Saturday, June 24, 2017

This week at the library; or, Summer Week 3

What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
    • Department heads staff meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' books (2 sessions); Storywagon: Circus Boy
  • Wednesday
    • STEM Learning Lab
  • Thursday
    • Library on the Go
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Geology
  • Friday - Sunday
    • in which I go to ALA
I'm going to revamp the teen maker space - this summer they didn't feel like coming. I am getting some teen volunteers though, so go figure. Pearl has a growing group of fans.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Secret Rescuers: The Storm Dragon by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Sophy Williams

I first heard of Paula Harrison when a family with internationally adopted children recommended her "Rescue Princesses" series to me. They said it was one of the few books they'd found that featured the diversity of their family in a princess-style story. The series has been very popular and I enjoyed promoting a series that featured a diverse array of characters.

Rescuing magical animals seems to be all the rage in beginning chapter books right now (well, always really) and I recently read through a whole stack. I've selected "Secret Rescuers" as my favorite and I look forward to adding it to the juvenile series next year.

Sophy is just an ordinary maid at the castle. She's often yelled at by the strict housekeeper, tries to stay out of the way of the cranky queen and her creepy captain of the guard, Sir Fitzroy, and rather misses the old king who seems to have been the only one who liked the magical creatures that are rumored to abound in the kingdom. As she's helping the garden boy, Tom, dispose of the king's old belongings she finds a bag of plain gray stones which she absentmindedly pockets.

Later in the day, while picking apples, she encounters her first magical creature - Cloudy, a lost baby storm dragon! She also discovers the pebbles are actually magical stones that enable her to speak with Cloudy - and maybe other magical creatures. A breathless chase is on as Sophy tries to complete her duties and keep Cloudy safe from Sir Fitzroy and all his men. Once she succeeds, a new world of adventure opens up to her as she sets out to explore beyond the castle walls.

Williams' black and white illustrations are soft and shaded, showing a sweet-faced blonde girl with an untidy braid, a cute baby dragon, and a medieval-style castle with guards and others sprinkled about.

This is a friendly blend of sweet, cute, and adventurous and is sure to charm beginning chapter readers looking for new series about magical animals and fantasy adventures.

Verdict: Of course this will be an instant hit with fans of Harrison's previous series. It's also likely to appeal to readers who like Daisy Meadows' series, as well as Kallie George's Magical Animal Adoption Agency and, a bit more of a stretch, to fans of Tracey West's Dragon Masters. A fun addition to any beginning chapter series section, although I do hope that Harrison will introduce more diverse characters in later books.

ISBN: 9781481476089; This edition published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

Somehow I had thought this was a picture book and the beautiful cover made me eager to read it. So when I popped it open I got a bit of a surprise!

Sandy lives in her own world, where every night she dreams of the strange creatures she draws in a magical, wonderful place. But during the day she goes to school with mean nuns and indifferent classmates. But then she meets Morfie, a new girl at school. Morfie is different, with her white hair and gray eyes. She loves Sandy's drawings and can't get enough of them. But is there something...strange about Morfie? And what is going wrong with with Sandy's worlds? Her beautiful, magical escape is becoming a terrifying prison and Morfie no longer seems like the friend she was at first. Sandy will need to be strong and believe in herself if she's going to escape this new, frightening place and truly own her art.

Alvarez' art glows on the page with rich greens, blues, and pinks swirling in Sandy's dream world. Her every day world is often gray and boring, but also comforting in its ordinary things and colors. Sandy's isolation from the other girls at school is shown as she sits alone in the field at recess, isolated both by her own choice and her artistic leanings. The scenes grow increasingly gruesome and creepy and Morfie takes over both Sandy's real and dream world and then retreats as Sandy triumphs in her own mind. Overall, the book seems like a scene from a Miyazaki movie; rich in imagery and imagination, glorious in color and fantasy, and featuring an emotionally strong girl finding her true self.

Verdict: A beautiful, magical story that will appeal to fantasy-lovers and budding artists.

ISBN: 9780910620137; Published 2017 by Nobrow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Colors by John J. Reiss

We have a strong board book collection at my library; several patrons have remarked on our selection and size. However, in 2015/2016 I had a drop in circulation and in 2017 I shifted the area so now I am determined to update, renew, and make this area the best it can be! Towards this end I am purchasing not only replacements but new titles to expand the revive the collection.

This is a new board book edition of a 1969 title, as can be clearly seen in the art style. Each spread shows a selection of different items in the selected color. Blue shows a light blue sky, dark blue sea with curved waves, blue cornflowers on a white background, blueberries on a black background, bluebirds on a black background, and a variety of blue butterflies with blue and yellow dots on a blue background. There's also a blue policeman's coat with gold star and buttons.

