Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Tiger Tail (Or what happened to Anya on her first day of school) by Mike Boldt

I'm usually skeptical about first day of school books, or books that use heavy-handed metaphors to show tolerance and diversity. But this one just really clicked with me, for some reason.

Anya wakes up on what seems to be a normal day. But it's not. Somehow, she has....A TIGER TAIL!! Of course, it just has to be her first day of school! She tries everything she can think of to get rid of the tail or get out of going to school, but there's no escape! She's frozen on the sidewalk when the bus pulls up, the kids jump out and....she runs into another kid. With bunny ears! Hmmm, the next thing she knows it's time for a class picture - and she's not the only one who's just a little different.

Boldt's colorful, digital illustrations are cheerful and attractive. Curly-headed Anya and her fuzzy tail are cute and her classmates are a diverse group, sporting everything from sensory headphones to koala ears.

From a purely adult viewpoint, this isn't likely to really introduce kids to tolerance and diversity. It would take an adult to draw the connection between the children with real-world differences - physical abilities, skin color, etc. and the fantastical additions of animal tails and ears. There's no explanation for where Anya's tail comes from and her parents' lackadaisical approach is odd. It's also somewhat odd that the author seems to be drawing parallels between kids who apparently wake up one morning with an animal appendage and those with cultural, racial, or physical differences.

Verdict: But for a book meant to reassure kids about being different or sticking out there first day of school, it works just fine. It's funny and sweet and kids are unlikely to think that deeply about it. Not a first purchase, but if you're looking for additional school-themed books to reassure first-timers this is a nice additional purchase. Also, I just like tiger tails.

ISBN: 9781481448857; Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Space Explorers: Space Stations by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

I've been looking for new space technology books for the past few years, ever since I weeded most of our titles from the 80s (please don't ask me about the 90s). Unfortunately, it seemed like space had had its moment and no new titles were being published.

So I was delighted to see this new series, focusing on space technology, from Pogo. I was sent Space Stations for review and it was exactly what I've been looking for. In a few chapters the book covers the basic definition of a space station, several historical stations, and the International Space Station. There is a glossary, index, and activity in the back.

The series includes titles on rockets, satellites, rovers and spacecraft. It's intended for grades 2-3 and has a limited amount of text and lower level reading but enough information to interest the reader.

Verdict: If, like me, you are looking to update your space section this series is just right.

ISBN: 9781620314135; Published 2016 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teen area transformation part 2

In part 2, we move materials and computers and set up new furniture. We had to get someone out from our consortium headquarters to fix the data jacks - they were originally made to have one internet data jack and one voice/phone jack. Why I do not know. One of my colleagues helped me haul the unwieldy and rather filthy desks and computers around and then our consortium IT person fixed the jacks. Then we (well, mostly my colleague who is awesome) crawled around on the floor to reconnect everything. I vacuumed and wished I'd brought a clean shirt to change into.

This is now the "official" teen lab. All two computers of it. This is supposed to be the area for teens who want to study or talk quietly.

We have all our soft seating back in this area, four tables (they fit together to create two big tables) and 12 chairs. We'll be able to have programs and after school activities on these tables.

See the nice tables? And the kids are enjoying stacking cups. You can't do the actual cup stacking thing with dixie cups, incidentally, because they squish, but you can build towers with them.

The new hang out and chat arrangement

We moved all the ya audiobooks upstairs to the adult audio room. It's mainly adults who listen to them and we had run out of space, especially since I had a batch of playaways donated by the school library. We spread the graphic novels out to have more display space. Our graphic novels don't circulate as much as I would like, but maybe the new display area will open it up.

So, there it is. Now all we have to do is use it!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This week at the library

Nobody knows how we got this mixture
something with cornstarch and soap?
Those are not my hands, incidentally.
Happening this week...
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • My desk has the Mondays and so do I. I am feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot frazzled, but I did not actually bite anybody and while some of my staff are tiptoeing around me a bit, I had previously provided chocolate so it will be ok.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2) (Pattie)
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • This weather is making me sick - I mean that literally. Cold enough to release cedar pollen, dry and warm enough for it to hang in the air. I am miserable. Although, when I have continuous sinus headaches for days, I remind myself that I am fortunate not to suffer from migraines. Large group at book club, even though they weren't actually interested in talking about the book club books, just spreading glitter and enthusing about Harry Potter. We got the teen computers moved, reconnected, and running, thanks to my colleagues!
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Interactive Storytime
    • I used the materials from my outreach storytime and a few extra books from my professional collection. I started with three very young toddlers, who didn't quite get it, and ended with 4 older kids who didn't want to stop! We cleaned up, finished projects, and Jess put furniture together. The teen area is almost done!
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Science Does Dough
    • Valentine's Open Crafts
    • The adult department had a Valentine's program "art and love songs". This was originally planned for last Thursday, when I had Lego Club (and before V-Day). But things got changed around, so it was today instead. This was a bit tricky, as I had Mad Scientists Club and it was super messy. Fortunately, all the staff worked together and it worked. We both had a great turnout and the adults kindly overlooked the stains on the floor that I didn't have time to clean up because they wanted to get started right away! I stayed for the evening and opened the storyroom with crafts for any kids who wanted to hang out while their parents were being all romantic.
  • Friday
    • Outreach Storytime: Get up and move
    • I started early to take our cushion covers to the cleaners. Last outreach storytime for February. Spent about an hour alternately vacuuming, scrubbing, and cleaning the carpet. Note to self - that combination of ingredients sticketh like a....sticky thing. Determined assault on desk, including more holds for school projects, paperwork, orders, and finally cleaning up all the toys with missing pieces. Finally left an hour late. Now it's time for VACATION.
Projects in progress
  • Continuing to update the picture book neighborhoods
  • Tentative program calendar for summer sent out for review
  • Updating teen magazines
  • Putting together summer activity prize packs for grants
  • Ordering replacements and putting together all the pieces of toys left in my office. You can see new toys at my Read 'n' Play blog.
Projects completed
  • Staff schedules through May
  • Completed first round of paperwork for my LSTA mini grant
  • Completed and submitted Dollar General grant
Professional Development
  • Learn@UW class: Child development, library space, and behavior (week 4)
  • Learn@UW class: How do you manage that: Issues in youth services management (week 3)
Voices from Book Club
  • A lot of kids are reading Battle of the Books titles. Rain Reign by Martin is a favorite. They're also reading Wonder, one kid is reading Warriors, and several are getting into Harry Potter. Other books mentioned include Detectives in Togas and American Girl books.
  • Several enthusiastic fans of Bird & Squirrel. One requested all the sequels.
  • A couple kids read Dealing with Dragons but they're more into Harry Potter right now.
  • Our nonfiction - Hatshepsut and Fatty Legs - were read and enjoyed but the girls weren't feeling chatty.
  • Finally got a couple kids to take Melonhead. Nobody wanted Robe of Skulls though.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ella and Owen: The Cave of Aaaaah! Doom! by Jaden Kent, illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk

Owen is a complete bookworm (dragon-worm that is) and is perfectly content to sit at home in the stone house, reading while he waits for his fiery cold to go away. However, his twin sister Ella is much more adventurous. She thinks a cold that makes you sneeze fire is not normal and they should find a wizard to cure it. Owen isn't so sure - evil wizards (and vegetables) are top on his list of things he is scared of. Not to mention his worst fear; evil wizards made of vegetables!

However, Ella is persuasive and soon the two are off on an adventure, bickering and bantering along the way. They make it to the Cave of AAAAAH! Doom! but will they ever make it out again?

This silly and icky beginning chapter book is generously illustrated with black and white drawings. I could only get a sense of them from the sketches in the ARC, but going by the cover they look delightfully goofy. Gross details like a spider-snail pet, eating slugs, and stinky fish ice cream are mixed with wacky humor, including an evil vegetable wizard.

Verdict: I'm always looking for new beginning chapter series and I think this one, a fun mix of gross and silly, will be a welcome addition to our collection. Fans of Branches' Notebook of Doom are sure to approve. Little Bee's forays into beginning chapter books are looking good! Recommended.

