Sunday, October 21, 2018

RA RA Read: Scary Stories from Beginning to End

Interest in scary stories waxes and wanes, but it's always there. Over the past years I've gotten more and more requests for scary stories for younger listeners and readers, which is always tricky. "Scary" is very individual too, much like humor. However, here are my favorite recommendations to get started.

Scary Picture Books
  • Bone soup by Cambria Evans
  • The Monster and the Tailor by Paul Galdone (OP)
  • The Book That Eats People by John Perry
  • Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
  • Cinderella Skeleton by Robert San Souci
Easy Readers and Beginning Chapters
  • Eek! Stories to make you shriek by Jane O'Connor
    • All the other books in this series are out of print
  • Scary Tales by James Preller
  • Ghosts! Ghostly stories from folklore; In a dark, dark room by Alvin Schwartz
Middle Grade
Young Adult
  • Through the woods by Emily Carroll (GN)
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Series)
    • Not so much horror as dark fantasy; these are being republished fall 2018!
  • Natasha Preston
  • Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (Series)
    • Multiple related and unrelated series and manga adaption, which I don't think is scary at all.
  • Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith (Series)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

This week at the library; or, How time flies

Happening this week at the library
Professional Development
  • Programming for 'Tweens by Amanda Struckmeyer, online class at UW-Madison, week 5 (final week)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trapped in a video game by Dustin Brady, illustrated by Jesse Brady

There's not a high level of literary quality in this book. In fact, the writing is kind of awful. I intend to buy multiple copies and I expect it to fly off the shelves.

Jesse isn't interested in video games (this is never explained) but he gives in to his friend Eric's mysterious text message to go over to his house... the next thing he knows, he's IN a video game, with Eric! Eric clearly thinks this is the most awesome fun ever - they're fighting aliens, jumping from level to level, and if they get shot they just go back to the beginning of the level. But then something goes wrong and they're trapped. Will they figure out a way to escape? Are they the only people trapped in the game? Oh, yeah, and a booger is a major plot point.

The black and white digital cartoons reminded me of the many, many, many minecraft books I've bought and there's a lot of white space on the pages. Eric appears to have darker skin and hair. The action moves fast, it's violent but only aliens are killed, and video game fans of pretty much any game are sure to grab this off the shelf. There is some slight character development between Eric and Jesse, surrounding their friendship, but it's not an integral part of the story.

Verdict: This is one of those titles that lures reluctant readers and kids who normally prefer a different media, like video games, to books. It's not great literature and the sketchy plot, rapid action, and choppy prose are likely to make English teachers wince, but hand it to your Minecraft, Super Rabbit Boy, and video game fans in general and watch the reading love grow!

ISBN: 9781449494865; Published 2018 by Andrews McMeel; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Owl Diaries: Eva's big sleepover by Rebecca Elliott

I am not an infallible judge of books. Evidence of this is my review of Owl Diaries when it first came out, back in 2015. I felt pretty "meh" about the first book, Eva's Treetop Festival. I'm here with the ninth book in the series and I freely admit that I was wrong.

In Eva's latest adventure, she is excited about her first sleepover. But when she takes her hatch-day shell to school for show and tell, she's upset by a careless comment from another owlet. Now she wishes she didn't have to invite Sue - but when Sue turns down her invitation she feels differently. With the help of her friends and family, will she be friends again with Sue and will they all have fun at her sleepover?

The story is in diary format on lined pages with a plethora of brightly colored illustrations. I'm sure all the kids have memorized which owl is which, but other than trying to remember that Eva is the one with the pink head and big blue circles around her eyes, I can't keep them straight. It's not as challenging as the more substantive Branches titles like Dragon Masters or Eerie Elementary, but it's a little more challenging than Boris. It is easy to follow the text and speech bubbles and the text is bold, if not large.

Do I still think that it's pretty stereotyped and formulaic? Yes. Does the endless drama give me a headache? Absolutely. Do kids love this to the point of literally fighting each other for copies? Oh yeah.

Verdict: I am now buying at least 4 copies of each new title and separating students (and siblings) as they each want their own copy! It seems to exactly hit the sweet spot for 2nd grade girls (I haven't run into any boys willing to read them) and they eagerly await each installment.

ISBN: 9781338163070; Published 2018 by Scholastic; Purchased 4 copies (paperback) for the library

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Small Readers: The Itchy Book by LeUyen Pham

This is part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series; each title is introduced with popular characters Elephant and Piggie in a brief exchange and finishes with another comic interlude with the pair. I was surprised to realize I hadn't reviewed this one, since I must have read it 20 times last spring with class visits!

Piggie introduces the story by asking Gerald if he likes books that make you "feel things" and when Gerald confirms that yes, he does, the story begins! We first see a black and grey stone with "dinosaurs do not scratch" carved into it and a turtle sleeping below the words. A bespectacled orange-brown dinosaur, dressed in blue t-shirt and white shorts, reads the stone and is surprised to learn something new... when a triceratops happens along. When they start to scratch, the first dinosaur points out the stone and the fun begins... naturally, once they've been forbidden to do so, more and more dinosaurs show up with a desperate need to scratch! The first dinosaur is strong though - nothing will make them scratch! Not grass clippings, ants, itchy sweaters, nothing! Only one thing can make them scratch... when the turtle finally moves and the rest of the carved words appear!

Elephant and Piggie finish the story with some funny words about scratching - and friends. Pham's colorful art is sprinkled with speech balloons in different colors, including some comic panels. This title fits well into the Elephant and Piggie series, even though it's much more colorful, including backgrounds and lots of details. Emerging readers may find it difficult to follow, with the many different colors and some variety in fonts, but readers at approximately a first grade, beginning level will have no problem. It also makes a great read-aloud!

Verdict: While not a top pick for actual reading mechanics, this is certainly a top pick for fun! Beginning readers are sure to enjoy the continuation of Elephant and Piggie's adventures as well as Pham's artwork and silly story for their own merits.

ISBN: 9781368005647; Published May 2018 by Hyperion; Purchased 2 copies for the library

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Read Scary: Bone Soup: A spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Tom Knight

Capucilli, author of Biscuit and many other titles, turns out a cheerful, if rather gross, Halloween book. In a play on the classic "Stone Soup" story, Naggy, Craggy, and Scraggy Witch have nothing to eat but a bone - so they decide to make bone soup! They carry their cauldron and bone to a town and begin knocking on doors. With cheerful exclamations, "Piff-poof! It's no trick." they request help from the various monsters, ghosts, and ghouls they meet and add to their bone water, eyeballs, crunchy lizard tails, dead leaves, and more.

Just when the monsters are getting restless, a little monster supplies the final, magic ingredient and they all settle in to enjoy a bewitching and "bone-chillingly delicious" treat.

The final page includes a recipe for Naggy Witch's Bone Soup (it can be made with a turnip or ham bone and a variety of vegetables) and a note from the author on the origins of the story and how she chose to reinterpret it.

This isn't the first reimagining of Stone Soup for Halloween; Cambria Evan's 2008 title, Bone Soup was a more straight-forward reimagining of the tale with a wandering, round-faced monster interesting a variety of monstrous villagers in whipping up a batch of "bone soup" after they refuse to feed him or bring out their delicacies. This title is more text-heavy but lighter in feeling, with no hints of a trick, just sharing amongst monsters. While both are reviewed as not scary, I still wouldn't use them with a toddler or preschool audience, especially where there are concerns about Halloween celebrations. Save this one for elementary students who can sit through a longer story, are comparing folktale versions, or want to try out a little cookery on their own.

Verdict: A fun addition with activities to your Halloween collections; purchase where Evan's Bone Soup and other ghoulish treats are popular.

ISBN: 978148148608; Published July 2018 by Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 15, 2018

The monarchs are missing by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Say "butterfly" to a kid or adult and odds are good they will immediately think of a monarch butterfly. These gorgeous orange and black insects are known for their amazing migrations across the US to Mexico, the iconic pictures of trees covered in monarchs, and their distinctive striped black, white, and yellow-green caterpillars. But, like so many other creatures, the monarchs are in danger. In the winter of 2013/2014, historically low numbers were recorded at the wintering grounds in Mexico. Hirsch goes on a journey through the history of monarchs up to present-day scientists to solve the mystery.

Hirsch takes readers through the discovery of the monarchs' unique migration patterns; one large group, those to the west of the Rocky Mountains, migrated to California. Those east of the Rockies seemed to simply disappear. At the same time, small villages in the mountains of central Mexico welcomed floods of mariposas every year, without knowing where they came from. Finally, in the 1970s, scientists discovered the monarchs in a forest high in the mountains in Mexico. Hirsch continues through the scientific discoveries of the monarch's life cycle and migration, ending with their slow decline, beginning in the 90s.

Scientists discovered multiple factors affecting the monarchs; climate change and local habitat destruction was making the Mexican oyamel forests no longer a safe haven for the monarchs. Changes in weather patterns in Texas have also affected the monarchs. Milkweed was disappearing from the fields and tropical milkweed was disrupting the monarchs' migration patterns and possibly giving them diseases. Is there hope for the monarchs, threatened by many different elements? Hirsch explores the measures being taken to save monarchs, how readers can get involved, and the continuing work of scientists to protect these dazzling insects.

Verdict: This is an excellent introduction to a complicated scientific problem, one that kids can easily get involved in. A great point to start research or a school project, this is sure to be popular with teachers and students alike.

ISBN: 9781512452501; Published 2018 by Millbrook; Purchased for the library

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cybils 2018 Nomination Suggestions


If you're like me, you read a ton of children's books - but it's hard to remember that great book you read last November when it comes time for Cybils nominations! So here are some suggestions to jog your memory. Nominations are open Oct 1 - Oct 15.

Elementary Nonfiction
  • Baby animals eating by Suzi Ezsterhas
  • Bird builds a nest by Martin Jenkins
  • Living in South Korea by Chloe Perkins
  • Let's hatch chicks by Lisa Steele
  • Seed is the start by Melissa Stewart
  • What makes a blizzard by Zoehfeld
  • Bowhead whale by Karpik
  • Bonkers about beetles by Owen Davey
  • Prickly hedgehogs by McGuinness
Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • To Pluto and beyond by Elaine Scott
  • Kids' guide to the American Revolution by Kathleen Krull (could be junior nonfiction)
  • You wouldn't want to live without simple machines
  • Hidden women by Rissman
  • Trash vortex 9780756557454 
  • Girls think of everything (new, updated edition) 9781328772534
  • Bat citizens by Rob Laidlaw
Junior/Senior High Nonfiction
  • Streetcar to justice by Hearth
  • In harm's way by Iain Martin
  • Deep dark blue 9781250128522
  • Locked up for freedom 9781467785976
  • Extreme survivors by Ridley
  • My shot by Donne 9781534412286 
  • Fierce by Raisman 9780316472708 
Board Books
  • Dirty birdies (9781585363896)
  • Go baby, Go dog (9780807529713)
  • Goodnight Pepe and Millie (9780807564837)
  • Mrs. Peanuckle's tree alphabet (9781623369439)
  • Rabbit (9781682973318)
  • Sip chew yum (9781680522822)
  • So far up by Strasser
  • This book (9780807578810)
  • Walk and see ABC (9780763696238)
  • Walk and see Colors (9780763699178)
  • Water (9780807505175)
  • Where's the unicorn 9781536206968
  • Cement Mixer's ABC
  • Dump Truck's Colors
  • 1 grumpy bruce by Ryan Higgins
  • Walk in the forest 9781680522365
  • Happy dog 9780312524890 
  • Jungle gym 9781585363902
Fiction Picture Books
Easy Readers
  • Mighty Truck on the farm by Chris Barton
  • Mouse loves spring by Lauren Thompson
  • I wish I was a gorilla by Sandra Markle
  • Luna and the lost shell by Cari Meister
  • Snowy surprise by Kallie George
  • Marigold fairy makes a friend by Dennis
  • Much too much birthday by J. E. Morris
  • Jump by David McPhail
  • See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
  • Croc and Ally by Derek Anderson
Early Chapters
  • Unicorns and germs by Asia Citro
  • Logan the puppy by Jane Clarke
  • Whoooo done it by Jacobs (9781481499620)
  • UFO spotted by Hilde Lysiak
  • Royal Island by Alexa Pearl
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Pup called trouble by Bobbie Pyron
  • War below by Marsha Skrypuch
  • tbh, this is so awkward by Lisa Greenwald
  • Digging for trouble by Linda Fairstein
  • MVP summer by Iva Palmer
Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
  • Stinky Cecil in mudslide mayhem by Paige Braddock
  • Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans
  • League of Lasers by Mike Lawrence
  • Bolivar by Sean Rubin
  • Robots and Drones by Scott
  • Meteorite or meteor-wrong by Shaskan
  • George Washington by Fred Van Lente

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week at the library; or, October

My office, glimpsed dimly in the distance, after Tuesday's
cardboard program and before we put the spoils away
Happening at the library
Ugh. 80 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday spent all day (after storytime in the morning) working on the budget. I got one account absolutely even, one within six cents (and that's good enough) and the third I am just guessing. For the fort night on Friday (not Fortnite, as I must have explained a million times) I told people to bring flashlights and blankets and they could hang out in the library with their kids after we closed at 6 until 8pm. A local mom came in and did bedtime yoga at 6:30, some of the 4K teachers and my colleague from the school brought in snacks and helped out, and I had a bunch of glow sticks I bought on clearance. The legos were still up from Free Lego Build and I brought out the building things from our school-age maker space. It was a relatively easy program and people really enjoyed it - we had about 50. I also had some extra sheets and lengths of cloth for those who forgot to bring blankets.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Two dogs in a trench coat go to school by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack

This author started with a picture book series, Snappsy the Alligator, which I personally disliked, even though everyone else seemed to be gushing over them. But this middle grade series, now THIS is funny. I laughed the whole way through.

Sassy and Waldo are Very Good Dogs. They keep the house free of squirrels, patrol for lost bits of food, and make sure their boy, Stewart, is happy. But Stewart isn't happy! Every day he has to go to this terrible place called School and he comes home smelling both bored and anxious. Sassy and Waldo decide they must do something! So, after several failed (and hilarious) attempts, they find an old trench coat, Waldo reveals that he's learned to speak from watching television, and they're off to school.

Waldo and Sassy introduce themselves as a student named Salty and they quickly decide that Stewart is a confusing boy because school is wonderful! Meaty lunches (why don't they get lunch?) fun projects, and a nice guy who wants to be their friend. What could be better? But Stewart's been hiding some secrets and there are a lot of surprises about school that Waldo and Sassy aren't expecting.

Black and white cartoons sprinkle the pages of this quirky story that will make you laugh and leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Waldo and Sassy are absolutely dogs and their explanation of squirrel mythos is hilarious. The teacher worried about spies, the bully who's not really a bully, it just made me laugh and keep smiling after the book was over.

Verdict: For kids who want a funny read, fans of Stick Dog, and anyone who wants a laugh break. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781338189513; Published May 2018 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium