Monday, August 21, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: This book stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn

I've been looking for more books for kids on getting involved with science to make a difference, for my library as well as for a forthcoming article. I had hoped to use this title, but was disappointed in the end.

It's a collection of factoids about garbage, trash, pollution and how it's destroying the planet. It also talks about recycling and how kids can get involved in working toward a world with less trash.

It's a very typical National Geographic book with lots of eye-popping bright colors, short, quick facts, and crazy layouts. It includes quizzes, activities, and short biographies of activists and scientists who are involved in trying to deal with trash and recycling.

So, ultimately it's just fine for something to breeze through for quick ideas, to get kids started on researching trash and pollution, or for browsing. But there were a couple reasons this didn't really click with what I needed. It's very surface - there's no in-depth exploration of the varying types of recycling and the arguments about how they work and which is better. All of the tips and suggestions are heavily tilted towards a suburban, middle class audience. The activities also didn't encourage readers to think below the surface. The section that suggests kids have a clean up day...suggests printing and hanging flyers. There's no mention of picking them up afterwards either! Kind of defeats the purpose there... It assumes every kid lives in a house with a backyard and the ability to start a compost pile - what about all the kids in apartments or urban areas? The book is heavy on suggesting cutting back on paper and using reusable bags, washrags, and napkins but there's no discussion of the environmental impact of washing machines (heavy). The section on upcycling suggests decorating a container with wrapping paper, which is not recyclable.

Is this a bad book? No. It doesn't suggest or do anything very different from any other kids' recycling book. It's a perfectly good surface introduction and kids will enjoy the bite-sized facts. I was just looking for more and this book did not provide it.

Verdict: If you're looking to bulk out your recycling/environmental section this is an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781426327308; Published March 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 19, 2017

This week at the library

What's going on
  • staff meeting (budgets, plans for next year, staffing)
  • Craft-o-rama
  • Open Lego Build
  • The eclipse (I worked Thursday night for extra coverage and then am taking Friday - Monday off, so my assistant is doing the crafty things on Monday...) Suffice it to say, this has occupied a lot of our time and attention.
  • Hamster drama. The hamster ran away last week. We bought another one several days later. He was rediscovered this week. Now we have two hamsters.
  • endless computer problems with both staff and patron computers. gah.
  • Weeding 900s - I've started into the 970s!
  • Revising and planning book clubs for the fall

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hilde cracks the case: Hero Dog by Hilde and Matthew Lysiak, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Branches series have proved to be one of the most popular new series at my library in years. Not all of them have clicked with my readers (and a few I didn't purchase) but enough that they have their own section and plenty of fans!

I'm always excited to see and review a new addition to the series and I was very interested in this one. On the one hand, there are a lot of beginning chapter mysteries. On the other hand, Branches is pretty good at adding something new to their series. This one turned out to be no exception.

Hilde Lysiak is a real-life kid reporter who runs her own newspaper. The stories in this new series are inspired by her real experiences, although they're fictionalized. The first installment introduces us to Hilde and her nose for news. She's sniffed out a mystery - and a story - in the recent spate of mysterious break-ins. But only baked goods are being stolen or destroyed!

With the help of her family and friends and her own mystery-solving skills, Hilde interviews, investigates, and finally discovers the real culprits! The story includes tips on writing, interviewing, and sleuthing as well as vocabulary and a note about Hilde herself.

The finished and earlier sketches in the arc look attractive and fun. The final art will be black and white. This is one of the higher-level Branches titles, similar to Notebook of Doom and Dragon Masters. Readers will be eager to try a new mystery series with the additional nonfiction facts and interactive suggestions.

Verdict: If you don't already have Branches series, you need to get some right away! The most popular for us have been Notebook of Doom, Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, and Boris. I think this one will definitely be added to the list of "must-haves" and I'm looking forward to using it in a book club when there are enough copies available.

ISBN: 9781338141566; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Mia is visiting China with her mother, older brother Jake, and Aunt Lin. Mia feels left out and awkward - she's shy and quiet, prefers to read and dream while her mother and brother are outgoing, ambitious, and successful. Both Mia and Jake are uncomfortable around their unfamiliar relatives and don't really understand their mother's urge to visit her childhood home. Mia feels like the only person who understands her is her historian Aunt Lin.

When Lin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note behind, the rest of the family says it's "just Aunt Lin." But Mia is sure that's not true. Aunt Lin promised her she'd never go away without telling Mia, not after their father left and never came back. Mia is sure there's something going on - and it's all connected to the emperor's treasure that she and her aunt have talked about so often. But they're not the only ones searching for it and danger is getting ever closer...

This is as much a nuanced portrait and a family and the way history and culture affects people as it is an exciting adventure and mystery. Mia is frustrated that Jake seems to fit in better in China - even though she's the one who speaks better Mandarin - because he can blend effortlessly in with the local boys and play sports. The after effects of the Cultural Revolution are referenced in a way that's both relevant and understandable. Mia vaguely knows that this is something that had a huge effect on her family, but she can't really grasp the full concept.

The mystery is equally intriguing, blending clues and history together as Mia and Jake travel to different spots to solve the riddles and clues, explore the map, and eventually discover the treasure - and Aunt Lin.

Verdict: This is an exciting adventure that is sure to grab the attention of mystery fans but it will also resonate with children whose parents immigrated from another country and those readers who want to look into a different experience or culture. Recommend to fans of Thanhha Lai, Blue Balliett, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

ISBN: 9781481478625; Published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Small Readers: Snow Hens by Janet Morgan Stoeke

I was baffled when a new kid joined my Bookaneers book club and declared, firmly, that they ONLY read books about tractors. Nothing else. So I went on a concerted hunt for farm-related books (side note - they changed their mind after I got them interested in some other titles).

I've always loved Janet Morgan Stoeke's simple but funny books and happily added her easy reader series, The Loopy-Coop Hens, back when they first came out. They've now been released in a more traditional easy reader format and I pulled a couple, including Snow Hens, to entice my reluctant farmophile.

In this intermediate easy reader, Midge, Pip, and Dot are making a snow hen. Or trying to anyways. When a disagreement arises over who is going to make the beak, Dot takes off to make her own creation while Midge and Pip fight over competing creations of a fox and a snow hen. Which one will Rooster Sam like the best? Meanwhile, Dot has come up with a snow sculpture that they can all appreciate!

The silly squabbles will make readers giggle while perhaps seeing their own sibling quarrels in the hens. Even grown-ups will have a chuckle over Pip's dramatic declarations about art. Stoeke's illustrations are simple but humorous; a quirk of an eyebrow or curve of a beak expresses a world of emotions. The font is bold but a little smaller than a pre-reader, suited to its intermediate level. Most of the text is placed on white backgrounds but a few are against barn walls or other colored backdrops. The one thing an early reader might find confusing is keeping the hens straight during their dialogue.

Verdict: Funny and relatable, this is a strong addition to any easy reader section.

ISBN: 9780448488448; This edition published 2016 by Penguin young readers; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Daddy Honk Honk! by Rosalinde Bonnet

This sweet story shows a community of animals coming together to take care of a gosling. Aput the fox notices that the geese have left behind an egg - and it hatches! He doesn't know anything about being a daddy, but with advice and help from the other animals they soon form a family. It's not long before all the animals are welcoming little Aurora to their midst.

The illustrations are sweet and tender, showing a cheerful variety of blocky animals introducing the little blue gosling to her new home. Some of my favorite illustrations are the scenes in the ocean, teaming with undersea life. This is clearly a fantasy tundra, where Aput's bunny slippers are a silly touch and Aput knows he needs to feed the baby "yummy" and "healthy" food (contents of the jars unspecified!)

The real star of the show is Aput. He's not sure how to care for a baby, but with the help of his friends, he learns all about what babies need and is soon the perfect daddy to his little honk-honk Aurora.

Verdict: A delightful addition to storytime or one-on-one reading, especially sweet for families who have experience with adoption or non-traditional family structures.

ISBN: 978039918679; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seashores by Cathryn and John Sill

It's the tenth anniversary of the About Habitats series by Cathryn and John Sill and they have a new book out to celebrate the occasion.

Most people probably think of sandy beaches when they think of seashores, but they are actually a diverse habitat and the Sills showcase that in their latest nature book.

A flattened globe introduces the concept of seashores "narrow strips of land that border the seas." The book includes one or two sentences for each colored plate. The seashores included show rocky cliffs, icy rocks, sandy beaches, mud flats, and rolling surf.

Each seashore is shown with the different wildlife that inhabits it from seals and seagulls to tide pools, crabs, and worms. The book also includes plants - flowers and trees - and some of the natural phenomena on seashores like tides.

The back matter includes thumbnails of each spread with more in-depth explanations of everything from tidepools to shorebirds to environmental issues with seashores.

Verdict: This series is a staple for my library; I recommend it to teachers and parents all the time and have used them in flannelboards and interactive reading with classes. That being said, this one felt a little, I don't know, forced. The animal series is, I think, better than the habitats although there's a need for these as well. I will absolutely buy and use it, but I think there are so many books on seashores that this one doesn't stand out quite as much as some of their previous titles.

ISBN: 9781561459681; Published 2017 by Peachtree; F&G provided by publisher for review

Sunday, August 13, 2017

RA RA READ: Read it and Weep: A Child Called It Read-Alikes

Misery memoirs. They're a thing. I personally am not a fan and have never read A Child Called It, but I do get a LOT of teens and young adults asking for them and it never goes away. I had someone ask for Living Dead Girl in June, which was how I discovered our copy was long missing and I just saw a link to Abby the Librarian's read-alikes list, which is still relevant! I went back and forth on whether or not to include blurbs and decided not. Because I didn't have time and this isn't really my genre. The common theme in all of these, fiction and nonfiction, is some kind of harrowing event or childhood, mental struggles, and eventual triumph and hope.

Young Adult Nonfiction (basically all memoirs)

  • Three little words; Three more words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  • The dead inside by Cyndy Etler
  • The year we disappeared by Cylin Busby 
  • Deep water by Katherine Nichols (true crime)
  • One Cut by Eve Porinchak (true crime)
  • Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle 
  • Invisible Girl by Mariel Hemingway 
  • Smile for the camera by Kelle James 
  • All better now by Emily Smith 
Adult Nonfiction 
  • Sickened by Julie Gregory 
  • Glass castle by Jeannette Walls 
Young Adult Fiction
  • Ellen Hopkins (novels in verse)
  • Elizabeth Scott
    • Living dead girl
    • Love you, hate you, miss you
    • Grace 
  • Carol Lynch Williams
    • Glimpse (novel in verse)
    • Chosen one
  • Laurie Halse Anderson
    • Speak
    • Wintergirls 
  • By the time you read this, I’ll be dead by Julie Ann Peters
  • Boot camp by Todd Strasser
  • Split by Swati Avasthi
  • Cut by Patricia McCormick 
  • Because I am furniture by Thalia Chaltas (novel in verse)
  • Scars by C. A. Rainfield

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This week at the library; or, Projects continue

  • This week's projects
    • I think we finally worked out our hiring plans. Now I am working on writing/revising a lot of training materials. 
    • As part of this I'm also adding a lot of reader's advisory bookmarks.
    • Finished the teen fiction weeding, including storage.
    • Still cleaning out the basement. I think one more day next week will do it.
    • Started again on weeding the 900s - I stopped at the 960s a couple months ago.
    • Craft-o-Rama and Free Lego Build
  • Professional Development
    • SLJ Teen Live

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson

Class hamster GW and his friends Sunflower and Barry are back! In their latest adventure, they've settled down to become class pets and are peacefully enjoying their quiet nights with puzzles and poetry. GW even has a secret little crush on a girl in his classroom, not that he'd ever admit it though.

GW is thrilled when he hears there's going to be an art competition. Not only will things get a little more exciting, but Carina (the kid in his class) has a special exhibit! But Harriet the evil mouse queen and her minions, not to mention the snake Lucinda, are all waiting for them. Will they make it to the fabled art closet and save the day?

I thought the first title in the series, The Great Pet Escape, was a little stronger and funnier. The animals had more distinct personalities and there were lots of twists and turns. This book was more about GW learning to admit that he has feelings for Carina and giving his friends a chance to show their own strengths. It was still quite funny though, teachers and parents will especially get a kick out of the references to prior Art Incidents.

Jamieson's art continues the cute and colorful theme from her first book. All the rodents have distinct looks, from Harriet's cute pink ears to Sunflower's jaunty flower crown. The art room is a triumph of organization and art supplies and the inventions GW creates are both charming and hilarious.

Verdict: Readers will want to have read the first book before diving into this one; hand the series to kids who like cute and funny and anyone who is nostalgic about Jean Van Leeuwen's Great Cheese Conspiracy series.

ISBN: 9781627791182; Published 2017 by Henry Holt; Purchased for the library