Friday, December 15, 2017

Jada Jones Rock Star and Class Act by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton


Jada Jones is a new beginning chapter book character, full of verve and interest in the world around her. In Rock Star, her first story, we meet Jada with a serious case of the blues. Her best friend has moved away and now she's alone. Who will go rock collecting with her now? Even when she finds out that their new unit at school is going to be all about rocks she can't get out of her funk. But she decides to make the best of it and starts working on making friends with her new seatmate, Lena. But Lena's best friend, Simone, is being mean to Jada for no reason! After some wise advice from her family and some thinking things over, Jada confronts Simone and realizes that she's worried about losing her best friend to Jada. After apologies all around, the girls realize that not only can they be a threesome, it's ok to try new things. Lena and Simone will try rock collecting and Jada will learn to jump rope at recess with them.

In her second story, Jada is excited to be nominated for class representative, along with her friend Miles. But pretty soon things are getting out of hand. Jada's friends, Lena and Simone, are fighting with Miles' friends, especially RJ. And Jada is really worried about having to give a speech in front of the entire fourth grade! When it seems like Miles has done something mean and broken the rules, how will Jada react?

The books are themed in purple and gray, and the majority of the characters, including all the main characters, are African-American. Which I really appreciate, since all too often "diverse" characters are relegated to sidekicks and "friends" of the main character. While the books are a little heavy on the moralistic side, the kids are realistic and their daily trials and tribulations are relatable.

Verdict: If you're looking to add more diversity to your beginning chapter books, or if you want more character-building beginning chapters to recommend for use in classrooms, this new series is a good choice.

Jada Jones rock star
ISBN: 9780448487526; Published 2017 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher

Jada Jones class act
ISBN: 9781451534279; Published 2017 by Penguin Workshop; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Survivor Diaries: Overboard! by Terry Lynn Johnson

I've spent the last few years basically buying anything that mentions "survival" in its title and trying to keep enough copies on the shelf to satisfy the voracious reading habits of my library audience. There are two general categories of these stories, one is historical fiction like the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis and the other is natural disasters with a more contemporary feeling. This falls in the latter category.

The premise of this series is a reporter interviewing kids who have survived real-life experiences. He's interviewing eleven-year-old Travis, who was washed overboard by a giant wave in the dangerously cold waters off the coast of Washington. Accompanied only by Marina, the boat captain's daughter, the two must overcome panic, injury, and their own fears and worries. Marina, at first the strong, competent one, slowly succumbs to her injuries and the cold, leaving Travis to try to stay calm and use what she's told him to help them survive. Ultimately, he must overcome his previous fears from a bad accident in gymnastics to get help.

The story ends with an author's note and real-life survival tips from the Coast Guard. There were a couple things that confused me - the tips say not to swim but the kids swim for shore and the picture of the HELP position doesn't match the description. But these are pretty minor in the scheme of things. The burden of the adventure is shared equally by Marina and Travis - Marina is the one who has the knowledge to survive, but her injuries eventually force Travis to take over and face his fears. Travis' weight is mentioned several times, first at the beginning when his brothers tease him, and again by the reporter at the end, when he explains that he's rejoined the gymnastics team and lost weight. Marina reveals that her dad is a single parent, since her mom left them when she was young. Although there's not much suspense involved (the reader knows right away that they survived) the action is brisk and interesting and the real-life situation will thrill readers who like this type of adventure.

Verdict: Hand this one to fans of survival stories and those who like to imagine themselves stranded in the wilderness or who like to be prepared. At just over 100 pages, this is a a popular series for a variety of readers which is sure to fly off your shelves.

ISBN: 9780544970106; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Small Readers: Tooth Fairy's Night by Candice Ransom, illustrated Monique Dong

This sweet story was a surprise love for me, and one I can't wait to introduce to my emergent readers.

In brisk, simple rhyme, the Tooth Fairy wakes up as the sun is going down, gets ready to go, and visits several houses. She collects three teeth from a sleeping white girl with blonde hair, a first tooth from a white boy (accompanied by an adorable first-tooth dance) and after a tea break makes her way to her next appointment. A dark-skinned, curly-headed girl is fast asleep but there's a surprise lurking under her blankets - a kitty! The Tooth Fairy's last appointment is with a little girl whose light brown skin and soft brown hair match the tooth fairy's own. Finally, it's time to go home and maker her own preparations for bed as the sun rises.

I really loved the pictures - they're softly colorful with many adorable details. The Tooth Fairy's pet mouse is a humorous nod to the cultures where a mouse acts as the tooth fairy and her house is full of little fairy details like a sink made from a shell and a cute button stool and thimble vase. The tooth fairy is perky and sweet, but strong and resourceful. She sprinkles sleep dust on an overly-friendly dog, zips out of the way of a cat, and is strong enough to dig teeth out of a welter of stuffed animals and dolls.

The bold, brief text is focused mostly at the top of pages, with a few words dropping to the bottom. It's a good beginning level, what I'd mark as a red dot (beginning level) in my library, although not low enough for a true emergent reader.

Verdict: This is one of those sweet, comforting reads that may not win awards but will be a staple in library collections and remembered fondly by children when they look back at their childhood.

ISBN: 9780399553646; Published 2017 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Fog by Kyo Maclear

I'm still trying to decide if this is a complex metaphor or just a dreamy, imaginative story.

On a far-away island lives a small, yellow warbler. He loves to watch and keep track of the many different humans he sees. But one day fog settles on the island and he can no longer see anything. Everyone deals with the fog differently; some pretend it isn't there, some just ignore it, and many leave.

But one day Warble sees a human. They slowly begin to communicate, although they can't speak to each other, and decide to work together to see if other creatures can see the fog. The more creatures admit to seeing the fog, the more it lifts, until the world is slowly bright and sunny again.

See, I'm not really sure about the point of this story. But Kenard Pak's lovely, drifting illustrations are perfect for a story of fog, whether it's a metaphor or not. The pictures of the different humans that Warble documents are also quite funny.

I don't really see this as a storytime title; it's too slow-paced and needs close attention to appreciate the art. However, I think that one on one readers will appreciate it and it's a beautiful piece of art.

Verdict: An additional purchase, especially if you have kids interested in birdwatching or lots of foggy days.

ISBN: 9781770494923; Published 2017 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher through LT Early Reviewers

Monday, December 11, 2017

Wolf pups join the pack by American Museum of Natural History (Neil Duncan)

So, this book is about as good as any group project - which is to say, a bit bland. But, it is a decent example of a purely expository text and has a good layout.

The text starts with the pups a few weeks old, once they have fur and are ready to start venturing out of the den. The book follows the pups as they nurse, explore their family, and are fed by their parents. Various family groups are shown and there are lots of cute wolf pups playing, feeding, and tussling in the grass. Adult behavior is shown through their interaction with the pups and the behavior the pups are learning like howling and running with the pack.

Each page is a mix of blocks of text with pastel backgrounds and pictures of wolves demonstrating the behavior or attribute discussed in the text. The book ends with the pups as young wolves, not yet ready to go out on their own and still sticking together. Over the course of the book, the scenes move from spring to winter, as the pups mature. The only back matter is a "meet the expert" note from Neil Duncan, who presumably supervised the book.

So, this isn't necessarily the type of book one would hold up as an example of the genre. There are no sources, there isn't even a single author. The writing is rather clunky and dry. BUT it's still not a bad book! It's got lots of great pictures of wolves, the text and photographs have an excellent layout that matches up the behavior with what is described in the text, and for kids who prefer expository nonfiction (and like wolves) this is a perfect choice.

Verdict: While I wouldn't recommend this for storytime, it's a good book for school projects or for kids who want to learn more about wolves.

ISBN: 9781454922377; Published 2017 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Easy Readers/Early Chapters Cybils Nominations

This is the full list of nominations for the category I'm a first-round panelist in, with reviews linked and notes to myself of what I have and haven't read. If there is no notation (or link) for a title, it's been reviewed on my shorter post blog, Flying off my bookshelf.

Easy Readers

Early Chapters
  • General fiction
    • Absolutely Alfie and the furry, purry secret by Sally Warner
    • Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan
    • Beatrice Zinker, Upside down thinker by Shelley Johannes (reviewed, to post)
    • Class act by Kelly Lyons (checked out to read)
    • Cody and the rules of life by Tricia Springstubb
    • Curse of Einstein's pencil by Deborah Zemke
    • Daisy dreamer and the totally true imaginary friend by Anna Holly
    • Daisy dreamer and the world of make-believe by Anna Holly
    • Fix-it friends: Have no fear by Nicole Kear (N/A)
    • Infamous Ratsos are not afraid by Kara LaReau
    • Jake the fake keeps it real by Craig Robinson
    • Jasmine Toguchi, mochi queen by Debbi Florence
    • Lola Levine and the vacation dream by Monica Brown
    • My fantastica family by Jacqueline Jules
    • Octo-man and the headless monster by Jane Kelley
    • Overboard by Terry Lynn Johnson
    • Piper Green and the fairy tree by Ellen Potter
    • Piper Morgan to the rescue by Stephanie Faris (N/A)
    • Princess Pistachio and Maurice the magnificent by Marie-Louise Gay
    • Rock star by Kelly Lyons (reviewed, to post)
    • Shai and Emmie star in break an egg by Quvenzhane Wallis
    • Sprout Street Neighbors: Bon Voyage by Anna Alter
    • Ugly cat and Pablo by Isabel Quintero
    • Under-the-bed Fred by Linda Bailey (reviewed, to post)
    • Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors
    • Who gives a hoot? by Jacqueline Kelly
    • You're amazing Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
    • Yours sincerely, giraffe by Megumi Iwasa
  • Fantasy
  • Mystery
    • Ada Lace on the case by Emily Calandrelli
    • Ada Lace sees red by Emily Calandrelli
    • Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema (N/A)
    • Christmas in Cooperstown by David Kelly
    • Curious McCarthy's power of observation by Tory Christie
    • Dark shadows by Doreen Cronin
    • Inspector Flytrap in the goat who chewed too much by Tom Angleberger
    • Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The case of the poached egg by Robin Newman
  • TV tie-ins and other titles
    • Alvin and the superheroes by Lauren Forte
    • Being Bree: Bree and the nametag worries by Christine Laforet
    • Best videogame ever by Lauren Forte
    • Boss Baby junior novelization by Tracey West
    • Cars origin: Storm chasing by Dave Keane
    • Cars origin: Struck by lightning by Dave Keane
    • Elsie Jones and the book pirates by Sean McBride
    • Enchanted snow globe collection by Melissa Stoller
    • How to be a boss by Tina Gallo
    • Jaden Toussaint the greatest episode 4: attack of the swamp thing by Marti Dumas
    • Jeremy's emotions by Tolga Yazar
    • Mystery of the Min Min lights by Janelle Diller
    • Raccoon rescue by Christa Miller
    • Sienna the cowgirl fairy by Alayne Kay Christian
    • Very best Christmas tree ever by Mark Edgar Stephens

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction Cybils Nominations

This is the full list of nominations for the category of which I am chair, elementary and middle grade nonfiction. I try to make sure I've read as many titles as possible, so as to be able to approve titles and moderate discussions. If there is no link or notation after the title, I've read it and reviewed it on Flying off my bookshelf, my short post blog.

Elementary Nonfiction
  • Biography
    • Adrift at sea by Marsha Skrypuch
    • Balderdash: John Newbery by Michelle Markel
    • Big machines by Sherri Rinker
    • Caroline's comets by Emily McCully
    • Chef Roy Choi and the street food remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
    • Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade
    • Danza!: Amalia Hern├índez by Duncan Tonatiuh
    • Frida Kahlo and her animalitos by Monica Brown
    • Girl who ran by Kristina Yee
    • Girl who thought in pictures by Julia Mosca
    • Grace Hopper, queen of computer code by Laurie Wallmark
    • Here come the Harlem Globetrotters by Larry Dobrow
    • I am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer
    • Imagine that by Judy Sierra
    • John Ronald's Dragons by Caroline McAlister
    • Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford
    • Lighter than air by Matthew Clark Smith
    • Listen: How Pete Seeger got America singing by Leda Schubert
    • Long may she wave: the true story of Caroline Pickersgill by Kristen Fulton
    • Manjhi moves a mountain by Nancy Churnin
    • Margaret and the moon by Dean Robbins
    • Martin's dream day by Kitty Kelley
    • Martina and Chrissie by Phil Bildner (did not read)
    • Maya Lin by Jeanne Walker Harvey
    • Muddy by Michael Mahin
    • Noah Webster's fighting words by Tracey Maurer (did not read)
    • Pocket full of colors by Amy Guglielmo
    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter
    • Schomburg by Carole Boston Weatherford
    • Shark lady by Jess Keating
    • Stand up and sing: Pete Seeger, folk music and the path to justice by Susanna Reich
    • Take a picture of me, James Van Der Zee by Andrea J. Loney
    • Time to act by Shana Corey
    • World is not a rectangle by Jeanette Winter
  • History
    • Dazzle ships by Chris Barton
    • Founding fathers were spies by Patricia Lakin (reviewed to post)
    • Great wall of China by Nancy Ohlin
    • Revolutionary rogues by Selene Castrovilla (reviewed to post)
    • Secret agents! Sharks! Ghost armies! by Laurie Calkhoven (reviewed to post)
    • Secret project by Jonah Winter
  • Science and Nature
    • Animals by the numbers by Steve Jenkins
    • Animals Illustrated: Walrus by Herve Paniaq
    • Bear's life by Ian McAllister
    • Book of bridges by Cheryl Keely
    • Can an aardvark bark? by Melissa Stewart
    • Crazy about cats by Owen Davey
    • Droughts by Melissa Stewart (reviewed to post)
    • Fantastic flowers by Susan Stockdale
    • Feathers and hair, what animals wear by Jennifer Ward
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
    • Hatching chicks in room 6 by Caroline Arnold
    • Hidden dangers by Lola Schaefer
    • Hidden wildlife by Jim Arnosky
    • How to survive as a firefly by Kristen Foote
    • I've got feet by Julie Murphy (N/A)
    • If you were the moon by Laura Purdie Salas
    • Insects by Sneed B. Collard
    • Journey: The amazing story of OR-7 by Becky Elgin (N/A)
    • Money Math by David Adler
    • Moto and me by Suzi Ezsterhas
    • Night creepers by Linda Stanek
    • Once upon a jungle by Laura Knowles (N/A)
    • Over and under the pond by Kate Messner (reviewed to post)
    • Penguin day by Nic Bishop (reviewed to post)
    • Poop sleuth by Gina Shaw
    • Robins, how they grow up by Eileen Christelow (reviewed to post)
    • Secret life of the red fox by Laurence Pringle
    • Shake a leg, egg by Kurt Cyrus
    • What makes a monster? by Jess Keating (reviewed to post)
    • When planet earth was new by James Gladstone
    • Wolf island by Ian McAllister (reviewed to post)
    • Series by Ana Maria Rodriguez (N/A)
      • Secret of the bird's smart brains
      • Secret of the deceiving striped lizard
      • Secret of the green squiggly bombers
      • Secret of the scorpion-eating meerkat
      • Secret of the scuba-diving spider
      • Shocking secret of the electric eel
  • Social Sciences
    • Her right foot by Dave Eggers
    • Nantucket sea monster by Darcy Pattinson (N/A)
    • Pedal power by Allan Drummond
    • Storyworlds: A moment in time by Thomas Hegbrook
    • This is how we do it by Matt Lamothe
    • Tony and his elephants: best friends forever by Cathleen Burnham
    • Youngest marcher by Cynthia Levinson
    • What is hip-hop? by Eric Morse
Middle Grade Nonfiction

Saturday, December 9, 2017

This week at the library; or, Candyland

Photo op with King Candy
Happening this week

  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday

This week was all about Candy Land (and working on some other projects).

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ivy by Katherine Coville, illustrated by Celia Kaspar

Ivy and her grandmother live in a cottage at the edge of the village of Broomsweep. Unlike the rest of the village, their cottage is untidy, their porch step is not swept twice a day (or sometimes at all!), and their garden is a wilderness. But Ivy and her grandmother are happy there, helping animals (and sometimes people), making potions from the weeds and herbs in the garden, and sometimes even seeing a magical animal or two.

But when the new queen announces a competition for the best village, the other inhabitants of Broomsweep (especially the persnickety mayor's wife, Mistress Peevish) think that their village would be just perfect - if Ivy and her grandmother cleaned up their cottage, weeded the garden, and got rid of all those dirty animals. Especially the magical ones! When a crash-landing griffin and a dragon with a cold show up, exiled from their own villages, things go from bad to worse. Will the villages send Ivy and all her friends away? Or will the magical creatures manage to save the day?

Black and white pictures show a cute, round-cheeked girl, her plump grandmother, and the creatures that take refuge at their home. This is a little past a beginning chapter book, coming in at 134 pages, but it will still appeal to that demographic. It's an intermediate reading level and has a sweet and humorous tone.

The griffin (and his protective declarations about Poof, the little white dog), and the good-natured but sinus-challenged dragon are delightful characters with humor and charm. Ivy is a sweet child, although I found her grandmother's cheerful indifference to the gathering annoyance and anger of the villages to be a little alarming.

Verdict: There are other magical animal titles that I would recommend first - the Magical Animal Adoption Agency by Kallie George and Zoe and Sassafras by Asia Citro - but if you have lots of fans of this type of story it's a fun addition to the genre.

ISBN: 9780553539752; Published March 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

I've been recommending Svetlana Chmakova's new middle grade graphic novels as strong read-alikes for Raina Telgemeier for a while, but I hadn't actually read one myself until I chose her newest book, Brave for my debut book club meeting for 5th grade and up. The genre was funny and on the surface this may seem to be an odd book to pick for that theme, since it's really all about bullying.

Jensen is a hero - in his own mind. In the real world, aka middle school, he's failing math, bullies are making his life miserable, and he can't seem to fit in anywhere. Art club was his one safe place, even if everyone else seems more knowledgeable than he is and are big manga fans, while he's mostly into superheroes. But he loses that when he has to start attending tutoring for math - and to his horror, one of the bullies is there too! Then he finds a safe hiding place in the newspaper office - and meets a couple girls who are out to set the world on fire with a social experiment about bullying. Jensen feels like he's losing his grip fast - there's just too much going on and changing for him to figure out what to do. Will he ever figure out middle school - and himself?

Chmakova's art style is more manga than comic, but she strikes a nice middle road in this series with characters that have the edges and feel of manga without the more obvious style that will turn off some readers. Her colors are pastels - pinks, blues, and browns, and she includes a diverse range of students although their racial diversity is never mentioned. She also includes physical diversity - the math tutor has arm crutches and Jensen gets picked on for his weight - which was a nice addition.

One of the turning points in this book, and the reason why I selected it, was when Jensen finally gets around to looking at the newspaper club's social experiment on bullying. He knows the two boys who are tormenting him are bullies, he's just not brave enough to stand up to them. But what about the kids who claim to be his "friends" but makes jokes about his weight and tease him? He's never asked them to stop and they're his friends - that's what friends do, right? Or is it?

As the story develops, adding a plot about the dress code, thoughts on freedom of speech, and culminating in Jensen figuring out who his friends really are and getting the courage to stand up to the bullies, the book encourages readers to think about their words and actions and how they affect others. The story doesn't have a happily-ever-after resolution; when Jensen sticks up to the physical bullies they break his glasses and attack him, but a teacher gets involved and the bullying ends - for now at least. Speaking his mind to his "friends" is more difficult and doesn't necessarily end well, but Jensen is becoming more comfortable in his own skin, more aware of who he is and who he wants to be, and he realizes that he's brave in his own way, as shown in a final spread when he reaches out to a former bully.

Verdict: This is flying off the shelf not only for its strong portrayal of middle school drama and challenges but also (I hope) for the plot points that get kids thinking about what they think and do everyday. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780316363174; Published 2017 by Yen Press; Purchased for the library