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