Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Left Hand, Right Hand by Dori Elys, illustrated by Ekaterina Trukhan

 I've relaxed a lot about board books with moving parts over the years - I try to balance the cost with the fact that they'll probably disintegrate after only a handful of uses. However, I still have a hard time convincing myself to buy "touchy-feely" books, especially if they are likely to get dirty quickly. Small children are gross, I'm just gonna lay it out there.

That being said, this is a touchy-feely book that I can't help but recommend because it's very, very cleverly done. As seen on the cover, there are two options for touching - one for the left hand, one for the right. The cover is a kind of flocked yarn and pink fur, both of which I predict are going to be very nasty, very soon...

The book itself has a different texture on each page, inviting readers to touch them with the appropriate hand "Left hand smooth./Right hand bumpy." The bear and dog from the cover cavort through the pages exhibiting a smooth, shiny bucket, lightly raised circles, a sort of thin carpet which is labeled "furry" and a pathway to trace with a finger for "jumpy." There is also rough, soft, crinkle, and squash and the book ends with inviting children to touch with both hands an array of glittery stars.

Verdict: This is a fun way to help very young children practice left and right and although some of the textures are a bit odd, the cheerful pictures are cute and the book is likely to popular for the short time that it lasts. It's under $10, not too much more expensive than your average board book, and would be a good addition to most collections.

ISBN: 9781665953023; Published June 2024 by Little Simon; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 22, 2024

Dribble Trip Up by Daniel Mauleon, illustrated by Ceej Rowland

 I usually make several orders from individual publishers each year, usually Capstone and Lerner. This year, I ordered a lot of different transitional chapters/early comics from Capstone to try out a number of different series. This title is part of the Slam Dunk Graphics series. Like the other series I tried out, the book's format is that of an easy reader, in a 9x6 rectangle, and includes typical material for Capstone, from a guide to reading comics at the beginning to discussion questions and a brief author/illustrator bio at the end.

The story features Miguel, the brown-skinned, blue-haired boy on the cover, who loves to play basketball but struggles with his dribbling skills. He's helped to overcome his fear and practice to get better by his best friend Scott, a Black boy, and their coach, Carmen, a woman with light brown skin and curly brown hair. The team includes children of different genders and skin colors, but they all have the same skinny body shape and no visible disabilities.

The illustrations show lots of action and movement and yellow-boxed text narrates the action, in addition to the speech bubbles, which is a big help for beginning readers. The text is short and simple and the story moves quickly.

Verdict: If, like me, you are interested in building a transitional chapters collection and have a lot of lower level readers who want comics and need shorter, simpler reads, this is a strong addition to the library collection, especially with the sports theme which can be hard to find at this level.

ISBN: 9781484680421; Published August 2023 by Capstone; Purchased for the library

Sunday, July 21, 2024

This week at the library; Summer week 7

I am unclear on how a 
program on "mini machines"
turned into "not so mini

  • Family Storytime: Snails
  • STEM Challenge: Mini machines
  • Family Storytime: Snails
  • Candlemaking
  • Storywagon: Fox & Branch
Self-directed events etc.
  • SRP kit: Fabric patch OR wooden cut-out
  • Patriotic scavenger hunt
  • Lego Day
  • Fall program planning meeting
  • Oof. This summer is getting rough. Folks out sick, continued drama with trying to get grant programs working. The kids are having fun, but the staff are exhausted!

Friday, July 19, 2024

Everything you know about sharks is wrong! by Dr. Nick Crumpton, illustrated by Gavin Scott

 I was fascinated by the first book in this series, Everything you know about dinosaurs is wrong, and very excited to see the next book in the series, featuring sharks. However, while sharks are also a popular topic and I don't regret purchasing this for my picture book collection, as a reader it was a little disappointing.

It follows the same format, a single spread with a large statement above and several paragraphs explaining why this is inaccurate below, placed against the background of images of sharks and underwater scenes. Although I chose to put these books in my picture book section, they're not read-alouds due to the length of the text and I found it hard to decipher the light font against the colored backgrounds. Statements that are refuted include "There's no point to sharks," Sharks only live in tropical oceans," and "Sharks all look the same."

There are two typos, one on page 19 "No matter how you look at it, share are, unfortunately, are risk..." and page 36 "In the winter...begin growing a new, clean set for trapping for prey in the new year."

