Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Bright Winter Night by Alli Brydon, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

I'd like to see more winter titles that don't include Christmas imagery (however much disguised) and I hoped this book would fill that niche, but I have mixed feelings about how well it does that.

With a strong palette of blues, purples, and silvers, Brydon's rhyming couplets introduce a range of animals, picked out in bright red and stark black, who are preparing a mysterious project. It turns out to be a sled, and they all join together on a journey to see something wonderful - the northern lights.

The simple text has a strong beat, "Last, the pack of wolves appears, a signal that the course is clear./And now - just one small thing remains: Mouse knots a sturdy set of reins." and the night-time colors of purple and blue are attractive. The idea, all the animals working together to go see the lights as a special winter night treat, is a nice winter celebration without any specific holiday overtones.

Most of my objections are my own personal idiosyncrasies; The art is reminiscent of Klassen's roughly formed creatures and blank eyes, which I really dislike. All the animals given genders, about half, are labeled as "he" and are performing some feat of strength - bear, stag - excepting little wren who has a feminine gender and cheers on the group. The rhyming books I like are very rare and this one just didn't click for me. I also prefer more nonfiction and find it exasperating when predators and prey are all working together, although the book does specifically note that this is unusual.

However, my own feelings aside, this is a nice storytime book for toddlers and preschoolers, although I think the illustrations are a little vaguely defined for that age group. It would make a nice bedtime read and kids could make their own sleds or northern lights pictures.

Verdict: This just didn't "click" for me, but it has a very attractive cover and would make a nice addition to non-holiday winter storytimes.

ISBN: 9781542022248; Published December 2022 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, November 27, 2022

This week at the library

A card handed in with one of our Reading Buddies

No programs this week, not even drop-in events in the Storyroom - it's being refloored with tile. We closed at 5:30 on Wednesday and reopened Saturday, which I worked. I'm currently updating our circulating toys and maker kits for a new staff member to take over and recreating order lists since Baker and Taylor went down again.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

RA RA READ: Interactive Picture Books

Interactive picture books are extremely popular in my library; at storytime, with the parents, with preschool teachers, and of course with the kids themselves! There are many, many more interactive books - and many books you can make interactive just by how you use them in storytime - than I have listed here, but these are the ones I use most often in storytime and to the greatest effect.

