Friday, May 31, 2019

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge

It's too bad it took me several months to get to this, because it's definitely going to go big with my readers and I will need to buy it immediately!

In the elaborate world of the fae, a party is in progress. The queen has knighted her childe, a changeling stolen from the human realm. Then disaster strikes, a traitor attacks, and the childe flees with his companion, a wax golem. In the upper world, he discovers the changeling who has taken his place. Edmund desperately wants to keep the family he considers his, but his strange powers are making it increasingly difficult. Reluctantly forced to work together, they must go on a dangerous quest with their human sister Alexis to save both themselves and their worlds from the sorceress Hawthorne. But which worlds do they belong to? The cruel world of the fae which rejected them both, throwing away Edmund and treating the Childe as a plaything, or the human world where both are uncomfortable and unfamiliar?

Aldridge's art is intricate and fantastical and will remind older readers of Jim Henson (apparently - I wasn't a Henson fan in my youth but I know others who were). I was quickly put in mind of The city on the other side, although that's a very different plot. It has a hand-drawn quality, with lots of blues and greens, and the underworld especially has lots of elaborate details and elements in the background. All of the human (or human-appearing) characters present as white.

Verdict: This is solid, familiar fantasy fare that graphic novel readers will devour and wait eagerly for the next installment. There's a nice underlying thread about family and Alexis is a strong female character who sticks up for her brothers no matter what, indifferent to her "weak" human abilities. Sure to fly off your shelves, a satisfying read.

ISBN: 9780062653871; Published August 2018 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Let's watch the trucks! and Let's feed the ducks! by Rachel Benge

This cute duo of board books shows a sibling pair exploring the world. The older sibling has reddish hair in pigtails and the younger wears a blue hat. Both are white. In both books they're taking a walk and the younger child questions the older child, who gently corrects and explains what they're seeing.

In the trucks title, the little one is looking for a yellow truck and the older child corrects each identification of a vehicle as a "yellow truck", saying "No, the fire truck is red!" and so on. Each vehicle makes a sound and there is a squirrel to find on each spread. In the ducks title, the two look at different birds (and their dog!) until they find the ducks. There are bird sounds on each page and a mouse to find. I appreciated that in the first picture they're shown carrying corn, not bread, to feed the ducks.

The art has a friendly, scribbly look with bright green foliage, cheerful flowers, and a friendly yellow dog accompanying the children on their travels.

Verdict: These sweet board books make a nice addition to any collection, especially if you are focusing on encouraging parents and caregivers to talk to their children.

Let's watch the trucks
ISBN: 9780807544662
Let's feed the ducks
ISBN: 9780807544655
Published March 2019 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nobody hugs a cactus by Carter Goodrich

This must be part of the "I stretch my reading limits" review series. See, I... am not really a fan of Goodrich's picture books. They're just not my cup of tea (although I did like Hermit Crab). And I generally don't like books about loners that learn they really just need a hug by the end. But... this one turned out to be really cute and with a gentle, thoughtful message. Plus, I've been telling the kids stories about the time I picked prickly pears with my bare hands (do not do this) so I guess I have cacti on the brain.

Against a background of browns, fawn, golden, orange, and the pale blues of the sky, sits Hank. Hank is a cactus. He sits in a green bowl on a windowsill and meditates in the quiet and peace of the desert...

Augh! There goes a hare! And a tumbleweed! And a turtle! Hank gets more and more annoyed by each visitor, until a long-legged cowboy says maybe he needs a hug... "Too bad nobody hugs a cactus." Like most people, as soon as somebody says he can't have something, Hank kind of starts wondering if maybe... he does need a hug? And then Rosie the tumbleweed tumbles on by and Hank feels sorry for how rude he's been to her. So he finds a gift just for Rosie... and soon they are best friends and Hank finally gets his hug.

Verdict: A humorous and sweet story of a prickly character who finds out there is someone out there who will love him, prickles and all.

ISBN: 9781534400900; Published April 2019 by Simon & Schuster; Galley provided by publisher

Monday, May 27, 2019

George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This is a juvenile adaptation of an adult nonfiction title. As I've mentioned in previous posts, when I'm looking for nonfiction, specifically history, I look for more nuanced titles. I feel that by the time kids are reaching middle school they should have a good basic grasp of facts and can start exploring more complete pictures of time periods; seeing the good and bad sides of famous people, understanding the many dark parts of our history, and finding the forgotten and unknown stories of people who have historically been left out of the record.

Realistically, I had fourth graders in book club that were confused about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, so a little more focus on basic facts are probably warranted. At the same time, regardless of how much previous knowledge of an historical event or personage a reader has, I feel that ages 9-12, the age generally covered by "middle grade" is old enough to realize that nobody is perfect and to see both sides of various issues.

Also, I personally dislike any adulation of individuals and my immediate instinct is to point out all the things that they did wrong. I am a fun person to take long to political rallies or any kind of inspirational speech (not really). All of this is to say that the author's note prefacing the book, talking about the greatness of American and the "lofty standards" of George Washington immediately rubbed me the wrong way and did not predispose me to appreciate the book.

The book itself is a brisk retelling of the formation and work of the Culpepper spy ring. I have not read the original, but this felt as though they chopped the sentences down for a younger audience and hence it did not read smoothly for me. It also was a lot of descriptive writing and narrating of events without much action and it's a complex series of events that readers who are not fluent, or familiar with the history, will probably not be able to finish.

Factually, the book is accurate and the retelling serviceable. There are extensive resources, explanations of how the Culpepper spy ring affected both immediate and later history, timelines, index, etc.

Verdict: So, what would be my final verdict on this? From a personal viewpoint, I did not care for it. I found it rather dry reading and, as I said, was predisposed to dislike the authors' narrow focus. From a library standpoint, I have many readers in the 9-12 age range who are big war and history fans and will be able to read this more dense title; generally speaking, many families prefer this more narrow view of history with a somewhat limited and adulatory view of the Founding Fathers. So, while it's not my preference, it is something that my patrons will want and which will be of use in my library. I would recommend it as a supplementary title to a more diverse history collection, especially if you have readers interested in this particular aspect of the American Revolution.

ISBN: 9780425288986; Published January 2019 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 26, 2019

RA RA READ: Raucous Read-Alouds

One of the bonuses of being a public librarian and not a teacher is that I can read the FUN books to kids with minimal repercussions. Below is a list of books that are both hilarious and naughty, and will break all the rules while laughing at you!

Stuff getting eaten
Kids love it when things are eaten, including other kids, helpless little animals, etc. Kids are creepy.

  • Beware of the frog by William Bee (out of print)
    • One by one, terrifying creatures trying to attack the little old lady in the woods get eaten by her pet frog... but there's a surprise twist at the end!
  • A hungry lion or a dwindling assortment of animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
  • I'd really like to eat a child by Sylviane Donnio (paperback in print)
    • Spoiler alert - the naughty little crocodile does not actually eat a child, but readers and listeners will have fun shivering in delight as he imagines how tasty one would be!
  • Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman
  • I will chomp you by Jory John
  • The Hat series by Jon Klassen
    • I admit that I don't really see the appeal of these myself - they're too subtle for most of my age groups, but older kids really like to speculate on exactly who, if anyone, gets eaten.
  • I just ate my friend by Heidi McKinnon
  • Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds
    • If you look closely, you will notice the carnivores on the cover are wrapped in shrink wrap, like you see on a package of meat. That's all one need say.

Unpredictable outcomes
When kids hit a certain point in their development where they have started learning to predict things, reading a book that completely throws off those expectations enjoins ceaseless laughter.

  • Count the monkeys by Mac Barnett
    • This starts out as a simple counting book, but quickly goes awry as the monkeys never show up! Fair warning, when you get to the end and ask for ideas on getting rid of the lumberjacks, kids will come up with the goriest of all possible solutions.
  • Guess again by Mac Barnett
    • Kids who have just learned to rhyme will laugh hysterically when they shout out the expected answer to the riddle... only to have their expectations completely thrown out!
  • Clotilda by Jack Kent (out of print)
  • This is a moose by Richard T. Morris
  • I am so strong and I am so handsome by Mario Ramos
    • These imports feature a Big Bad Wolf who's not quite as big and bad as he thinks!

Subverting authority
This one speaks for itself. Who doesn't enjoy a good fantasy of tweaking the nose of the people who run your life?

  • The Magic Word by Mac Barnett
  • Don't push the button by Bill Cotter
    • Only available in board book form, it's still worth it for the sheer, chaotic fun of encouraging the kids to BREAK ALL THE RULES!
  • Little Chicken's Big Day by Jerry Davis
    • Nothing is more fun than teaching all the toddlers to waggle their finger and say "I hear you clucking Big Chicken!" whenever someone tells them what to do. Heh heh heh.
  • Warning: Do not open this book and Please open this book by Adam Lehrhaupt
    • Kids will get a thrill out of disobeying the instructions with only some mild consequences (unless you're a monkey. or a banana.)
  • Wild boars cook by Meg Rosoff
  • Not your nest by Gideon Sterer

Random hilarity
And everything else.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

This week at the library

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Paws to read
    • Open Storyroom
    • Managers' meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Library on the Go: Jackson after school (geology)
    • Sewing Workshop: Quilts
    • Teen sewing club
    • What's next (teens)
  • Wednesday
    • Vendor meeting
    • Cataloging training
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Worked 41.5 hours; 7 hours on desk; 8 programs
  • The rescheduled quilt workshop was interesting. Two adults, who both started quilts with kits put together for us by a Friends member. A parent and small child (almost 4) who stopped by last week came in. The kid decided the sewing machines were a bit scary and they'd rather arrange the quilt pieces and supervise their parent. They'll come back later to finish it as the parent was new to sewing. Third grader who's a library regular wandered in and quickly caught on, sewing some excellent straight seams and making two cushions. Finally, a middle schooler wanted to try something and successfully made a small bag. There are new kids at the teen sewing club, but they all seem to be working together fine. The What's next young adults weren't interested in sewing, but did make some very clever duct tape items.
  • 1st graders stopped by for storytime (The Panda Problem and Misunderstood Shark) and to check out books.
  • I was totally going to leave early.... sometime... this week. That didn't happen alas. Instead I ended up working several more hours at home. Oh well.

Friday, May 24, 2019

WeirDo by Anh Do and Jules Faber

Hmm. I've often asked for more Wimpy Kid-style books with non-white protagonists, but this... isn't quite what I was thinking of.

Weir Do (his first name was his mother's maiden name, his last name comes from his Vietnamese father) is starting third grade with a lot of strikes against him, not just his name. From teachers who can't help giggling during roll call, to his farting father, annoying little brother (who keeps slamming his "thing" in the toilet) Weir feels like a total weirdo. When his crush, the "seventh-best-looking girl in school" comes to visit, can he keep his weird family out of sight? Probably not.

This Australian import hits all the notes of crude potty humor, not fitting in at school, and copious notebook-novel style illustrations, but it also comes in heavily on stereotypes. Rating the attractiveness of girls, Weir's older sister humiliating him by telling everyone he's wearing hand-me-down girls' shoes, and so on. It's certainly not realistic that Weir's teacher laughs at his name (or that roll call is the first time she's seen it). I was also skeptical about Weir's crush - it definitely felt more middle school. Another odd note is that none of the kids seem to know what head lice are.

Verdict: Gender stereotypes and misogyny abound, plus copious helpings of crude humor. I'd skip this, even if you have rabid Captain Underpants and Andy Griffiths fans - there are lots of other options. Buy only if requested.

ISBN: 9781338305586; Published January 2019 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ghoulia: Making new friends can be scary by Barbara Cantini

Periodically, I get kids asking for "really scary" easy books. This is really tricky, because first their parents/caregivers aren't usually keen on "really scary" books for young kids and secondly it's hard to find scary books at an easy reader or beginning chapter level. Even if you find some, it's completely subjective as to what "really scary" means! So will this one work? I have no idea.

Ghoulia lives a perfectly normal life in Crumbling Manor. A perfectly normal life if you're a zombie, that is. She has her dog, Tragedy, who is maybe a ghost and maybe not, her Auntie Departed, her Grandad Coffin... but sometimes she thinks it might be fun to go down to the village and have friends. Her Auntie thinks it will be dangerous and forbids her from leaving the walled manor, but then Ghoulia hears about a wonderful tradition called Halloween... maybe there's one night she can play with human children if she's careful? But what will happen if she forgets to keep up her disguise?

Deliciously creepy illustrations, tinged in orange, red, green, and brown show a sweet little girl (with the occasional lost limb), red-eyed dog, and all the ghastly accoutrements of a traditional haunted English manor. This is an illustrated chapter book, as opposed to a graphic novel. Each page is heavily illustrated and there are humorous captions, but the text is in fairly dense paragraphs and a smaller font than I look for in beginning chapters. It's definitely a very British creepy story, reminding me of Eva Ibbotson's Dahlesque ghost tales.

Verdict: This is going to be too challenging for most of the kids who want easy readers and even a lot of beginning chapter readers; while the zombie and ghosts are gross, they're not exactly scary as far as monsters or or things that go bump in the night. I'll try this one out in book club and see if it satisfies the creepy desires of my young readers.

ISBN: 9781419732935; Published August 2018 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Small Readers: I will race you through this book by Jonathan Fenske

Fenske delivers another subtly humorous easy reader in this speed-reading challenge.

A cheeky bunny with pink ears, nose, tongue, and feet challenges the reader to a race - to the end of the book! With quick, easy rhymes, the bunny challenges, complains, and even (whisper) cheats a little, but ultimately the reader wins! The bunny decides to challenge an easier foe - a snail - and the book ends with a delightful giggle.

Set against white, aquamarine, and pastel yellow backgrounds, the cartoon bunny grimaces, races, and makes jokes as readers race through the "story." It's silly metafiction that will bring a giggle and a pleased sense of success at the end of the story.

The text is bold and easy to follow, even when divided into simple comic panels. It's a step above beginner, a good level for readers who can both read simple words and follow a more subtle storyline.

Verdict: Another fun book from Jonathan Fenske, this is a great addition to any easy reader section and sure to win over fans of Fenske's nut books and other popular authors like Ethan Long and Jeff Mack.

ISBN: 9781524791957; Published May 2019 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bear needs help by Sarah S. Brannen

This deceptively simple story is perfect for a range of ages. Brannen, the author/illustrator of a variety of picture books, most recently the Madame Martine series, presents an adorable bear and his quest for a little help.

Bear, a plump creamy polar bear with bright red shoes, has a problem. He tries asking the sea lions, the rabbits, the lemmings... but nobody will help him, they just run away. Finally, a pair of ptarmigan with kindly eyes know just what bear needs - someone to untie his shoelaces! Shoes removed, Bear plunges into the deep green sea and the ptarmigan note that "He really needs to learn to do that himself." The final spread hints that maybe he'll have to learn fast as a pair of hairy brown legs with yellow shoes show up on the edge of the ice with a quest for help...

The minimalist illustrations have broad lines but the animals still have expressive faces and there's enough dimension to read the story several different ways. Readers can explore the different creatures (although the rabbits look more like pets than Arctic hares), predict the end of the story (does Bear need his shoe tied... or his other three shoes untied?) and the final hint at the end implies there are other bears out there in shoes that need tying!

Verdict: A simple, fun story that can be expanded for storytime and for helping kids remember that sometimes everybody needs a little help.

ISBN: 9780525516507; Published January 2019 by Philomel; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 20, 2019

Standing up against hate: How black women in the army helped change the course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell

World War II history is a popular topic in my library for fourth grade and up, but I feel really strongly that if kids are old enough to read about war they're old enough to read about everything. Not necessarily graphic details of atrocities, but definitely the full context of the war; that not everything is black and white, there are not "good guys" versus "bad guys". One of the major points that often gets overlooked in WWII history for kids is the treatment of women and minorities by the army and as more nuanced and honest depictions of the war are being published I've been slowly diversifying my collection in this area.

Farrell has written several titles that tell those overlooked stories from American history, Pure Grit and Fannie never flinched. Her latest title would be a great choice to read alongside Steve Sheinkin's Port Chicago 50, about the treatment of black men in the military, since Standing up against hate depicts the prejudice and sometimes outright violence that black women faced in the military.

This is the story of Charity Adams, the commander of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only black WAAC battalion to be sent overseas. Farrell talks honestly about the experiences of black women in the military; their struggles to not be assigned as cooks and cleaners and to do the work they had been trained for and which they hoped would improve their lives after the war. They walked a narrow line between standing up for themselves and the possibility that going against the military structure would see them jailed or even executed. In addition, they had to deal with the prejudice, segregation, and open violence of the towns they were stationed in as well as their fellow soldiers.

Despite many obstacles, Adams and her troops succeeded in fulfilling their vital assignments to keep the mail moving and morale up; they experienced a whole new world in England, seeing a place where they were welcomed freely into homes and businesses without encountering the brutal prejudice and segregation of America, and met many obstacles with dignity and determination.

Farrell carefully documents the stories of these brave women with original documents and quotes and her powerful prose. She follows up the story with an author's note talking about how the world opened up for many white women after World War II - but not for black women. She discusses the long-range effect of the black women in the army and their struggle for dignity and equality and the role of black women in the military today. A glossary, notes, bibliography, credits, and index are also included.

Verdict: A powerful and important work, I strongly urge librarians to buy this and include it in their middle grade and/or teen nonfiction sections, recommending it to readers who are interested in World War II so they get a full and complete picture. As young readers are starting to read more critically, it's vital that they see a more nuanced picture of the world events and history and this book is an excellent addition to WWII history sections. Strongly recommended.

ISBN: 9781419731600; Published January 2019 by Harry N. Abrams; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Saturday, May 18, 2019

This week at the library

Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddler Party: Garden
    • Sewing Workshop: Accessories
    • Teen sewing club
  • Wednesday
    • Family garden program
    • We Explore Outdoors: Bees
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Book Explosion: Percy Jackson and mythical fantasy
  • Friday
    • 1st grade field trip
    • Scholastic warehouse sale
  • Worked 44 hours; 14 hours on desk; 3 programs
  • Ordered materials for summer
  • Updated calendar to use a new format
  • Still working on neighborhoods weeding
  • Working on and off on summer programs
  • Getting ready for 5th grade field trip next week - spent several hours putting ALL THE BOOKS on hold!
  • Sewing workshop ended up mostly finishing skirts from last week.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Straw into gold: Fairy tales re-spun by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Sarah Gibb

There are a lot of reworked fairy tales (E. D. Baker's are some of my, and my patrons', favorites) but McKay goes in a different direction with this collection of retold fairy tales. Her introduction, although definitely Euro-centric, clearly shows her love of fairy tales and her writing skills. The tales include Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Pied Piper of Hamelin, Snow White, Princess and the Pea, Red Riding Hood, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Hansel and Gretel, and the Swan Brothers.

McKay's reimaginings are British in tone, but also definitely in her own style. Rapunzel reflects on how she has to free herself from the prison of her tower, even though she's not physically trapped there. Rumpelstiltskin is retold as a goblin-like creature who is misunderstood and tormented by the villagers and smug miller's daughter. A lonely little girl listens to the wandering tales of her elderly grandmother and harassed mother about dancing with princesses underground. The youngest brother longs to fly, one more time, as a swan. A little princess finds a piece of a magic mirror that whispers to her about being the fairest. The stories range from sad to sweet, mysterious to humorous.

Gibb's silhouette illustrations have an old-fashioned, classic look reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and other golden age illustrators. Ladies in puffy skirts, fairies with wings, and little flecks of magic sprinkle the pages as McKay works her own fairy tale magic.

Verdict: Fairy tale fans, especially those who love the traditional, Western classics, will fall in love with this volume. It's not for everyone - young readers accustomed to instant action, over the top humor, or contemporary realism are not likely to pick up this dreamy collection, but for the right reader it will be treasured.

ISBN: 9781534432840; Published February 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mighty Meg and the magical ring by Sammy Griffin, illustrated by Micah Player

This beginning chapter is another "girl discovers superpowers", similar to Mia Mayhem. At her birthday party, Meg gets a special ring from her aunt, who is an archeologist. That night, she dreams of being a warrior queen in armor, fighting in a battle. The next day, strange things begin to happen - she has super strength! She can leap rivers! She does some tests and realizes it is indeed the ring giving her powers, but when she sees their neighbor's dog struggling in a swollen river, her powers aren't enough - she needs to be brave to rescue him as well. The story ends with Meg choosing her superhero name, realizing she'll have to lie to her parents sometimes, and foreshadowing her next adventure.

While the text is in a larger font, it's still pretty dense for a beginning chapter book. It's also fairly high-level, more middle grade than beginning chapter. It's illustrated in a somewhat blurry, muddy style in oranges and blacks. There are illustrations on every page, but they're not seamlessly integrated with the text, making it sometimes difficult to read the text itself.

Meg is eight and this just didn't work for me. Now, the only "non-canon" superheroes that my library kids really like are Captain Underpants and Captain Awesome - they usually don't go for the "kids with superpowers" books, but this one really didn't thrill me. While it's great to see a black girl as the main character, I was skeptical about her "dream" of being a Viking warrior. No blood is shown, but it had definite violent overtones, way too much for an eight year old. It's certainly wish-fulfillment, in how she can just disappear after school with nobody looking for her and a quick lie/apology smooths everything over, but it didn't sound right. Basically, this didn't sound like a real child and the text was oddly elaborate and/or stiff in places.

Verdict: If you have kids that enjoy this genre and are strong readers, it's an additional choice. Otherwise, I prefer Gumazing Gum Girl by Rhode Montijo.

ISBN: 9781499808322; Published January 2019 by little bee; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Small Readers: Flubby is NOT a good pet and Flubby will NOT play with that by J. E. Morris

I loved Morris' Maude the Koala books and I was thrilled to see she's published a true easy reader with her humorous cartoons. These are sure to fly off your shelves and I can't wait to introduce them to my book club kids!

In Flubby is NOT a good pet, Kami, a girl with brown skin and wild brown hair, introduces us to her pet cat Flubby. Her friends have pets too - they can sing, do tricks, jump, and more. But Flubby does not do that. Flubby does not do ANYTHING. Flubby is a very disappointing pet. But maybe there is one thing that Flubby can do? It turns out, he's just the right pet to have in a scary storm!

In Flubby's second adventure, Flubby will NOT play with that Kami is once again trying to elicit a response from the enigmatic Flubby. Kami has a whole bag of toys to try out on Flubby. Will he play with the mouse? With a swinging toy? Or the really exciting one? Nope. Nope. Nope. It looks like there's absolutely nothing Flubby will play with... except, just maybe, a brown paper bag!

The short, simple sentences, "This toy rolls." or Jill's pet can jump." put this squarely in that rare category of pre-readers. It falls at 150 on the lexile scale, or an E on the Fountas and Pinnell scale. The short sentences lend themselves well to Morris' deadpan humor, which is played out in the accompanying pictures. Flubby, a pudgy white cat with gray markings (inspired by Morris' own cat Flubby shown on the frontispiece with an equally unimpressed expression) is just not very interested. Tricks? He'd rather nap. Toys? They leave him cold. But when it counts, and just when Kami has given up on him, Flubby stirs himself and does the unexpected! Cat owners and cat lovers alike will giggle as they recognize the extreme cat-like behavior of Fluffy, sauntering home in the rain, only to suddenly panic when the thunder and lightning starts, or the sudden shattering of his cool when Kami pulls out the really "exciting" toy!

Verdict: A funny addition to the easy reader genre, this is sure to delight cat-lovers and kids who like the humor of Mo Willems and other comic writers for the beginning reader set. Recommended and I look forward to more Flubby in the future!

Flubby is NOT a good pet
ISBN: 9781524787769

Flubby will NOT play with that
ISBN: 9781524787783

Published April 2019 by Penguin Workshop; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wake up, color pup by Taia Morley

This joyful explosion of color is sure to attract children and adults alike. The story begins with a sleepy white puppy, her tail dipped in a pool of golden sunlight, in a dark, gray house. When she wakes up and bounces up to investigate the light, her tail keeps its golden hue. She runs outside...

and encounters a world of color! She plunges into the yellow sunlight, a yellow bird alighting on her nose and turning it yellow, then an orange butterfly leads her into a wash of orange, coloring her head and ears. A ladybug leads to red, then a dragonfly to purple. As each new color washes over the page - and the pup - she picks up shades of it dappling her white coat and blending with her previous colors. The pup demonstrates new movement on each page as well, "trot, greet, circle, sniff, wade, splash through." Color pup plunges into a blue pool, wriggles through the green bushes, but then a storm begins! The pup huddles with her friendly yellow bird as the frightening storm washes away her colors, leaving her in a gray landscape... with all her colors in a puddle! One last joyful shake and colors spatter the world, leaving the reader with a picture of a vivid and colorful world and a happy puppy, tail still dipped in yellow, as she saunters home.

The bold text and simple language, paired with glorious, joyful splashes of color, are sure to make this a storytime favorite. Read it in color storytimes, before art programs, and cozied up with a little one during a rain storm. Encourage your little ones to try painting their own colors on different surfaces and see the lovely color in the world around them.

Verdict: A perfect book for wiggly toddlers, make this a storytime staple and encourage your young listeners to wade, wiggle, and experiment with color right along with sweet Color Pup.

ISBN: 9780399559457; Published March 2019 by Random House; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 13, 2019

Life at the zoo: The secret world of your favorite animals by Michael George

I'm always looking for more books about zoos - there are plenty of books about animals, but hardly any about zoos! This book absolutely fills that need.

What is it like for animals at the zoo behind the scenes? Where do they come from? How do zookeepers take care of them? This introduction walks readers through the behind-the-scenes of a zoo, explaining about captive-bred and rescued animals, how keepers care for their charges, offer enrichment, handle medical issues, and train animals for their own health and the public's education.

Throughout the narrative, photographs of animals, their keepers, and the zoo surrounding are included with most labeled with species and/or name of the animal. Readers will not only learn how keepers feed, care for, and stimulate giraffes, they'll also learn how their neck vertebrae are organized. How have zoos helped the Galapagos tortoise? How do zoos teach animals to live in a natural habitat? Can endangered animals be saved by zoos? These and more questions are touched on throughout the book.

Although it's in picture book format, the layout is large chunks of fairly complex text, broken up by photographs. I'll be putting this in juvenile nonfiction despite the size, since it's really not a read-aloud. It would also pair very well with Zoology for kids, which offers career advice for many of the jobs mentioned in this book.

Verdict: Sure to fly off the shelves, this nonfiction book will fill a gap in library collections for third grade and up animal lovers, especially if there is a zoo in/near your community. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781454930891; Published November 2018 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 11, 2019

This week at the library

Happening this week:
  • I've still got a cough that is driving me crazy. I had a ton of bills to do this week, plus suddenly realizing I hadn't done my monthly report and I'm still behind in getting ready for summer. Field trips start next week as well as a number of other things going on. I'm just tired I guess.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Dear Sister by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Joe Bluhm

A boy writes letters to his sister from the time she is a baby until he leaves for college. They start out as crude charcoal drawings, complaining about the sister being whiny, stinky, and loud; a typical baby. The two grow together, weathering arguments and illnesses, life changes and new challenges. Finally, the story ends with the brother leaving his sister all the letters he's written her and permission to use his treehouse as he sets out on his new adventure in skillful line drawings in black and blue shades.

The art is the main attraction of this story. From scribbly drawings of an annoying baby sister to "progress reports" on her whining abilities, to two exasperated tween boys stuck with a lively sister and her best friend at the movie theater, the art conveys the annoyance and exasperation as well as the growing affection between the siblings.

Verdict: This is a quick read with lots of pictures, it's humorous and touching, but ultimately it felt more like something that an adult would pick up than a child. It has a nostalgic flavor for the joys and sorrows of childhood and the bond of siblings that most kids won't appreciate until they are leaving home probably. Still, it's a sweet story and the heavy illustrations may appeal to some readers.

ISBN: 9781481451420; Published October 2018 by Atheneum; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The big idea gang: Everybody needs a buddy by James Preller, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

I've really liked some of Preller's books and I'm always looking for more beginning chapter books, but I had a hard time seeing kids pick this up; it's just too didactic.

This is the second book in the series; in the first book, four third graders formed the "Big Idea Gang" to get a cooler school mascot. In this second book, the third graders are chatting over lunch about their favorite parts of the day when they hear some interesting news; the PTA has a big surplus of money from selling the merchandise of their new mascot and is going to spend it on something for the school! The kids throw around some vague ideas, but meanwhile Deon notices a new boy who stays by himself and looks lonely. At the same time, their teacher gives them some important lessons on gossip. Then she tells them the PTA has decided to give the money to the library, to buy new books. The kids are disappointed that they didn't get to even suggest the idea they finally decided on; a buddy bench. But working together and with some help from various teachers and parents, they get their big idea. The benches are exciting at first, but then life goes back to normal. Even so, the kids still use the benches when they need them.

I appreciated the depiction of the librarian explaining why she had to get rid of old, outdated books and teachers will surely be able to use these to teach lessons on gossip, persuasive writing and speaking, and the importance of being kind. However, this... just wasn't very interesting. It didn't have a hook like a mystery and there was little to no action.

Verdict: If you're just looking for filler or teachers want a classroom book to read together to focus on social-emotional development this would be fine, but it's not a story that I can see kids grabbing off the shelf.

ISBN: 9781328857194; Published January 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: One patch of blue by Marthe Jocelyn

In this wordless board book, Jocelyn uses her collage skills to great effect to show young readers different perspectives. The "story" begins with a crouching child, with straight black hair and brown skin, a grainy blue patch of fabric coming off their jeans. Each following page shows the "patch of blue" in a different picture; as the bowl of a shovel, the car of a Ferris wheel, a window, a sign showing a person in a wheelchair, an aquarium, a house in a neighborhood with flowers, the tag on a dog's collar, and more. The final picture shows what appears to be a younger child sleeping under a quilt made of squares, including the patch of blue.

This book is just right for helping toddlers recognize shapes and colors and follow a single item through different transformations. The pictures are simple enough that young children can identify them without too much trouble, but complex enough to challenge them. Adults can make up simple stories, or just dialogue to go with each page. "Can you find the blue square? What did it turn into? Can you find a green square?" etc.

Verdict: I'm sometimes reluctant to buy Orca board books because they're almost twice the average cost of most board books - about $10 - but I think this one is worth the price. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781459820739; Published 2019 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

We are (not) friends by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Kang and Weyant's series of relationship concepts, which includes You are (not) small, That's (not) mine, and I am (not) scared adds another simple story with several layers that works equally well as an easy reader and a read-aloud.

We are (not) friends brings back the furry creatures that fans will recognize, starting with the honey-colored bear and small purple creature. They are having a dress-up game, pulling costumes out of a green trunk when a blue, kangaroo-like creature appears and wants to play. The bear enthusiastically invites it to join their play, suggesting a duet and seemingly deaf to the surprise of the purple creature, who thinks they're playing something else! Trouble ensues as the purple creature gets jealous, honey bear is bewildered... and then in a rapid change of pace, purple and blue hit it off, leaving out the big bear! Adults will recognize the rapidly changing patterns of friendship as the creatures play, fight, and finally declare WE ARE NOT FRIENDS! But it just takes one friendly gesture for the three to reconcile and find a game they can all enjoy, best friends forever! At least until another creature shows up....

The colorful artwork and simple text, easily readable by a beginner, sends a gentle message about remembering to include everyone. The creatures don't mean to exclude each other, but in their excitement to play new games and meet new friends they sometimes forget the old ones who then feel left out or ignored. Adults will nod knowingly at the progression of events while little kids will giggle - and maybe think twice next time they're playing with friends.

Verdict: This thoughtful series teaches social skills with humor and a fun story; use it in storytime, as a fun read-aloud, or with a class that's having difficulties playing well together. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781542044288; Published May 2019 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 6, 2019

Beavers: The superpower field guide by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith

This starter in a new nonfiction series was certainly different. It's a unique combination of old and new elements and I think will be very popular.

The author, sketched as a black and white cartoon figure with a white shirt, black pants, and checked jacket, wants to introduce you, the reader, to the amazing animal that is the beaver. After a brief overview of beavers and their place among the rodents, we jump into their superpowers from teeth to tails, stink to scuba head, this is one tough critter! The book has a glossary and additional reading, from simple to complex, as well as a couple websites. There are no specific sources listed, but the author's credentials are on the back flap.

What really makes this stand out is the combination of cartoons and illustrations and the layout. Cartoon illustrations of "Elmer" the beaver and his mate, "Irma" are scattered throughout, illustrating the concepts, adding humor, and being goofy with the narrator. For more serious illustrations, Frith uses an old-fashioned style that will be instantly familiar to readers of children's nonfiction from the 1960s and 1970s. Carefully drawn illustrations show the beaver in its naturally habitat, building dams, entering and leaving its home, and otherwise living life. There are also panels comparing the beaver to an old-fashioned Superman or lining up rodents by size.

There's a lot of information packed into these 96 pages, but with the frequent illustration breaks, interesting facts, and eye-catching layout, readers will be drawn through the pages to explore these little-known but important animals.

Verdict: A good choice for older kids who are interested in learning more about animals. This is supposed to be a series and I look forward to the next installment.

ISBN: 9780544949874; Published December 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, May 4, 2019

This week at the library; or, Unnnghhh thank all the wombats I have staff

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Open Storyroom begins
    • Paws to Read
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Maker Workshop: Quilting
    • OPtions board meeting
  • Wednesday
    • Lakeland School field trip: We are in a book!
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Bookaneers: ending party
  • Friday
  • Saturday
    • May the fourth be with you
  • Worked I don't know. I worked from home when I could. So sick.
  • So, so sick. I had to get someone else to cover my Monday night desk shift and cancelled the quilting workshop because I had no voice and a horrible cough.
  • Projects that absolutely had to be done this week and I DID THEM
    • Summer newsletter
    • Updating all the program descriptions for publicity
    • Schedule for summer
    • May materials orders
  • Other stuff I worked on
    • Picture book weeding project
    • Data on juvenile circulation - looking at spots to fill in the favorites

Friday, May 3, 2019

Make this: Building, thinking, and tinkering projects for the amazing maker in you by Ella Schwartz, photographs by Matthew Rakola

National Geographic has plenty of activity books, many of them including science projects, but this book takes a slightly different approach that opens it up to a whole new audience.

After an introduction, explaining the use and purpose of maker spaces and suggestions for using the book, it dives into six chapters covering materials, systems, optics, energy, acoustics, forces, and motion. The book ends with an afterword, some short stories of how scientists use these skills in the field, and photo and illustration credits.

Each chapter starts with a section of facts and information, includes three to four things to make, and then has a series of situations or logic puzzles to solve using the information you've learned and practiced. Each project has step-by-step instructions, a complete list of materials, difficulty rating, whether or not an adult is needed (and how many people are needed to do the project), and an explanation of what's happening.

Projects range from making a kaleidoscope to a string phone, experiments with ice to making a rocket with a straw. Situations to solve include imagining you are a field biologist in Africa - how will you get close enough to photograph lions?, creating a seatbelt for your dog, and figuring out how big to make a hole in the ice to study seals in Lake Baikal.

This book is a great resource for teachers, librarians, and parents; each chapter could easily be expanded into a series of lessons on the subject. It encourages kids to use their minds and think out problems without any immediate result or reward. It uses simple items and clear instructions to get kids involved in hands-on experimentation and then think beyond what they've made or tried to the wider applications.

Verdict: This is a must-have for schools and libraries and would make a great gift for a science-minded kid as well. I plan to keep the review copy in my professional collection for reference and purchase a library-bound copy for circulation. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781426333248; Published February 2019 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library; Purchased additional copy for the library

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Brilliant Beetles by Melissa Higgins

Smithsonian Little Explorer is a Pebble book, one of Capstone's imprints. I don't like the "regular" Pebble books, because I just feel that there's so much white space I'm wasting money on the expensive library bound editions. I mean, I know it's not like you pay for it by word but somehow it just seems odd to me.

Anyways, this series has a lot more text. If you're going to get buggy, beetles are the way to go. Then again, dragonflies are really cool too... generally I'm fine with bugs as long as they're not cockroaches or have too many legs, like house centipedes. Anyways. The book starts with a basic description of beetles and then devotes a page to each of several types of beetles; weevils, bombardier beetles, water beetles, skin beetles, etc. Each page is paired with a photograph of a beetle and some additional facts. There is a brief glossary, link to Capstone's website, a few titles for further reading, and an index. This is a 4D book, so readers who have downloaded the app scan purple stars for additional information. There are 3 stars that I saw.

One the one hand, this book is at a good level for readers who are transitioning from easy readers to chapter books. It's right between a 2nd and 3rd grade reading level, 540 for those of you who use lexiles, and has short sentences that will help readers make it through some of the more difficult vocabulary. On the other hand, I was disappointed that none of the beetles were identified. Presumably, the ones on the pages of specific beetles, ladybugs, etc., are from that group but there's no way to tell exactly what beetle you're looking at. I don't normally spend money for library bound books in the easy reader section, but I think this would more properly be shelved in the juvenile nonfiction.

Verdict: If you normally purchase library bound nonfiction for your easy readers and have higher level titles there, this is a reasonable addition. However, the lack of captions for the specific beetles makes this a secondary choice for me, since I'd be putting it in juvenile nonfiction where I place more weight on accuracy.

ISBN: 9781977103420; Published January 2019 by Pebble Plus/Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Animals on the Go and Space by Ruth A. Musgrave

National Geographic offers a new board book series, Little Kids First Board Books, with photographs, simple text, and some basic facts.

In Animals on the go, a variety of animals are shown in movement. An ostrich, snake, ladybug, orangutan, and penguin are some of the animals included. Each spread has a simple sentence describing the animals' movement, "Penguins slide across the snow on their bellies". Some pages include a yellow circle with additional facts, "Dolphins use their tails to swim and jump." Other pages may include this and an activity, like the dolphin page "Touch each dolphin's tail" or "Flap your arms up and down to swim like a sea turtle." The photographs are clear and bright, some covering a whole spread with text superimposed over the photo, others include the text on a colored background facing the page-size photo.

I've looked at several astronomy and science-based board books and all were way too complex for a baby or toddler. Or a preschooler, for that matter. Space, however, does a great job of explaining simple concepts to young children. Photographs of planets, landscapes, and space take readers from a simple explanation of earth's place in the cosmos, "Earth is a planet in space./Planets are round, like balls." to a photo of the Milky Way and pictures of space craft. Additional facts, "The Milky Way is a spiral shape." and a few cute exclamations, "Let's race! Bet I can run rings around you." says Saturn, are spread throughout the pages. The final spread shows a variety of planets and encourages children to trace shapes, sing to the stars, and find Earth.

Verdict: This new series has a nice combination of simple text and photographs, filling a gap for collections needing more nonfiction offerings for the youngest of readers.

Animals on the go
ISBN: 9781426333125

ISBN: 9781426333149

Published April 2019 by National Geographic; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library