ISBN: 9781499803686; Published March 2017 by Little Bee/Bonnier; ARC provided by publisher at BEA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quirk's Quest: Into the Outlands by Robert Christie and Deborah Lang

Captain Quirk, a self-confident but foolish sea captain, is delighted to be chosen by the king to explore the mysterious outlands. Along with his crew they have an easy voyage… until fearsome monsters attack! Stranded, with only a few crew members left uneaten, Quirk and his crew encounter a strange sorceress named Hukka, a group of friendly local creatures, and prepare to set out on a journey farther into the outlands. Along the way readers are introduced to the remaining crew members, the some of the secrets held by Hukka, and hints of darker things to come.

The creatures populating this story are very reminiscent of Muppets. In fact, they look exactly like Muppets with legs. They are all various incarnations of furry creatures, all with bulging eyes and a variety of skin and fur colors. A few, Burtrym the ecologist and Cleus, apprentice healer/botanist, walk on four legs (Cleus is similar to a centaur).

Each new day of their journey is introduced by the captain’s log and readers will quickly realize that Quirk is immature and ineffectual while most of his crew are obsessed with their scientific positions and particular interests. Only kitchen assistant Smok has the practical skills and knowledge needed to survive and he humbly offers his assistance without seeming upset that the rest of the crew take him for granted and continue following the vainglorious captain. The captain’s log is also written in cursive, which will throw off a lot of younger readers who no longer learn this in school.

On the one hand, it’s an interesting and exciting adventure with a promise of many new adventures to come, secrets and dark doings. On the other hand, there are a LOT of characters and although they all look very different, I found it almost impossible to keep them straight. The locals, the Yoons, are cheerful, indestructible, view everyone as their friend, and have no power structure. They also speak broken English and their behavior is very childish. There’s a calm disregard of the deaths first of most of the crew and then of the interchangeable frog army throughout the book. Although it’s implied that the captain and his choices are foolish, the crew all works together to let him think he’s in charge for no real reason.

Verdict: A fun and exciting adventure with a lot of troublesome undercurrents in the story. Interesting to discuss perhaps and may appeal to Bone fans but I’d wait and see if the second volume fleshes out the characters and problematic plot points more before purchasing it.

ISBN: 9781626722330; Published 2016 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan

This board book adaptation of a 2014 picture book hits all the right spots; no surprise since Joyce Wan is the queen of cuddly and cute.

Simple rhymes encourage the readers to find all the "sleepyheads"; cozy animals tucked up in holes, on the water, in caves and in trees. But where is the sleepyhead in the bed in the house? The book reiterates the previous couplets and then ends with the sleepyhead - a baby asleep in its mother's arms.

The text is simple enough to lull infants and toddlers into a sleepy mood or interest them in following along with the book. My personal interest is all in the sweet illustrations. I love Joyce Wan's gentle curves and soft colors, which give a feeling of fuzziness on the page. An adorable round bear, little blue bird, sleek otter, and cuddly baby are all sweetly pictured against the gentle, grainy grays of the night sky. There are details for older children and adults to coo over - the starry dandelions, delicate water lilies, and sparks of fireflies. However, the art is simple enough for younger babies to still be able to focus on the larger aspects and bold lines.

Verdict: We love Joyce Wan's board books at my library and Howatt's text meshes perfectly with her cozy art. Even if you've already purchased the picture book, I recommend adding the board book to your collection.

ISBN: 9781481461429; Published 2016 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Snow Rabbit by Camille Garoche

I hadn't associated Camille Garoche with Princess CamCam, author of the beautiful Fox's Garden, but the lovely paper cuttings immediately gave me a clue.

Two sisters are watching the snow in a wonderful, moonlit world. One goes outside and creates a snow rabbit, which she brings inside. Only then do we see her sister is in a wheelchair. They both venture out to explore the snowy world, but the second sister's wheelchair gets stuck in the snow. Alone and frightened, they think they are lost in the woods but the snow rabbit they set free returns, more magical than ever, to rescue them.

Garoche's delicate, three-dimensional cut paper illustrations are so, so magical. The reader feels like they have drifted into a silent, snowy world of moonlight and magic, where anything can, and will happen. The sweet, wordless interaction of the sisters is beautifully conveyed in their gentle care for each other and their delicate movements.

Verdict: So, so lovely. If you buy only one wordless book this year, make it this one.

ISBN: 9781592701810; Published 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Geckos by Vanessa Black; Diggers by Cari Meister

These two new titles in ongoing series show what Bullfrog does really well - high interest topics, excellent photographs, and simple text. Books like these are what make Bullfrog a popular series for both patrons and teachers in my library.

Geckos is a new entry in the "Reptile World" series. The book opens with the most memorable fact about a gecko - when it loses its tail, it grows back! Further facts are included; the sounds a gecko makes, its sticky toes, and reproduction. Back matter has a labeled photograph of a gecko (Parts of a Gecko), picture glossary, and index.

These are perfect for younger kids who like nonfiction titles and for beginning readers wanting to read on their own. The photographs are bright and attractive, the text simple but informative.

Another popular series at my library is "Machines at work" and I received a copy of one of the new additions, Diggers. Of course, machines are always a popular subject for young children, but how often do you find nonfiction that is at an easy level, includes photographs, and represents diversity? All of these make this a go-to series in my library. This particular title shows a dark-skinned man, "Ed" operating an excavator and a curly-haired woman "Amy" driving a backhoe. Both are shown in action operating different parts of the vehicle and digging holes for different construction projects. Back matter includes a labeled digger, picture glossary, and index. Kids fascinating by machines collect these off the shelf in piles, delighted to find books that fit comfortably in their hands and which they can often read themselves. I love to hand these to my construction-fan girls, knowing they will see women represented equally.

Verdict: These show the best of what Bullfrog offers; accessible, sturdy, and easy books for young children and beginning readers to devour on popular topics. I strongly recommend both series.

ISBN: 9781620313817

ISBN: 9781620313671

Published 2016 by Bullfrog/Jump; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, February 11, 2017

This week at the library; or, Blah

My double amaryllis bloomed though
Happenings of the week
  • Monday
    • All alooooone. People were sick or had time off or were working at home. I mean, I was not LITERALLY alone, but my cohorts abandoned me. Long staff meeting.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Bookaneers
    • I did Toddlers 'n' Books for Pattie - I used my outreach storytime and then threw in little puppets to go with the "walking, walking" song. Large groups at both sessions (relative to the sessions), lots of new people, several screamers. I always figure that's how you know they're having fun, if they scream when they have to leave!
    • Large group for Bookaneers with several new kids.
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Obstacle Course (Jess)
    • Outreach Storytime: Get up and move! (5 sessions)
    • Jess did the parts of the obstacle course we didn't do last week - activity stations. Now I'm sick. I warned the kids and they hugged me anyways. More bills, sorting books, and started working on a big remote collection project. I'm trying to decide if making book lists for these projects would be helpful or a waste of time.
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • I worked for about three hours - got my desk partially cleared off, cleaned out some paperwork, and some performers booked. Then I went to Walmart and bought supplies.
  • Saturday
    • Have a Heart (Pattie)
    • This was Pattie's big Valentine's party - I worked the desk and lent her an aide. It was very busy.
  • My main project this week was putting together a huge remote collection (about 400 books) for a teacher doing inquiry projects for several full grades. I have been selecting, placing holds, and processing boxes and boxes of books, helped out by our circulation staff!
Professional Development
  • Learn@UW class: Child development, library space, and behavior (week 3)
  • Learn@UW class: How do you manage that: Issues in youth services management (week 2)
Voices of the Kids from Book Club
  • Squirrel in the House by Vivian Vande Velde
    • Three kids liked it, thought it was funny. One 3rd grader said it was too long.
  • Yeti Files
    • Kids said they liked it but didn't have much to say except one 3rd grader that it was too short (yes, same person as above).
  • Brief discussion on how much everyone loves Wimpy Kid
  • More fans of The Buddy Files by Dori Butler
  • New books that met with the most approval were Little Dog Lost and Bea Garcia My Life in Pictures
  • Thrilled reader found a sequel to Gold Medal Mess which we just read. Very excited.