  • Silvia Borando
    • This is the main author for Minibombo books, a small, Italian imprint. They have quirky and unique books that are delightful storytime reads. Some of our favorites are Shapes, Reshape! and Open up, please! Shake the tree is also fun.
  • Nicola Davies
    • These lift the flap books are my top go-to nonfiction titles, especially Who's Like Me which teaches the difference between mammals, amphibians, reptiles, etc. There are enough flaps for a large class to take turns lifting and looking but be prepared to spend a loooooong time discussing these. I usually set aside at least 10 minutes and you can easily spend an entire storytime just on one of these books.
  • Ed Emberley
    • Go away big green monster; If you're a monster and you know it
    • I actually have a puppet that goes with Big Green Monster. I have used it to great effect with special education students - teen age, preschool developmental level. I get them all to make "go away" motions and say with me "go away" as I read the book. The second title is a fun singing book - get everyone standing and clapping their claws!
  • Nicola O'Byrne
    • Sometimes written with a co-author, O'Byrne has created a series of interactive books that are both funny and clever. Open very carefully, a book with bite started the series and the latest is What's next door?
  • Herve Tullet
    • Press Here and following books like Mix it up! really touched off the interactive picture book fad. One of the things I like is that they offer opportunities for a class of 20-25 kids to participate, although you have to do a little math to make sure everyone gets a turn. You can also adapt for an audience doing actions in their own space, instead of coming up to the front. Whichever you choose, leave extra time for participation.
  • Jessica Young
    • Only two stories so far, Pet this book and Play this book but both are excellent and I expect more in the series!
Individual titles
  • Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
    • This works best with older children (4-5). Have them join you in the actions suggested on each page.
  • Do not lick this book (it's full of germs) by Idan Ben-Barak
    • This was definitely the poster child book of the pandemic. It's funny and nonfiction and offers kids an opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. There is a sequel, but I prefer the first book.
  • Don't push the button by Bill Cotter
    • At first this appears to be a spin-off of Tullet's Press Here but it's actually more akin to The Monster at the end of this book. Be prepared to calm down riotous laughter. Only offers opportunities for a small number of children to participate. It works best if you have two helpers. There are a whole bunch of sequels and board books, but I feel that the first one remains the best.
  • Jump by Scott Fischer
    • All ages love this book. I get all the kids to crouch down, and once they've got the idea of the book - that there's going to be a JUMP every time I turn the page, they will enthusiastically follow along.
  • Move! by Steve Jenkins
    • This one needs a little editing and prep, to make sure you've got all the different actions planned out and to be able to edit for the age and attention-span of your audience. Nothing beats having a whole group of kids do a spider dance though!
  • It's a tiger! by David LaRochelle
    • This is one of our absolute favorites! Have all the kids stand up and as you read the book, whenever you get to "It's a tiger! Run!" have them scream and run in place. They will catch on quickly!
  • Warning: Do not open this book by Adam Lehrhaupt
    • This works best with older kids who can understand the tongue-in-cheek humor, but kids pretty universally like the idea of breaking the rules. There is a sequel, Please open this book.
  • Here we go digging for dinosaur bones by Susan Lendroth
    • This can be sung (and acted out) to the tune of "Here we go round the Mulberry bush."
  • Tap the magic tree by Christie Matheson
    • A marvelous fall-themed take on Press Here. Matheson has written several other interactive titles with nature themes, but the first remains the best.
  • Do you know which ones will grow by Susan Shea
    • This one works best with older kids who understand the point of the story - that you're contrasting living and manufactured things. I use it with a game and I generally open the flaps myself as I read it.
  • Can you make a scary face by Jan Thomas
    • All ages love this. Stand up! Sit down! Do the chicken dance!
Originally published in 2017

Friday, November 25, 2022

RA RA Read: Strong Minds, Strong Hearts, Strong Girls

I read a book that purported to be about a strong female character, written because the author implied there weren't many of such books, and I was so annoyed that I've made my own list of middle grade books that feature strong girl characters. There are a LOT of "strong girl" lists out there - I don't necessarily think mine is any better and it's certainly not more complete. But what I would like to see is more books that show girls' experiences as valid and that you don't have to change the world to be "strong."

All titles are, to the best of my knowledge, in print. *Starred titles include diverse characters as well.

Realistic Fiction
  • Tara Altebrando
    • The Battle of Darcy Lane
    • My life in dioramas
    • Altebrando writes realistic novels about girls finding their voice, struggling with friendships and growing up, and learning that life isn't always perfect but you change and grow as you go along. I frequently recommend them to girls who like realistic fiction and/or are having friendship struggles.
  • Angela Cervantes
    • *Allie, first at last
    • *Gaby, last and found
    • Like Lopez, Cervantes deals with strong Latina girls dealing with some tough family issues.
  • Michele Hurwitz
  • Diana Lopez
    • *Ask my mood ring how I feel
    • *Confetti Girl
    • Lopez' strong Latina characters deal with the fun, drama, and heartbreak of life with zest and courage.
  • Leslie Margolis
    • Annabelle Unleashed
    • Maggie Brooklyn
    • Margolis writes funny, spot-on books about tween and middle school girls. Annabelle's stories detail her growth into a strong, independent girl with friendship struggles and boy drama along the way. Maggie Brooklyn is perfect for any girl who's looking for a modern-day Nancy Drew with some realistic relationships along the way.
  • Wendy Mass
    • Willow Falls series
    • Mass validates the feelings and experiences of tween girls as she writes about everyday experiences and struggles with a hint of magic.
  • Lauren Myracle
    • Winnie years
    • *Flower Power
    • Myracle writes a wide variety of books, from beginning chapters to intense teen titles, but these two middle grade series feature tween girls and their friendships and choices.
  • Lisa Yee
    • *Millicent Min, Girl Genius
    • So Totally Emily Ebers
    • This collection of novels includes two about boys in the same school. They're told from the point of view of different characters - Millicent, who is a genius, and Emily Ebers, who is struggling with her parents' divorce. Although my personal favorite of this quartet is Warp Speed, these are great too!
  • *Out of my mind by Sharon Draper
    • For the first time ever, Melody finally has a voice - but will anyone listen to her? One of the very few middle grade titles to feature a protagonist with a physical disability.
  • *Roll with it by Jamie Sumner
    • One of my favorite new titles, featuring a girl with CP and an indomitable spirit, who is snarky, vulnerable, and finding her place in the world.
  • *The blossoming universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Wood
    • Violet is biracial and has grown up with her white mother and family her whole life. When she turns eleven, she decides she wants to know about her father's side of the family and her other heritage and ends up learning not only about her family but about herself.
  • *Brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
    • This is actually a memoir in verse, but I chose to shelve it in the juvenile fiction as that is where it will most easily be found. It's a very popular title at my library. It tells Woodson's story of growing up African-American in rich poetry that is accessible and relatable.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Pegasus by Kate O'Hearn
    • O'Hearn's exciting mythology-based fantasy series has a girl, Emily, as the main character.
  • *Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
    • This trilogy by popular fantasy author Riordan features a bi-racial sibling duo. Sadie, the younger sister, is the most bold and daring and often breaks the rules. She's also adept at magic.
  • Cronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu
    • A mythology-based series where the major protagonist is a girl, Charlotte Mielswetzski.
  • Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West
    • This mildly creepy series features a shy but curious girl, Olive, who takes on a dangerous villain with the help of some clever cats.
  • Merrie Haskell
    • The princess curse
    • *Handbook for dragon slayers
    • Haskell turns the fairy tale adventure genre on its head with a princess who'd rather be anything else - and has a physical disability - in Handbook and features a girl who's not a princess at all, but could definitely use the reward money, in The Princess Curse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Hello, moon by Evan Turk

Sometimes, well, often, I just don't get what people see in award-winning illustrators. Frankly, I have never appreciated Evan Turk's art. I feel like some of my patrons who just don't "get" graphic novels. However, I am really glad I took a chance and looked at this title, because finally I can really appreciate his unique style.

A child and parent, their skin glowing in warm oranges with swirling curls of brown hair, go out into the night to say hello to the moon. The night is rich with inky blue-black swirls, the moon a white, glowing circle. Their faces are washed into gray-blue by the light of the moon and the reader is carried across a series of paneled drawings showing moonlight and sunlight as the days pass. The next image of the golden-faced child shows a sliver of the moon in shadow, "Look! The Moon! Part of it is gone!"

Under the gaze of the child and their parent, the moon goes through its phases and the beauty and strangeness of the winter night, glowing under the light of the moon, is shown. Shadows on the bark of the birch trees look like eyes, cold water flows in swift ripples, and finally only their eyes show in the dark, waiting for the new moon to appear. But even when the moon is hidden, the sky is alive with deep blues and purples, to the sparkle of the stars. Swirling white lines take the child and parent up into the stars, making them part of the fantastic universe, until they return to their cozy home, ready to greet the new sliver of the moon.

Verdict: The simple text, a brief framing for the stunning depictions of the night sky and the moon in its phases, is perfectly matched with the art and this is a top choice for quieter, reflective storytimes, read-alouds to classrooms, and inspiration for art. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781534400801; Published September 2022 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Very Asian guide to Korean food by Michelle Li, illustrated by Sunnu Rebecca Choi

 I almost never review titles that aren't available through Baker and Taylor, my primary vendor, but I agreed to look at this title for several reasons - first, because we have a small population of Asian families in our area, primarily Japanese but also some Korean and Chinese families. They come as students to the university in a neighboring city, usually through the Kikkoman factory located in the area. Secondly, because we have waves of interest in manga and anime that often means I have younger kids, especially fifth graders, interested in Asian food, history, and culture and it can be difficult to find titles for them that are appropriate for their age range. So, I took a look at this in egalley and then in hard copy format.