The art has a distinctive, quirky style that contrasts sharply with the various lighter and darker colors and white and black backgrounds. There are lots of colored dots and circles against the simple shapes that make up the different items. Some of them seem a bit outdated or confusing for very young children - policeman and fireman instead of police officer or firefighter (and police in our area wear black, not blue). Gooseberries, cornflowers, and licorice sticks are rather odd choices, as are the inclusion of "puppy dog tails" in the brown section.

However, this is a pleasant introduction to colors and will be fun for parents and toddlers to enjoy together while learning some new words. It would also be a good choice for encouraging children to spot different colors everywhere they go.

Verdict: An additional choice, if you're looking to refresh your board books on colors.

ISBN: 9781481476430; This edition published 2016 by Little Simon; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Marta! Big & Small by Jen Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

This is the most lovely book about comparisons, relativity, and opposites. Sweet little Marta is an ordinary girl, "una nina". But to a bug, she is "grande", very big. To a horse she is slow, to a lion she is quiet. The peaceful progression of comparisons continues until Marta encounters a snake. Will she be tasty or can she get herself out of trouble? The story ends with a spread detailing all the ways Marta is like animals - loud like el leon, slow like la tortuga. Most of all, she is "clever, very clever, like una nina." A simple glossary in the back lists all the things that Marta is and their English translations and all the animals Marta meets.

Dominguez' sweet illustrations show colorful animals and foliage against a white background. Each creature, as well as Marta, has a soft, colored outline that makes them pop off the page. Marta is a cheerful, active little girl with a rounded face and plump little hairbuns and sandy brown skin.

The genius of this story is that it blends both the concept and the Spanish language into the tale so children who don't speak Spanish can easily pick up the sense of the words while Spanish-speakers can follow the story and pick up the English. On top of that, it's a great story to teach young children about how things change in comparison - Marta might seem fast to one animal and slow to another, even though she is the same. In the end, there is a celebration of imagination as she mimics each of the animals.

Verdict: A delightful choice for toddler or preschool storytime, this would also make a good beginning reader for kids, especially those who want to be introduced to Spanish and/or English.

ISBN: 9781626722439; Published 2016 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, June 19, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: The secret life of the red fox by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

This stunning book explores the hidden life of foxes. In a white, fluffy landscape, the red fox is a glowing blur. The vixen's story starts in the winter, as she hunts for scarce food in a snow-covered landscape. Italicized words are explained in a glossary in the back. The quiet vixen drifts through the landscape, pounces on small rodents, and caches her extra food. As spring begins to green the landscape, the vixen finds a mate and together they protect their territory, feast on apples in the orchard, and escape from dogs. The land turns to greens and yellows in spring and summer and the vixen finds an abandoned animal burrow. She stays inside while her mate brings food and in a few weeks there are fuzzy fox cubs, learning to hunt with worms and beetles. Eventually, they too will grow up and find their own territories and mates.

There is further information about foxes, a glossary, and further reading. The lush paintings and rich language aren't a good fit for the average preschool storytime, but it would make a stunning read-aloud for older listeners or children who love learning about animals.

Verdict: This lovely book is a look at a common but often overlooked and rarely seen animal and is sure to be a strong addition to your animal picture books.

ISBN: 9781629792606; Published 2017 by Boyds Mills Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Classic Rereads: The Saucepan Journey by Edith Unnerstad, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

I have searched for many years for the Peep-Larssons Go Sailing by Edith Unnerstad. Recommended by Noel Perrin as one of those rare, but exquisite books, I've never quite managed to get my hands on a copy. But I finally decided to read another in the series, The Saucepan Journey, and located a copy via inter-library loan. It turned out to be the first in the series!

The Larssons are poor. They have so many children there's scarcely room to turn around in their tiny apartment, let alone sleep. When their father's rich half-brother dies and leaves them only two draft horses and drays, Mrs. Larsson comes up with a novel idea - Mr. Larsson, who is an inventor when he's not a traveling salesman, will turn the wagons into caravans and they will spend the summer touring the countryside. Where does the Peep come in? Well, Mr. Larsson has designed a marvelous saucepan, and they will finance their journey by selling it along the way.

It's a wonderful summer. They meet a down-on-his-luck hot dog man, an eccentric old woman, a man who might be a murderer. They discover thieves, wonderful lakes, and fascinating Swedish towns.


Who will read this? Families who enjoy classic family stories such as Taylor's All of a Kind Family, Sidney's Five little Peppers, Eleanor Estes, and Streatfeild's Magic Summer will love this. It won't appeal to kids who are used to the more fast-paced adventures of contemporary children's literature and media, but you might be surprised how many kids are willing to relax and try something different. It's a perfect family summer read, and may be especially appreciated by families who struggle economically or who want their children to be familiar with a wide range of people in different walks of life.

Bring it back? Absolutely. Even if you're not fascinated by Scandinavian children's literature, as am I, this is a wonderfully nostalgic summer read. While it lacks racial diversity, not surprising for the time period and location, it portrays a family that is poor in economic resources but rich in imagination, ingenuity, and love. The original illustrations are colorful and appealing and it's a strong family story that will appeal to readers who like this type of lazy summer reads.

Availability? It's fairly common in smaller libraries - worldcat lists multiple holdings. Used copies also proliferate online for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, it was last reprinted in the 60s so you're unlikely to find a shiny new copy that will stand out on the shelf.

Classic Rereads

I couldn't think of a snazzier name than that for this new series... and the picture isn't really accurate because it will mostly be chapter books. Still, here it is.

My library patrons are quite fond of classics, more so than in other libraries I've observed. I'm always on a regular hunt for new editions of classic titles and new classics to recommend to families. I'm going to feature some of the classic books I've read (and reviewed) in the past as well as thoughts on whether or not they should be reprinted, how well they've aged, and who would enjoy them.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This week at the library; or, Summer Week Two

I taught several kids to whipstitch
What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Garden playgroup; Tiny Tots
    • Teen maker space; Read with Pearl
I walked into chaos. Yep, it's summer. Still not as busy as the year the pool was closed though...our circulation seems a bit lower than usual.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions); Nature's Niche
    • Lakeshores Learning presentation
We had about 100 people for our live animal show, which was smaller than usual but just perfect because a lot of kids from the special education school came! I've been doing some outreach with them and working with some parents and I'm super excited about this!
I had a huge group for storytime and then it was quiet the rest of the day.
My first Library on the Go. It went pretty well, aside from being miserably hot and the ipad not cooperating. I had a tiny group at Messy Art Club. Super enthusiastic and they loved it, but tiny. Woe and Despair.
This was a long day. I started at 8am, prepping for the field trip. Four tours with 20 kids each (my staff ran 4 craft programs, Pattie did 4 storytimes, and the school did 4 snacks). Grabbed a quick lunch, revised the schedule for next fall, had my first shot at teaching my aides to crochet, and then set up for the sewing workshop. Very enthusiastic group, I had to sadly tell everyone it was time to go when we closed at 6pm.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Escapades of Clint McCool: Octo-Man and the Headless Monster by Jane Kelley, illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner

I can't quite decide how I feel about this book, but I'm leaning towards no. Clint McCool (his real name is Walter, but only his mom and teacher call him that) has a lot of good ideas. Often they get him into escapades, which are even better! But not everyone agrees. In the space of one afternoon, Clint gets in trouble at school for not focusing and distracting other kids, his two friends, Marco and M. L., are angry that he's gotten them into trouble and ripped Marco's favorite shirt, and the director at the cool movie site is really mad at him. Not to mention his teacher, mom, and pretty much everyone else.

Luckily, Clint has his special hat with buttons on it, including a good idea button, and it helps him save the day. He apologizes to the movie guy, manages to keep his focus long enough to save the movie, and apologizes to his friends as well, who generously forgive him.

Clint has a vivid, active imagination and a million great ideas. Unfortunately, none of those ideas include empathy or listening to adults or his friends until the very end of the story. It's hard to understand why Marco and M. L. are still friends with someone who appears so oblivious and selfish. However, he does apologize at the end and apparently his friends enjoy some of the wild escapades they get into. In some ways, Clint appears to be a classic ADHD kid, with his unlimited energy and inability to focus or listen. However, if that's the case, it doesn't sound like any accommodations or help is being given to him in school or at home. Early in the book the teacher hints at something that will happen to Walter if he doesn't behave and his mom threatens "If Walter can't behave, they'll find ways to make him" which is...not very helpful, to put it mildly.

All the interior illustrations are drawn in pen on a white background. On the cover, Clint has tanned skin and dark brown hair. His friends, Marco and M. L., have a dark buzzcut and curly hair that seems to indicate some racial diversity, but the art style makes all the characters paper-white. The story is written in a choppy, breathless style that is not bad for a beginning chapter book or the personality of the main character, but gets very tiring to read. "Go home? We can't go home! There aren't any monsters in our apartment. Mom takes my hand like I'm a two-year-old. Is this the end? Has Clint McCool been defeated? No, wait. I can still save the day. I'm wearing my cap!"

Verdict: Ultimately, I'd say this was well-intentioned but fell short of achieving a strong beginning chapter book with diverse characters. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780448487540; Published 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher