavery with personal documents and his own changing fortunes.

However, Washington is not the primary focus. The primary focus of this book is the hidden people who served Washington personally, on his plantation, and in the Nation's capital. The lives of four enslaved people and one couple are told, their hidden pasts brought to light. William Lee was Washington's trusted servant and stayed at his side through the Revolutionary War. When he was injured after the war, he was set to work making shoes. He remained at Mt. Vernon after Washington's death, when he was freed. Christopher Sheels, one of Martha Washington's slaves, was prevented from gaining his freedom first by the Washingtons, then by his own choice when he returned to Mt. Vernon, and finally when his attempt to escape with his wife was discovered. Caroline Branham and Peter Hardiman labored for many years for the Washingtons, Branham as a seamstress and maid and Hardiman as a rented carpenter and stablehand. Accolades given to the Washingtons for their hospitality, their horse breeding, and their innovative introduction of mules could more accurately have been attributed to the couple who did most of hard labor of these projects. Ona Maria Judge and Hercules, after long service to the Washingtons and despite many attempts to bring them - and their children - back to slavery - escaped.

McClafferty retells the story of the Washingtons and their time period through the eyes of their slaves. When visitors praised the George Washington's estates, they rarely mentioned the slaves who labored on them. When they wrote of the beauty and luxury of Mt. Vernon, they didn't mention the cooks, maids, seamstresses, and other slaves on whose labor it was built. After following up on the little that is known about the rest of the lives of these men and women after Washington's death, McClafferty turns to the history of Mt. Vernon and how the restoration of Washington's estate finally acknowledged and commemorated the slaves who had lived, worked, and died there.

Verdict: McClafferty peels back the pages of history and reveals, in moving but objective prose, the lives of the slaves owned and used by George Washington. Readers can reflect on the gap between Washington's spoken views on slavery and his actions, as well as how history has long ignored the contributions of these and other people.

ISBN: 9780823436972; Published 2018 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, September 12, 2019

At The Heels of History: Filigree's Midnight Ride by Pam Berkman and Dorothy Hearst, illustrated by Claire Powell

Sometimes, I read books that are not to my personal taste. I know, I know, shocking but there it is. While I am not as dedicated as the redoubtable Ms. Yingling, who plows through anthropomorphic animal fantasy, sports books, and basically everything and anything she thinks her readers might like, I will occasionally pick up something that does not appeal to me personally at all but which I suspect might attract my readers.

This book is pretty much it - I like history but not historical fiction and I don't particularly like animal characters inserted into historical fiction. Especially talking animal characters. I was also set to be skeptical as to the accuracy of the story and the portrayal of Paul Revere.

As it turns out, I still don't like historical fiction, or talking animals in said historical fiction, but I will absolutely recommend this to kids who love that particular sub-genre.

The story begins with Filigree, a fluffy Pomeranian, trying to help a pack of Patriotic dogs. Unfortunately, they not only laugh at him, calling him "useless dormouse" but also hint that his loyalties may be divided, since he used to be "Pudding" the pet of a loyalist now gone back to England. Filigree is determined to aid the Patriot cause, despite the bullying and suspicions of the other dogs, the disinterest of the family cat Anvil, and the general disinterest of his new home, the Revere family. Only Frances, the Revere's young daughter who is still recovering from an illness, thinks Filigree can help, perhaps in part because she herself is often overlooked and forgotten as well.

With Frances and Filigree working together, Filigree proves his loyalty and usefulness and helps Paul Revere complete his vital midnight ride. There is plenty of suspense and danger, and the possible consequences to Revere are not overlooked. However, the story is fed through the eyes of Filigree, seeing the story from the viewpoint of a small, courageous dog. Filigree's assistance is realistic and small, part of the theme of the story is understanding that small things can have big effects.

The thing that tipped this over to "recommend" for me was the back matter. There is an author's note making it clear which parts of the story are historical record, which are theories of what might have happened, and which are fictional additions. There is another note about slavery and its presence in Massachusetts and during the American Revolution.

The book includes humorous cartoons, mostly of the animals in the story, and a list of acknowledgments. The text is large and there is plenty of white space, making this a good beginning chapter choice for kids not quite ready for Magic Treehouse, but interested in animals and history.