The author created this celebration of Korean food after dealing with racist remarks on social media and to support kids dealing with bullying and othering about their culture. It's a slim volume, about 12" by 6" with paper over board binding and the back cover includes promotions from chefs and authors.

Each spread features a different Korean food, how it is prepared, and how it is served and eaten. There is also a "very" label. For example, the spread on bibimbap is labeled "Very Colorful" and includes a simple description of the dish and how it is made, how to pronounce it, and small paragraphs dotted around the illustration adding information like the sauce it is served with, how it is served, its history, and how people like to eat it. Labels include "Very Shareable," "Very Snackable," "Very Hot," and many more. The one thing that confused me was that all of the people depicted in the illustrations have an odd round circle on their face, contrasting with their skin color. I couldn't figure out if this was an idiosyncrasy of the illustrator's style or an artistic convention I'm not familiar with. Otherwise, the staged art clearly showed the illustrator's work with printmaking and the depictions of the foods are colorful and attractive. A variety of hair styles, body types, and races are shown in the people pictured. A recipe is included in the back.

Verdict: This isn't a storytime style book, more a browsing title or something school-age readers will enjoy sharing with an adult. If you have the audience for it, it's worth taking a little time to chase down a copy - it looks like it is available directly from the publisher only at this time. There are plans for publishing additional titles on different Asian cultures in the future and I hope they will be more widely available.

ISBN: 9781737240426; Published October 2022 by Gloo Books; Egalley and hardcover review title provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, November 20, 2022

This week at the library

random picture my staff took of the library gerbils


  • Three year old party
  • Paws to Read
  • Dungeons and Dragons (2 sessions)
  • Family storytime (2 sessions)
  • Holiday crafts with Holton Manor
  • Lego Challenge
  • Outreach storytimes (3 sessions)
  • Project Explore
  • Lakeland School field trip
  • Lapsit
  • Bookaneers
  • Wrap-around outreach
  • We Explore artist Ed Emberley
  • My main project this week was welcoming my new staff on board. We also had new printers installed, which was an... interesting process. I don't know what it was about this week, but we all feel rather discombobulated.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures by Arnaud Roi, illustrated by Charlotte Molas; The Pop-up Guide Animals by Maud Poulain, illustrated by Peggy Nille

Today I'm looking at two pop-up books from Twirl/Tourbillion Editions, an imprint of Chronicle, which publishes interactive board books and pop-up books.

Animals is part of a series called "Pop-up guide" and has an interesting set-up where each spread is opened horizontally and looks like a diorama. It's arranged into different habitats, and there are little rubber bands on the top corners to hold the scenes in place. The scenes include the African savannah, forest, far north, desert, river, and tropical seas. The pop-up pieces have very few interlocking pieces; mostly they pull into place smoothly as you lift the top cover and pages. The pictures are colorful, cartoon style with a few including small people in the background, like a dark-skinned person in turban and burnoose on a camel in the desert or two white children sledding in the mountains. Each spread includes a brief description of the habitat and animals at the bottom of the page. While pop-up books are notoriously fragile, the unique layout of this title means that as long as kids aren't pulling at the pieces and just lifting the pages, it should be fairly long-lasting.

Dinosaurs is arranged similarly, in that you hold the book sideways and lift the top cover and pages, but it has a more traditional pop-up style with pieces unfolding out of the book. It's also a more narrow rectangle, which suits the tall dinosaurs it profiles. Each spread shows several of the same kind of dinosaur, with some vegetation, and a list of facts at the bottom, including their time period, region, size, and a brief informative paragraph. Although these pop-ups spread out from the page, they're also fairly simple with mostly folded pieces and only a few interlocking sections. As long as the user turns the pages slowly, they should stay in good condition for a good length of time.

Of course, what library user ever does turn the pages slowly? If your library collects pop-up titles, these are both excellent options. If that's not a collection you normally circulate, they make good additions to storytime kits, especially as these are quite reasonably priced. However, if your users are rough on their books in general and you don't have the budget for more ephemeral collections, these will make better gifts.

Verdict: Recommended for collections who use pop-up titles. I will be adding these to our storytime kits and circulating toys.

ISBN: 9791036345166; Published September 2022 by Twirl/Tourbillion; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

ISBN: 9782408037512; Published October 2022 by Twirl/Tourbillion; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Grub by Sandra Severgnini

Although often touted as "unique" and "groundbreaking" it seems to me that most picture books, especially informational/nonfiction science books, stick with the same small number of topics. Take, for example, metamorphosis. Other than a few series nonfiction titles, there's really not much that shows a larvae turning into anything but a butterfly, certainly no other grub books (feel free to correct me if you've got something I've missed!). So I was delighted to discover this informational book that features a plain white grub and a fun refrain finding out what he will turn into!

The story opens in a green jungle, narrows down through the colorful flowers and fungi, to a small white grub in a rotten log. One by one, Grub questions the insects that pass by, wondering if he will turn into a bug like them after his "long sleep." Each answers no, explaining their own metamorphosis alongside a picture of their larval stages. A ladybug, cicada, butterfly, dragonfly, and stick insect are all questioned. Finally, Grub "builds himself a protective shell out of his droppings" and goes to sleep, waking up to discover he is... a Hercules beetle!

The art is simple and has a nature journal vibe to it, with lightly sketched images on pale backgrounds, focusing on the details of each nymph or larva. There is a pleasant refrain to the story, with Grub settling back to eat and eat after each question. My only worry is that, since I only saw this book in electronic format, I am not sure exactly what the binding and layout will look like. However, I checked with friends who have titles from this publisher and there seem to be no issues.

Verdict: I am thrilled to discover this unique and informative story; provided the physical layout measures up to the ebook I reviewed, I will definitely be following this author and publisher for future titles. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781922539267; Published November by EK Books; Egalley provided by publisher for review; Added to my order list for the library

Monday, November 14, 2022

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Windy Days by Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato

This book looked somewhat familiar and I realized that it's a set of four titles, one for each season, with Sunny Days being a popular title in my library. The books are available in a padded picture book or sturdy board book format. This title is in the board book format.

Rhyming couplets describe the many different ways we hear, feel, and use the wind from a stormy wind to turbines to twirling the falling leaves. Charming collage illustrations show children playing, watching, and experiencing the wind and the joys of the fall season. This is set in an area with four seasons, showing colored leaves falling, the beginning of snow flakes, and colder temperatures. There is also a spread showing kids in costumes going trick or treating. An interesting variety of textures and colors are shown in the collage illustrations, including a variety of skin tones. Simple back matter describes some science experiments and explains different types of clouds, all of which can be found in the book. On the back cover is a guide to parents describing the elements included in the book.

Verdict: This series is perfect for storytime, especially since it's available in a picture book as well as a board book edition. Use this in storytime, STEM programs for little ones, or add to your board book collection for a popular seasonal touch.

ISBN: 9781772782707; Published September 2022 by Pajama Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library. Reinforced edition, 9781772782172, published 2021, added to the library order list.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

This week at the library

Frank the bearded dragon visits
Fact Finders book club


  • Let off STEAM
  • Paws to Read
  • Family Storytime (2 sessions)
  • Pokemon Club
  • Lego Challenge
  • Outreach storytimes (3 sessions)
  • Project Explore
  • Lapsit
  • Anime Club
  • Fact Finders
  • I like to move it
  • TAB
  • Teen cooking and baking
  • Excitements this week included a community partners meeting, management meeting, and the beginning of my annual clean-out of my order lists for the year.

Friday, November 11, 2022

How it works: Dinosaur by Amelia Hepworth, illustrated by David Semple

 While this is technically a board book, I am including it as a toy under the Read 'n' Play tag, because it's really not suited for infants and toddlers, the audience I consider appropriate for board books. But it's just right for a kit or toy bag! In fact, it's the dinosaur book I've been looking for!

Some of the most popular parts of our Dinosaur-themed storytime kits are the books that cut away the interior of a dinosaur, showing the bones, muscles, etc. Unfortunately, they tend to be very fragile and break as soon as we purchase them. This is the solution!

The cover shows how the image of a t. rex is cut away, with thick cardboard pages, and points to some important parts like a strong tail, brain (tiny hole), and stomping feet. Inside, the mouse-paleontologist introduces facts about dinosaurs in short paragraphs while each page lifts another layer. The first page shows the typical green skin, glimpses of skeleton and organs, and sharp, heavy cardboard teeth. The facts are phrased simply, "This dinosaur could see and smell really well, which helped it find prey." Readers will learn that it had powerful leg muscles, sharp teeth, and the story ends with the fossilized skeleton on display in a museum.

The colors are bright and cheerful, showing the green dinosaur against a variety of backgrounds, mostly desert or savannah. The text is suited to a preschooler or kindergartener, which is older than the typical audience for board books and significantly younger than the audience for the more complex cut-away activity books I've been using, but the exact age of the kids who use my kits the most. They are also used in our four-year old kindergartens.

Verdict: While this is sturdy enough to be added to a board book collection, the more detailed text and concepts aim it at a slightly older audience. It's perfect for kits but would also be a great addition to any preschool class library. There are three other titles in this series, Rockets, Human Body, and Tractors and I'm definitely hoping there will be more titles in this series!

ISBN: 9781664350229; Published July 2022 by Tiger Tales; Review copy provided by publicist; Donated to the library

Thursday, November 10, 2022

My Grandmom by Gee-eun Lee, translated by Sophie Bowman

It's interesting to see how books in translation translate to my small-town audience. This one, I think, will definitely strike a chord with kids.

With naive, child-like drawings and short, simple sentences, Gee-eun Lee tells the story of her adventures with her Grandmom, or Halmoni, as a child. The story starts with Halmoni trying to calm a screaming Gee-eun as their parents leave, then settling down to make kalguksu, which involves rolling out dough. Naturally, they also make images of their cat and family too. The reader looks on as the conversations between the two continue, talking about what they are doing, family stories, and getting ready for a big day at school.

Gee-eun is upset that she won't have her family with her at Family Sports Day, but is comforted by Halmoni's declaration that she will be there! When she was young, they called her the Ox! She is fast and strong and of course, awesome at dancing. But when they arrive at Family Sports Day, it turns out that Halmoni has overestimated her strength and speed and they lose, badly. Luckily, a few curry buns are very comforting and Gee-eun perks up and chatters happily on the way home, ready for dinner made by Halmoni when her parents finally arrive.

This is a comforting and familiar story to the many kids whose grandparents provide childcare. Lee has an authentic child's voice, taking the young Gee-eun's disappointments seriously, but adding in amusing jokes and interactions with a loving Halmoni. The cadences of the story are different, with a flavor of a folktale, "And when it comes to dancing-well, that goes without saying. I just do my thing like this and like that." The elements of the story that might be unfamiliar to US kids, like the food, are explained by the illustrations and context of the story.

This story will take a little practice to read aloud and will probably make the most sense to kids if you use different voices for the dialogue, as it's presented somewhat differently than in a US title. It would also make a great opportunity for a storytime about grandparents or families in general and could be extended for kids to talk/draw about their own experiences, favorite foods, and how they handled it when something went wrong. The longer text and layout of the story are best for a school-age audience as toddlers and preschoolers won't grasp the concept from the story.

Verdict: If you are looking for more diverse family books, especially those picturing grandparents, this is a fun and sweet title to add.

ISBN: 9781662508257; Published November 2022 by Amazon Crossing Kids; Review copy provided by publisher