Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Up Up Up Down by Kimberly Gee

A chubby, brown-skinned toddler with a mischievous grin, toddles through his day, followed by a sometimes harassed but loving father. From the moment the baby demands "UP!" out of his crib, starting to climb out on his own, and then "DOWN!" on the floor, he's on the go! They go swimming, visit the park, have ice cream, and lots of "fun, fun fun!" until mom, dressed in a purple suit and chunky heels, comes home and the little family settles down for a little quiet time.

Simple text and art make this a fun story for one-on-one reading as well as storytime. Little listeners can lift their arms up, make yummy and yucky faces, and more throughout the story. The art has light, pastel colors; the soft browns of the family's skin, blue of the water, and plain colors in clothes. The pictures are small vignettes set against a white background, simple enough for young listeners to note but complex enough to take time to look at the details.

Verdict: A simple but delightful picture book, fun for families and storytimes, about a toddlers' fun day. The added diversity of the father and brown-skinned family are a nice note.

ISBN: 9780525517337; Published May 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Max Explains Everything: Soccer Expert by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Deborah Hocking

The curly-haired expert is back to explain soccer! He's an expert, since he's been playing it for three whole weeks! Hilarity ensues as Max puts his own particular spin on the game. Max isn't particularly... focused and kids who have a hard time concentrating, or taking a game seriously, will certainly appreciate Max's antics as he watches a butterfly in the team huddle, empties his pockets as the game starts, and misses the ball while watching bugs and examining dandelions.

Max has no problem being pulled out of the game - sometimes you have to cheer on your teammates after all! He's having so much fun, that he almost forgets something important... snack! Meanwhile, of course, his teammates and the fans are yelling at Max to kick the ball as it zips by him into the goal. Although his teammates look disappointed, they quickly cheer up as they shakes hands with the other team (Max introduces himself), and give him friendly smiles as he leaves, hands full of dandelions and a blanket tied around his shoulders like a cape.

While this may be a bit idyllic, not to mention unrealistic (I suspect that even a team that's very laid-back about sports isn't going to be quite so forgiving of someone like Max who is completely off in his own world for most of the game) it's a nice picture of a team playing together just for fun. Although the coach and teammates get a little exasperated with Max at times, they are always kind and Max clearly never realizes he's any different than his teammates. A range of skin-tones and genders is shown in the team and the coach is an older woman with white hair.

Verdict: Both sports fans and non-sporty kids will get a kick out of this book, laughing at Max's antics and unique perspective, and perhaps take their own sports experiences a bit more lightly, as well as being accepting of kids who aren't as focused on the game.

ISBN: 9781101996409; Published February 2019 by Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 15, 2019

Predator and prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

Beautiful illustrations show the relationship between predator and prey in this unusual picture book, accompanied by short poems.

Each large spread, some expanded with gatefolds, shows a delicate painting of a predator and their prey, a poem or short series of poems, and a box of information about the animals pictured. For example, one page shows a criss-crossing of bare branches and a sharp-shinned hawk, beleaguered by a "feisty mob" of chickadees. The first illustration is accompanied by a poem featuring the alarm call of the chickadees and a section explaining that a perched hawk is unwelcome but not immediately dangerous while a flying hawk is ready to attack. The facing page shows the hawk soaring into the air and two poems, one featuring the chickadees stealth warning call as they perch still on a branch and the other the hawk's reply, warning them that she will be back.

Other pairs featured are a bluejay trying to decide between poisonous and non-poisonous butterflies, a rattlesnake stalking an angry squirrel, bats hunting moths, assassin bugs and spiders. These aren't the "exciting" large carnivores, but the small creatures of backyards and grasslands, epic mini battles going on all the time right under our eyes.

Back matter consists of citations, primarily of academic papers and resources. This isn't one I can see the average kid picking up off the shelf for fun, but it's an amazing resource for teachers and, with a little booktalking, will interest kids who like biology and observing the natural world.

Verdict: A beautiful, well-researched book that can be introduced to children in a variety of ways. A great classroom resource or curriculum supplement.

ISBN: 9780763695330; Published April 2019 by Candlewick Studio; Review copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Saturday, July 13, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 5

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Storywagon: Colossal Fossils
    • Maker Workshop: Hand Sewing
  • Wednesday
    • Summer school kindergarten field trip: Michael Hall
  • Thursday
    • Explore Elkhorn field trip
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Library on the Go: Summer School
    • Family Book Club: The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella
    • Art Workshop: Photo Collage
  • Friday
    • Anime Club
  • Saturday
    • Library Make Day
  • Worked 40 hours; 13 hours on desk; 7 programs
  • Monday - bills, answered emails, last-minute planning for programs, processing new stuff, cleaning off my desk
  • Tuesday - went in at noon, we all played desk roulette, switching around to cover different desks, big group for Colossal Fossils - a summer camp came and they were surprisingly well-behaved - even their counselors were impressed! This is a new performer for us so I wasn't sure how it would go, but everyone loved it. Actually managed to grab lunch before on to hand sewing at 3:30, mixed group of experienced and beginners, some with adults some without. The last couple kids reluctantly left around 6pm, then clean up and I set up for tomorrow's field trip and managed to send a small book order.
  • Field trip in the morning, then clean-up, then sending orders, then on the desk and working (again) on the missing/lost list.
  • My associate did the field trip (mostly international students) and the family book club - it went really well. I took a volunteer to summer school, covered the desk for a while, then supervised volunteers and our art workshop. A small turn-out, but everyone stayed for a long time and enjoyed the project.
  • Covered the desk Friday morning and went through a bunch of papers and lists.
  • Saturday - disappointing turn-out. Last year I had a LOT of people, this year we invited some community groups and had barely 25 people. On the bright side, several kids got really into sewing and a few painted, plus some kids had fun playing with the spheros. This summer is just hard. We're doing even more programs, we're all tired and burning out, we've got more foot traffic and roughly equal circulation to last year, but our programs just aren't getting the attendance.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy

[This review was originally published in 2013. It has been edited.]

A companion to Nursery Rhyme Comics, this follows the same format with a different artist interpreting each different classic fairy tale. I was skeptical about the appeal of Nursery Rhyme Comics, since anthologies and short stories of any kind are a hard sell at my library, but it did surprisingly well, circulating 16 times in less than a year.. I decided to give this one a closer look and see if it would have the same appeal.

Sweet Porridge by Bobby London (Brothers Grimm) will be familiar to those who know tales with magical mills or other implements that produce food until told the magic stopping words. In this story, of course, the bowl produces porridge. The art has a classic newspaper strip look, not surprising since the illustrator drew Popeye strips for many years. It's a light and funny story that younger kids will enjoy.

The 12 Dancing Princesses by Emily Carroll (Brothers Grimm) has a classic, fairy tale look. The panels have strong swathes of color and while it's not my favorite art, being a bit distorted in parts, it's mostly very attractive. It's pretty much a straight retelling of the story, not trying to get around the more icky parts of this story (some adaptations say the princesses were enchanted, but this one pretty much sticks to the original - the girls like to go dancing and don't really care that men are being beheaded for trying to find out their secret). It's a bit wordy and there's not much new to the story.

Hansel and Gretel by Gilbert Hernandez (Brothers Grimm) The art is one-dimensional with strong lines and bland colors and the humor is a bit warped. Kids will love it.

Puss in Boots by Vanessa Davis (Charles Perrault) I really don't care for Vanessa Davis' art style (her other book is a memoir, Make me a woman) but I have to admit the appeal of this story. The art is very distorted and kind of ugly, but it's undeniably funny, from the cat trying on his boots from the "itty-bitty bootery" to the princess and king taking the air in the back of a pickup truck.

Little Red Riding Hood by Gigi D.G. (Brothers Grimm) Very digital art and nothing really added to the story except the woodcutter is a heavily-muscled woman. Didn't care for this one, I don't think kids will either.

The Prince and the Tortoise by Ramona Fradon, Chris Duffy, James Campbell and Jack Morelli (1001 Nights) This story will probably be new to most kids, but seeing the prince marrying a tortoise will tickle their funny bone. The art has a classic comic book look, think Prince Valiant. There's lots of humor and odd bits in this story and it was interesting to read - it's been a long time since I read 1001 Nights.

Snow White by Xaime (Jaime Hernandez) (Brothers Grimm) This one was just weird. It's the same basic story, but the art was really freaky. Snow White has these weird, long, wibbly arms that gave me the creeps. She is also, literally, dead white. Props for showing the wicked queen dancing in red hot iron shoes, but it's still weird. I know there are a lot of fans of Love and Rockets, but that's waaaay too old for this age group and frankly I've never understood the appeal. I thought that was weird too...

The boy who drew cats by Luke Pearson (Japanese, retold by Lafcadio Hearn) This is the same person who wrote the Hildafolk books, which I adore, so of course I will love this. It's very, very funny in a laidback way. I think kids will find the cats drawn all over everything hilarious and I especially loved the final droll joke.

Rumpelstiltskin by Brett Helquist (Brothers Grimm) I don't really think of Helquist as a graphic novelist, but he does a good job with a sort of distressed oil painting look, which ages his usual rich oil style. Now, I'm not going to say I'm biased (although I'm still mad about the awful covers he did for my beloved Green Knowe books) but I didn't really see the appeal of this story. It's just the same fairy tale with illustrations, it doesn't even address why the miller's girl is apparently perfectly happy to marry the horrible king who was willing to kill her (and looks about 20 years older than her).

Rabbit will not help by Joseph Lambert (Bre'r Rabbit) This story didn't really work for me. I'm familiar with the Bre'r Rabbit story, but it's a particularly confused one and Lambert's button-eyed creatures, many of them sporting creepy overbites, didn't help. I'm not sure kids will like this or not. The random violence and events might be kind of interesting, but the animals are sort of freaky-looking and the story doesn't really move smoothly.

Rapunzel by Raina Telgemeier (Brothers Grimm) It's Raina Telgemeier, everyone will love it. I loved that Rapunzel saved the day and her final innocent remark to the wicked witch made me choke with laughter. I'm not sure kids will get the joke, but they'll love the art and movement. Telgemeier is huge here, so anything she's done will be devoured.

The Small Tooth by Charise Mericle Harper (English tale) When Harper is good, she's good. When she's not she's WEIRD as heck (see Henry's Heart). This one doesn't quite fall on the weird side of the line, and I do have a lot of Fashion Kitty fans, so it will probably be quite popular. It's nice to see some of the old English tales as well.

Goldilocks and the three bears by Graham Annable (English tale) Apparently this author does something called the Grickle cartoons and comics? They sound vaguely familiar, but I can't quite place them. This is a pretty straight-forward retelling, but the pictures are funny.

Baba Yaga by Jillian Tamaki (Russian tale) I love Baba Yaga tales and this artist really caught my attention. Lovely art, well-suited to the story and she did a good job of picking a harmonious run of elements. I really look forward to seeing more work from her.

Bremen Town by Karl Kerschl (Brothers Grimm) I didn't like this art at all, sort of glowy watercolors and why does one robber have a blue face? I don't know if kids would like this one or not, but I didn't care for it. I thought he took the fun parts of the story out too.

Give me the shudders by Mazzucchelli (Brothers Grimm) I was so glad they included this story, it's one of my favorites! Basically, the youngest son (it's one of those third youngest fool stories) can't get the shivers and spends three nights in a haunted castle. I didn't care for the way they changed the ending, but it was ok I guess. The art is different but fun.

Azzolino's Story Without End by Craig Thompson (King and His Storyteller by Petrus Alphonsi) This made a nice ending for the collection, even if it's a bit obscure and possibly overly clever as well.

Verdict: Will kids like this as much as Nursery Rhyme Comics? Well, I didn't think they'd like that at all and they did. I see this collection as much more appealing, so possibly that means it won't be at all! Regardless, it's a great introduction to lots of different comic artists and styles, and would make a great book to help kids find their next favorite graphic novelist, although it's a little annoying that many of the artists usually only do adult things. Overall, I'd buy it and intend to do so.

Revisited: Some of these illustrators, like Jillian Tamaki, have gotten much bigger in the intervening years! This is not one of our most popular graphic novels, and has been sitting on the shelf for a while, but earlier this year I introduced kids to Capstone's Far Out Fairy Tales and they've been popular, which has led a lot of kids to try this title with its fractured titles. Not an extremely popular choice, but steady circulation keeps this from being weeded any time soon.

ISBN: 9781596438231; Published 2013 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lola Levine is not mean by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

[Originally published 2016. This review has been edited.]

This is the book I have been waiting for my whole life.

Lola Levine loves soccer, as does her younger brother. She loves writing - in her diario, notes to her parents, and letters. She also loves animals and she has a "strong personality." She worries sometimes when the other girls tease her for having a boy for a friend and being "weird," but mostly she's happy with herself and her life.

Then, while playing soccer at recess, she accidentally hurts Juan, another player. The principal says she is too competitive and can't play sports until she has "learned her lesson" and only her friend Josh will talk to her. The mean girls have gotten everyone to call her Mean Lola Levine and she's miserable. But after some time spent helping her little brother with a girl he likes, saving his class pet, and talking to her parents, she decides to handle her problems herself. She writes a letter both promising to be more careful and reminding her principal that accidents happen; Juan forgives her and Josh stands up for her to the mean girls, and her parents decide she has shown enough responsibility to finally have a pet!

Lola has a "strong personality" and is enthusiastic and competitive, but she's not obnoxious and is willing to learn and think things through. She's a great role model for girls who love sports and want to speak up for themselves at home and at school. She handles her mixed heritage - Peruvian/Jewish/Catholic matter-of-factly; it's not a non-issue and she's had uncomfortable experiences, but she accepts herself and enjoys the many different facets of her family.

Verdict: I am have been waiting SO LONG for a beginning chapter book with a strong female protagonist, who's into sports, and who is diverse. I can't wait to introduce Lola to my patrons!

Revisited: Sadly, this did not fly off the shelves as fast as I thought it should. It is still in print in paperback and prebound editions and it circulates regularly, especially when I promote it at book clubs, but it's not as popular as some of my other series. To be fair, the only realistic fiction at this level that really circulates heavily is Junie B. Jones. I still think it's worth purchasing and am happy I have the series available.

ISBN: 9780316258364; Published 2015 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2016

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Whose Tools? by Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz

[This review was originally posted in 2016 and has been edited]

I actually got the later book in this series, Whose Truck? before I realized there was an earlier title. I'm a little leary of lift the flap board books, but sometimes they're worth it.

The page on the left is a bold color with a simple border and starts with a question about the layer of the house they are building. On the right side are the tools and their names. The entire right side lifts as a flap, showing the worker beneath using the tools. So the first spread is brick red and says "To build a house, start down low. Whose tools are those? Do you know?" and on the right is pictured a chalk line, chisel, joiner, and float. Lift the page and see the masons laying a foundation.

The pictures are cute and cheerful with little eyes on the tools, silly details to look for, and a diverse population of smiling workers, including many different skin colors and women as well as typical male construction workers.The big flaps feel pretty sturdy, but I can see them separating at the fold fairly soon. However, with something this fun and potentially popular, it's worth a few replacements and some strengthening tape would probably help too.

Verdict: This is a must-have series for little ones who are obsessed with how things are made and you may even find older kids sneaking it out of the board book section.

Revisited: This was certainly popular! I did have to replace our copy after a little less than two years, but it's still in print (along with the Truck and Boat titles) and circulates regularly. Still a must-have.

ISBN: 9781419714313; Published 2015 by Abrams Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library in 2016; Replaced in 2018

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The home builders by Varsha Bajaj, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

I love a good animal homes story, ever since I was fascinated by Berniece Freschet's Beaver on the sawtooth as a child. This title, by the author of the sweet This is your baby, born today and illustrated by Mulazzani, who illustrated some very interesting titles by Giovanni Zoboli, hit all those spots for me.

Rhyming text describes the wide variety of homes animals build, "Do you see the builders work? Burrow and hide,/ Tunnel and creep,/Nibble and gnaw,/Explore and keep." The art is what really caught my eye. Soft colors show a beautiful woodland kingdom with animals, bugs, and birds peacefully building and settling into their homes. Above and below ground, in the trees and the water, animals find safety, raise their babies, and live their lives.

I realize it's a bit hypocritical that I love this so much when I'm usually very annoyed by books that don't depict predators realistically. Of course the foxes, beavers, eagles, owls, and deer are not going to sit around peacefully like neighbors in a suburban backyard. But I think it does do a good job of depicting the different kinds of homes animals build and the more peaceful aspect makes this a soothing bedtime story with a nonfiction twist.

Verdict: Not for everyone, although the lovely artwork is universally appealing, but I loved this book and would recommend it if you have kids who like animals and need more bedtime stories.

ISBN: 9780399166853; Published February 2019 by Nancy Paulsen; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, July 8, 2019

When plants attack: Strange and terrifying plants by Rebecca E. Hirsch

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of Rebecca Johnson's 2014 title, When lunch fights back. That title focused primarily on animals, but with a similar layout, and finished with a brief mention of how some plants seem to use a kind of thought process to fight back against creatures trying to eat them. This book starts where Lunch left off with the many clever defenses of plants.

Of course there's the traditionally carnivorous plants, pitcher plants, Venus fly traps, and so forth, but Hirsch goes beyond this with the horrifically painful and sometimes deadly stinging tree, the clever defense of the thorn acacia, which protects itself from elephants by attracting stinging ants, or the apparently inadvertent killer, the Pisonia grandis, which sticks its seeds to seabirds in such numbers that it kills many of them, littering the ground about with corpses and skeletons.

Hirsch goes beyond anecdotes and dramatic tales of deadly plants to question how and why plants developed these defenses, how they use them, and what it means for considering how plants react, behave, or even think. Extensive back matter includes an author's note, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading, websites, and videos, and an index.

Verdict: The dramatic cover and introduction will draw in reluctant readers who will find themselves learning quite a bit about plants - and scientific research - as they devour the gruesome stories of plant defenses and survival tricks. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781541526709; Published January 2019 by Milbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, July 6, 2019

This week at the library; or, Summer week 4

Teens came to Miniatures Maker Workshop
Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
    • Managers' meeting
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday - closed for holiday
  • Friday
    • We Explore Art: Julie Paschkis
    • Free Lego Build
  • Worked 28.5 hours; 10 hours on desk; 4 programs
  • 8 hours holiday
  • I'm tired. I took some time off this week to make up for the extra hours I worked before. Working on the schedule and calendar for the fall. The Friday art programs were supposed to be for groups, but I haven't had any groups yet - just a trickle of attendees. So honestly I was glad nobody came today b/c I was pretty tired and had a ton of other stuff to do.