Verdict: Well-researched and carefully written to balance fact and fiction, this is a great start to a new series that is sure to get kids interested in history - and in reading.

ISBN: 9781534433335; Published August 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry; Review copy provided by publicist, Donated to the library

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Small Readers: I like my bike by AG Ferrari; I Dig by Joe Cepeda

These are two of the latest titles from Holiday House's I like to read imprint. It's difficult to find the very beginning pre-reader levels, and Holiday House is, as far as I know, the only publisher to supply them in hardcover book form rather than packs of little paperbacks like BOB books (although I do buy those too).

I like my bike was published in January. The kid on the cover has shoulder-length black hair, white skin with spots of color on their cheeks. Their helmet is decorated with a dash of yellow, their pants are blue, their shirt white with blue stripes. Tucked into the basket of their red bike is a small dog, ball, and what looks like a parcel with green ribbon.

The opening pages show the kid packing up their bike and setting out into the city. Each page shows a different vehicle, each driven by a different anthropomorphic animal or human, with the sentence "I like my..." A red car with a mouth in its front bumper driven by a long-nosed dog-like creature is the first. Through each fanciful vehicle, the kid on the bike is seen in the distance, riding steadily along. Sometimes they cram onto a packed three-level bus, zip across hills, or are dwarfed by a giant cheese-truck driven by a mouse. A last picture of the kid zooming on their bike, then they arrive at their destination - a party in the park. The pictures are simple sketches and the words even simpler, but the kooky creatures and vehicles will repay multiple readings and viewings since kids are sure to notice new details each time they visit the book.

I dig was published in May. It's the second book featuring Joe Cepeda's imaginative set of brothers. Brown-haired and with light brown skin, the smaller boy excitedly points out features of the beach, ending with a shovel. He sets out to dig, encountering shells, sea stars and their dog in his sandy tunnel. Finally, he re-emerges and the two watch the stars come out together on the beach. Simple but funny, Cepeda's thick, digital colors aren't my personal favorites, but they're a nice complement to the simple text and lightly humorous underground discoveries at the beach.

Verdict: Kids at the beginning of their reading journey need a wide range of titles and these fill a needed gap, even if they may not be "great literature". They're certainly a step above Dick and Jane and offer a fun variety of art styles and gentle humor. Add these to keep your collection balanced with plenty of fun, lower-level titles for beginners.

I like my bike
ISBN: 9780823440979

I Dig
ISBN: 9780823439751

Published 2019 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Crazy-Much Love by Joy Jordan-Lake, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

This is an ode to familial love, set in the context of an interracial adoption. The father is white, with red hair, the mother has light skin and black hair. Some reviews say she has olive skin, but I don't see it - the colors are very splashy and fluctuating though. As the parents prepare for their much-loved and expected child, adopted from an unnamed Asian country.

Their experiences parallel the expectation and birth of a child - preparing a nursery, the excitement of the big moment and the hurried rush, but they race off in a plane, not to the hospital, and collect their beloved child to return to a diverse, excited group of family and neighbors. They fall in love with their daughter from her first laugh to her first bath, and just like the bubbles spill across the room their love spills out of the house and follows her wherever she goes, learning to ride a tricycle, off to school, and cuddling together in an explosion of love and happiness.

Sanchez' illustrations are wild and colorful; lots of splashy reds and oranges, bubbling fountains of colored bubbles representing emotions, wide mouths laughing, and families jumping in joy and excitement. Children totter on plump legs and tiny feet, the little girl rides her bike through a forest of glowing leaves, and a friendly brown dog pops up on various pages.

The text is poetic, rather than following a plot-line. It reiterates the refrain of "crazy-much love" and includes lots of hyperbole, "forever and ever and far beyond that" and more.

Verdict: A beautiful book, full of the warmth of family and love. It's not something I'd pick for storytime; it's more of a parent-child book to read together, or a book to give as a gift. It's not unique - I have several books about adopting an Asian child - so if I was looking to fill a gap I'd be looking for books featuring foster kids, children with disabilities, or older children being adopted - but it is a very attractive story and parents wanting to reassure their children of how much they are loved and wanted will find this a charming read.