While there are familiar myths, like sharks being dangerous or attacking humans, which are shown to be wrong, I feel that a lot of the "misconceptions" about sharks that are featured just... don't really exist. While it's true that a lot of kids, and adults, may not realize there are different kinds of sharks or know about some of their unique features, it's not the same thing as dinosaurs, where there is a lot of specific information that has been proved wrong due to continuing scientific research. I think that the information was pushed into the format, rather than the format following naturally from the information.

Verdict: While I didn't find this book to be as much of a stand-out choice as the Dinosaur title, it's still going to be a popular addition to most libraries, juvenile or picture book collections, especially since it can be used as a collection of information about sharks, not just busting myths. I've purchased a copy for our collection and will be making a storytime kit about sharks that includes this title as well.

ISBN: 9798887770659; Published May 2024 by Nosy Crow; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by the publisher and donated to the library

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

One long line: Marching caterpillars and the scientists who followed them by Loree Griffin Burns, illustrated by Jamie Green

 I fell in love with the layout of this book as much as the content. It's the first book in a planned series, "Discovery Chronicles" from mit Kids Press and it's formatted like a slightly oversized chapter book but with just under 60 pages. The text is broken up by simple green-gray illustrations and follows the experiments of Jean-Henri Fabre and Terrence Fitzgerald.

Fabre, a well-known entomologist of the late 1800s, briefly performed some simple experiments and observed pine processionals, a type of caterpillar who march in long lines. His conclusions were reviewed approximately 70 years later by Terrence Fitzgerald who began studying insects and specialized in tent caterpillars, leading to an interest in processionaries as well. His experiments disproved some of Fabre's conclusions but also expanded scientific knowledge of these insects. The book is as much about the method of experimenting and asking questions (there is a warning before the sacrifice of some caterpillars to the experiment) as it is about the specific knowledge of these insects.

This book strikes a nice note between readers who don't want to pick up a book that looks like a picture book but are equally reluctant to tackle a full-length chapter book. Burns writes clearly and simply, creating an interesting narrative that kids with an interest in insects and science will be happy to follow.

Verdict: A strong start to a new series, this should fill a gap for nonfiction readers and be a strong selection for most libraries.

ISBN: 9781536228687; Published May 2024 by mit Kids Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to library order list

Monday, July 15, 2024

Bat, Cat & Rat: Vacation by Ame Dyckman and Mark Teague

 This new series is a mix of folktale tropes and has the classic feel of a Cynthia Rylant story. In their first adventure, we met three friends, Bat, Cat, and Rat and in this adventure the three are planning the perfect vacation.

The three roommates would like to go on a vacation, but they have no money. They all work hard to save up... well, Bat and Cat do. Rat, not so much. When they finally fill their savings jar, it's time to decide where they're going to go. But they all have very different destinations in mind - outer space, a spa, and a buffet! It's Rat who comes to the rescue, resolving their bickering with some clever shopping.

Teague's illustrations capture the classic flavor of the odd couple (or throuple) trope with three furry creatures that are much of a size and retain both their animal features and individual personalities along with a big dose of cartoon humor.

The short sentences, arranged in small clumps on each page, made me think at first this would be more in the easy reader section, but although there's not a significant amount of text, the vocabulary is more complex and the font is smaller than a typical leveled easy reader. The book is categorized by most outlets as a "picture book" but its 9x6 rectangular shape is more typical for an easy reader. So - transitional chapter. I don't know that most people will recognize the folktale aspects, but there are a lot of older tales that have three disparate animals living together. Of course, most of those end with one or more of the animals eaten!

Verdict: Fans of Cynthia Rylant are likely to enjoy this. It has a quiet humor and the comforting feel of an old friend that I associate with classic easy readers. A strong addition if you have fluent beginning readers who like gentle stories.

ISBN: 9781665930444; Published May 2024 by Beach Lane Books; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library (first book in the series purchased).

Sunday, July 14, 2024

This week at the library: Summer week 6


  • Family Storytime: Bananas (adaptive devices)
  • Pokemon Club
  • Family Storytime: Bananas (adaptive devices)
  • Sewing workshop: Upcycled clothes
  • Storywagon: Mad Science
  • Little Miss Ann
Self-directed events etc.
  • SRP kit: Heart Spinner OR Bug Block
  • Patriotic scavenger hunt
  • Lego Day
  • Open Storyroom
  • Managers' Meeting
  • Library Board meeting
  • What happened to our nice, peaceful summer? We had a last-minute opportunity to be involved in a huge grant, I'm still trying to get us signed up for a smaller grant that switched providers, it's hot, people are tired and stressed, we're low-staffed due to folks out on vacation, and I'm working on planning for next year. Also we found a dead mouse. So yeah, that explains it.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Insectorama: The marvelous world of insects by Lisa Voisard, translated by Jeffrey K. Butt

 This is an example of the fact that sometimes you don't know what you want! I requested a book on insects from Publisher's Spotlight, which promotes books from small publishers (you'll be hearing about that one later) and received a bonus book I did not request - but it turned out to be an awesome book that I can't wait to share with my young readers!

A simple explanation of insects opens the book with short paragraphs set against plain backgrounds covering the different orders of insects, their general habits and history, and their anatomy. The bulk of the book is composed of "portraits" of insects, divided up by their general habitat from towns and cities to wetlands and forests and ending with a some insects from around the world. Each portrait includes a large, geometrical illustration of the insect in the wild and a series of informational sections punctuated with smaller pictures. Metamorphosis, geography, and general behavior are all noted and makes this rather like an illustrated guidebook, although the pictures are much simpler than photos. I especially noticed that when there was sexual dimorphism present in the insects the identification pictures did not automatically revert to the male insect, as birding books tend to do. The book ends with a section, attractively illustrated, giving advice on watching and studying insects and more information on their migration patterns and other information.

This is noted as the North American edition of the book and I noticed only one minor error in the insect portraits, on page 88 with the praying mantis. This is identified as the "European" praying mantis within the text, and on page 90 it is noted to be invasive in North America. However, while the European and Chinese mantises are considered invasive, there is a native mantis, the Carolina mantis, which is abundant. I would have highlighted this one instead, especially since labeling the section "praying mantis" instead of "European mantis" implies that North America has no native mantises.

Verdict: This is a fun book for browsing and learning about insects and also a great guide for kids interested in studying or observing the common bugs and insects they see in their homes and yards. A strong purchase for most libraries, it has a nice diversity of insects seen across North America and the simple, infographic-style illustrations are easy for young children to understand.

ISBN: 9783039640164; Published March 2024 by Helvetiq; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Bite by Bite: American History through feasts, foods, and side dishes by Marc Aronson and Paul Freedman

 This is a fascinating combination of history and food, not at all what I was expecting when I requested it, but a good surprise when I started reading it!

The introduction gives us the first hint that this isn't your typical "who invented doughnuts and pizza" book. It explains how readers will be learning not just about food, but about our history, going back even before the first colonists arrived.

The first section covers two of the earliest foods in the Americas and their cultural significance - salmon and corn. Interviews with academics, First Nations peoples, and an amazing amount of information about science, traditions and cultures is included. Each chapter ends with a "side dish" note with extra stories, in this case regarding huckleberries and nachos. The next section is the largest covering a long period of enslavement and immigration. The authors explore the foods of New Orleans, the history of fish fries, the changing attitudes towards English food from the early colonists to American independence, and includes sections of fads and fashions in nutrition, the social and cultural significance of Italian food, and more. The last section discusses the origin of franchises and fast food restaurants, a quick look at the history of Chinese American food, and on to more contemporary movements towards vegetarianism, farmer's markets, and equitable access to healthy food.

There is a lengthy afterword, explaining how the authors and their contributors worked together to create the different chapters, encompassing as they do such a wide range of history and culture. There is one typo on page 49 (the last sentence in the first paragraph should have the word "seem" instead of "seems"). There are also black and white illustrations included throughout the book, showing images of food preparation, festivals, and meals. It's an amazing amount of information crammed into just 125 pages, not counting the citations and index, and there are naturally some sections that feel a little hurried. The chapter on Chinese-American foods especially felt somewhat lacking to me, but I also just finished reading Grace Lin's Chinese Menu and Sarah Soonling Blackburn's Exclusion and the Chinese American Story, so I had a lot more contextual information in my head.

Verdict: This book goes far beyond the traditional "how to make hasty pudding" children's history books. It's a great reference for teachers and homeschooling parents in building study units around different periods in history and different types of food, but it's also a quick and engaging read for tweens interested in history and food.

ISBN: 9781665935500; Published May 2024 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 8, 2024

The party diaries: Awesome orange birthday by Mitali Banerjee Ruths, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

 The most popular Branches series tend to be the humorous and fantasy ones, but some of the recent realistic fiction ones have solid circulation.

The first "Party Diaries" introduces Priya, an Indian-American girl who is interested in helping animals, especially cute Quokkas, and loves to plan parties. When her mom's friend, Layla Aunty, asks her to plan a party, Priya is excited at the opportunity to earn some money to help the animals. But planning a party turns out to be a lot of work and several things go wrong. Fortunately, she has her friends and family to help and puts on a very successful, orange-themed party. The book ends with some crafts, discussion questions, and a note from the author and illustrator.

There are plenty of grade-school girls who like to make crafts, are interested in helping animals, and would love to plan parties. Whether it's their own preference or stereotypical expectations, there are few boys who are willing to read these slice of life, realistic stories though.

Verdict: There are several books in this series already and it circulates fairly regularly although not as much as some of the more popular series like Dragon Masters. A strong addition to most library collections.

ISBN: 9781338799613; Published January 2023 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Sunday, July 7, 2024

This week at the library; Summer week 5

Someone donated some cool
playhouses for the play area. 
Lots of folks in to hang out and play
this week.

Self-directed events etc.

  • SRP kit - pompom creature OR fleece pillow
  • patriotic scavenger hunt
  • Lego Day
  • Open Storyroom
  • This is our turnover week; there's no summer school, we take a short program break, and maybe take a few days off work around the holiday. We started handing out free books - this year I changed it to people being able to ask for a free book at the end of each month, but, as I explained to one mom, it's a prize for those who read all the instructions, I'm not going to push it or remind people (otherwise I will quickly run out of books).
  • I was only at work Mon-Tues but got my monthly report written, transferred all the youth services calendar events through 2025 into the new software (long story), but did not get the June new book spotlight written. I'll do it next week.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Let's build a dam by Daniel Fehr, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio

 This came out at the same time as the humorous There's a cow in my bed but with a different illustrator and publisher. It did require me to let go of my adult viewpoint, since all I could think of was first - you're going to attract cottonmouths (we accidentally did that when I was a kid in Texas and we built a dam in a creek) and second - you really shouldn't move rocks around in the water, it disturbs the wildlife.

However! Putting on my hat of childlike wonder, as well as artistic appreciation, I greatly enjoyed this story. Two girls, one barefoot and one with yellow boots, haul unrealistically giant rocks into a small river to create a dam. They're watched by their little brother, a blonde-haired child with a stubborn expression, who adds a big green stone the size of his head.

The girls continue expanding their dam, but Noah is more interested in watching what's going on in the resultant growing lake, including the far-off shape of a water monster and the arrival of a fishing boat. The layout of the art looks like a theater stage, framed by trees to the side, golden hills at the back, and the text underneath. The next movement in the stage is the arrival of a large sailing ship, complete with bewigged king. The king's men are required to help with building the growing dam, until they are interrupted by pirates. There's no time for battles though, as May and Lily firmly collect the pirates to help in the building process. Just when things are getting really interesting, Noah decides he wants his green stone back...

A rush of water flushes away the fruits of their imagination and the three show up at home looking sheepish and definitely bedraggled, to be tucked up on the couch and given hot chocolate. The illustrator's beautiful art shimmers with sun and water, the children and other people looking like collage cuttings posted on top of the theater-style background.

Verdict: A unique, funny, and beautiful book incorporating outdoor play, imagination, and friendly sibling cooperation. This should be a fun read for slightly older listeners are storytime. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780735845015; Published May 2023 by North South; Added to library order list

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Your Pets' Secret Lives by Eleanor Spicer Rice, illustrated by Rob Wilson

 This is the second book in mit Kids Press' "Your Hidden Life" series. I really enjoyed the first book, Unseen Jungle, and it has checked out 7 times since I added it in 2023, which is very good, especially for a longer nonfiction book!

I think this title will be even more popular, seeing as it deals with the perennially popular topic of animals. It's divided into sections that explore dogs, cats, birds, fish, rodents, and reptiles. Each section includes 5-6 chapters and covers subjects like the memory of goldfish, the instincts of gerbils, predators of tarantulas, dangers of worms for dogs, and the effect of catnip on cats. The sections also include interviews with scientists and pet psychologists, focusing on how kids can better understand and care for their pets.

Colorful cartoons dot the pages and the Rice's brisk prose is casual and humorous, including asides to the readers and jokes as well as lots of interesting information. The book goes beyond the usual "how to care for your pet" and "what your dog's tail wags mean" to discuss the habits of parrots and how they are part of the ecosystem, the devastation caused by releasing exotic pets into the wild, and the mating habits of mice.

Verdict: Interesting, funny, and full of new and unique bits of information, this is sure to be a hit for your animal-loving readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781536226478; Published May 2024 by mit Kids Press; Added to library order list