ISBN: 9781542043267; Published September 2019 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publicist; Donated to the library

Monday, September 9, 2019

Seashells: More than a home by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Stewart follows up the excellent Feathers with another fascinating look at something fairly common in nature: shells.

The first spread shows a diverse group of children looking at and drawing shells at the beach. Each following spread shows a different function of seashells. A nautilus can "rise and sink like a submarine." Seashells and their occupants pry things open, dig, bury themselves, open and close. Each spread is accompanied by further information, but also by a comparative picture. For example, the chiton can roll its shell into a ball and it is shown with a drawing of an armadillo doing the same thing to protect itself. Mussels are shown opening and closing along with a blonde child with open mouth and a dark-haired and skinned child with tightly closed eyelids. Additional information is included in paragraphs on each page as well as in the back matter. There is a guide to different kinds of seashells (gastropods, bivalves, etc.), notes from the author and illustrator, sources, and suggestions for continuing to explore.

Brannen's pastel illustrations, showing the sandy beach and above and below the water, are studded with a fascinating variety of shells and their occupants. More pictures are included in photo-framed panels, giving the book a scrapbook effect. Most pages include some part of a child investigating, even if just their hand or foot, and a variety of skin colors and races are shown.

Verdict: This is a book with a wide variety of uses. The larger, bold text can be read aloud in storytime, the longer text can be discussed with a class or one-on-one. The book encourages readers to explore seashells and their habitats and there are many extension activities that could be tied into the book. Aside from that, it's a fun book with interesting pictures and a nice flow of text. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580898102; Published April 2019 by Charlesbridge; Purchased for the library

Saturday, September 7, 2019

This week at the library; or, First week of fall

Playing the acorn game (I don't know why he only has one
squirrel ear!)
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Closed for holiday
  • Tuesday
    • Open Storyroom
    • VIP volunteers
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Saturday
  • Worked 32.5 hours; 7 hours on desk; 2 programs
  • 8 hours holiday
  • School resumed on Tuesday. Projects this week:
    • Rick Riordan read-alikes bookmark
    • August report
    • Summer report
    • Finished (mostly) weeding the juvenile favorites
    • Cataloging - ran into a weird problem that I am still trying to resolve
    • We suddenly got volunteers to paint the storyroom. Now have to arrange mudding the holes and cracks, priming, taping, etc.
Book thoughts and conversations
  • Had some interesting conversations with my book club kids about Forgotten Beasts. We talked about why we get rid of books (the current printing has typos) and then look at a lot of the pictures. I thought it was interesting that a lot of them refused to believe any of the creatures were real!
  • Coaxed a shy patron into taking The Okay Witch.
  • Most popular squirrel books were Nancy Rose's photographic picture books and Those Darn Squirrels.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Kelly Pousette

This is the first time I've read a chapter book by Dan Bar-El; I mostly think of him as a Canadian picture book author and he's done some quite cute things. This was sold to me as "quirky" which honestly made me doubtful at first, but I thought it might be a good fit for a small group of kids I have who are hard to fit as readers. Mostly homeschooled, they are generally fluent readers for their age group but are just generally younger in their interests - they like cozy stories, no monsters or scary stuff, but they want to read more challenging chapter books. Luckily, this turned out to be just the gentle, charming story they will enjoy.

Duane the polar bear travels to the Very, Very Far North in summer. There he finds a home and new friends, whom he names, including C. C. the owl, Handsome the musk ox, Magic the arctic fox, and eventually Major Puff the puffin and Twitch the hare. His experiences are episodic, each chapter representing a new story or quiet adventure.

C. C. the owl is Duane's first friend. She lives on a shipwreck and spends her time reading, conducting experiments, and thinking. However, she's always ready with suggestions and advice for Duane and he listens to her, both for her knowledge and to learn how to be a good friend. For example, Duane likes to give bear hugs, but C. C. doesn't like to be touched so Duane respects that.

As Duane interacts with his other friends, he learns things about them - and about himself. He learns to say no to Magic's enthusiasm when it's uncomfortable and dangerous, to pay attention to his friend Handsome's feelings and not just what he says. Duane also meets other friends that he sees more rarely, like Sun Girl and the Pack and, at the end of the book, the shy Boo.

Sweet black and white illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book, showing interesting characters who populate Duane's world, as well as a little of the amazing Arctic wonderland he lives in.

This isn't a fast-paced adventure tale or fantasy; it's exactly what the author calls it in the subtitle, "a story for gentle readers and listeners." It's got a nice episodic flow, making it a lovely bedtime story for calming down, gentle humor to entice readers, and a fun plethora of interesting words and ideas to draw in younger readers and listeners with a large vocabulary.

Verdict: This won't appeal to all kids, but to that certain group who like comforting stories without a lot of drama, action, or angst, it will be a favorite to return to again and again. Recommended for readers who like old-fashioned and gentle stories with a contemporary feeling like Kallie George's Heartwood Hotel or Anna Humphrey's Megabat.

ISBN: 9781534433410; Published September 2019 by Atheneum; Galley provided by publisher

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Slug Days by Sara Leach, illustrated by Rebecca Bender

As soon as she gets on the bus, Lauren knows it is going to be a slug day. "On slug days, I felt slow and slimy. Everybody yelled at me. I had no friends." Lauren's day goes from bad to worse as she tries to interact with the other kids and navigate her day, but ends up getting into fights, annoying people, losing her reading time, and just generally having a bad day.

Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder and sees the world differently. She has trouble reading social cues and doesn't do well when things change or aren't in the proper order. She works with her parents and teachers to make plans and adjust her behavior but some days are harder than other days. Happily, the next day is a butterfly day! Lauren gets enough stickers in her behavior book to get ice cream and her favorite part of getting ice cream is playing with the goopy bits in the trough. But this time her fingers get stuck.

The days continue, good and bad, with incidents at school, trying to interact (or not) with her baby sister, and working with her parents on Insectia, a crafted home for insects. Lauren goes to therapy and tries to apply what she learns with mixed results. In the end, she does manage to connect with her baby sister and even make a friend at school, although she still has slug days and butterfly days.

An author's note explains a little more about people with ASD and the author's experience as a teacher. Black and white illustrations show Lauren enthusiastically trying to navigate the world, having bad days and good days. This is a gentle introduction to kids who think differently, and while it includes suggestions it is not didactic. It would have been nice to have this written from the perspective of someone who is actually autistic, and not so clearly directed at non-autistic kids as an audience, but it's a good addition to a very small field of literature.

Verdict: Pair this with West Meadow Detectives for stories that include neurodiverse protagonists for young readers.

ISBN: 9781772780222; Published 2017 by Pajama Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Small Readers: Llamas by Laura Buller

Are llamas the new sloth? I hope so. Personally, I never got the appeal of sloths and I am realistic that not too many other people will ever recognize the sheer awesomeness that is hyenas. But llamas? They're furry! They have funny faces! Their ears are shaped like bananas! And now you can learn all about them!

A quick overview of llamas moves into their babies, crias, their habits, living in herds, and a few other facts. The second chapter talks about characteristics and history of llamas. They don't smell as bad as other animals, the stories about how they spit are exaggerated, and they are uniquely built to live in the mountains. A spread of facts on the llamas range in South America leads into the third chapter, about the llamas and their relationship with the Incas. The fourth chapter shows how they are used today as pack animals, providers of wool, and guardians of flocks. The final chapter and facts show their relationship to camels and other animals in the camelid family. The book ends with a quiz on llama facts, glossary, index, and a page on reading levels. The book is cheerfully illustrated with lots of cute, funny, and interesting photos of llamas.

With chapters and fairly complex text, even in a larger font, this is a pretty challenging beginning reader, one I'd probably hand to 2nd graders or very fluent 1st graders. However, with the growing number of kids in upper grades who struggle to read, I'm increasing my easy reader nonfiction selection and this will also appeal to those kids, since it doesn't look like a picture book and is about a fun topic.

Verdict: A good choice to fill out the upper level of your easy nonfiction. And, llamas!

ISBN: 9781465484284; Published 2019 by DK; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Carl and the meaning of life by Deborah Freedman

I have a series of art programs based on different authors, We Explore Art, and after reading this book I decided that we absolutely need a new one on Deborah Freedman!

The endpapers are a swathe of green hues, which shift to the washed purples and whites of the title page, showing a small worm peering up at the sky. Soft, watery colors introduce the various creatures of his world until we meet Carl, an earthworm, digging deep in the earth. The words run up and down, just as Carl digs up and down in the dirt, day after day. Until one day a mouse asks a question. "Why?"

Carl sets out to find the answer, asking each creature why they do what they do along the way. Each animal has a reason for what they do; to support their family, to hunt for food, to plant trees... but none know why Carl does what he does. As Carl travels farther and farther, he hardly notices the changes in the earth around him as it grows dry and barren. The animals begin to leave and soon there is no one left to ask "why?" It's only then that Carl finds the answer to his question and returns to his purpose. His "why" is to support all the other animals, keeping the earth rich and fertile, allowing the seeds to grow, the animals to thrive, and each of them to fulfill their purpose.

A final author's note reflects on the importance of connections and asks readers how they help the earth that Carl and his friends live on and in.

Freedman's watercolors are soft and, well, watery. But they're still beautiful, catching the soft greens of the earth and the spreading dry browns after Carl sets out on his journey. Shades of color and tiny details, like leaves mixed into the soil, a tiny spider's web, and a collection of nuts, dot the pages, rewarding close readers with little surprises throughout the story.

Verdict: This reflective story will appeal to preschool and up; pair it with a storytime on worms, compost, or gardening and encourage them all to think of the little ways they can help the earth around them and to marvel at the many ways that the creatures on earth work together.

ISBN: 9780451474988; Published April 2019 by Viking; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 2, 2019

Firefighters' Handbook by Meghan McCarthy

There's a lot of interest in firefighters and their equipment and our schools usually have units on community helpers which include firefighters, so I'm always happy to add more to this section. Even more so when the book takes a unique approach, as does McCarthy.

McCarthy speaks directly to the reader as a potential firefighting cadet and starts out with the exercises needed to pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test. A diverse group of genders and races are shown practicing for the tests, including children. Once they've passed the test and interviewed, they learn all about the equipment, trucks, and different kind of firefighting. They will be trained in rescuing people, fighting fires, and as a paramedic. Having graduated from the fire academy and been assigned to a station, firefighters must get along with their coworkers on long shifts, do chores, and keep the equipment ready to go just in case there's a fire.

McCarthy's cheerful illustrations, showing pop-eyed cartoon figures, present a cheerful but realistic pictures of firefighters training, working, and living together. There are no victims or destruction pictured, making the book appropriate for young children, although perhaps a little unrealistic. The fire chief, modeled on a retired fire chief who is interviewed in the back, is an older white male. The book doesn't address rural or volunteer fire departments, but that's a more complex subject and probably outside the scope of the book.

Verdict: This is a nice introduction to the training and work of firefighters; it will definitely attract readers who dream of being a firefighter one day and emphasizes exercising, getting along, and practicing as part of preparation for a firefighter's career. An excellent addition to your community helpers sections.

ISBN: 9781534417335; Published September 2019 by Simon & Schuster; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Sunday, September 1, 2019

RA RA Read: Back to school books

I have a number of teachers, primarily in 3rd-5th grade, who ask me to select picture books for their classes to read as they go back to school. The choices I've collected here are mostly outside the "usual" picks for back to school and more than what can be found by using the library catalog and searching for the keyword "school." Yes, I am feeling a little sarcastic this week. Also, if this seems late to post this, just be aware that our schools go back after Labor Day.

  • What if by Samantha Berger
  • When you are brave by Pat Miller
  • I got next by Daria Peoples-Riley
  • I have an idea by Herve Tullet
  • Because by Mo Willems
  • Day you begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Tolerance, Cooperation, and Kindness

  • Little guys by Vera Brosgol
  • You are never alone by Elin Kelsey
  • My two blankets by Irena Kobald
  • Bear came along by T. Morris
  • I'm new here; Someone new by Anne Sibley O'Brien
  • All are welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • My footprints by Bao Phi
Joy of learning
  • I'm trying to love math by Beverly Barton
  • Small world by Ishta Mercurio
  • Count on me by Miguel Tanco
Funny back to school books
  • Truth about my unbelievable summer; Truth about my unbelievable school by Davide Cali
  • We don't eat our classmates by Ryan Higgins
  • Pterodactyl show and tell by Thad Krasnesky