Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Peekaboo Pals by Gareth Lucas

These aren't quite board books, but this is the closest category and the audience they're intended for, so here they are.

Opposites features colorful scenes with animals acting out the concept. There are also copious lift the flaps. A sample spread shows a pink beauty parlor. A lion getting a trim from a fox is labeled "Hairy"; lift the flap to see the bald (and shocked) lion afterwards. A yak with long bangs has the word "Straight" marching up the side of his flap; lift it to see his curly 'do with a cute bow. Finally, a zebra says "I need some color in my life!" in a "Before" picture. Lift the flap and it says "After" to match a rainbow-tinted mane and the zebra's panicked "Not every color!" to his disappearing stylist. The zebra is the only creature with any lines and after going through various scenes, including a city street, ocean, circus, bedtime, and more, a final spread shows the zebra's party, with double-fold-out flaps. Both pages fold out and have additional lift-the-flap tabs.

Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3 is a counting book. Once again, zebra is the only talking animal and he urges various alliterative groupings of animals on in the "Animal Antics" race. The count starts with "One polar bear on a pogo stick" and continues through "Fifteen ferrets on a ferry" and up to "Twenty turtles on a train." It then goes by tens, thirty, forty and fifty and then finishes with "One hundred rabbits in a rocket." Each flap has the letter both in digital and alphabetical form (that doesn't sound quite right, but you know what I mean) and you lift the flap to reveal the animals and their transportation beneath. A little green snail shows up on each picture, hitching a ride to the finish line.

The final book in this set, Peekaboo Pals: A to Z also features alliterative animals. Each flap shows an animal and their letter. Lift the flap, and you'll see an alliterative sentence of the animal doing an action. From "A is for alligator admiring some art" to "M is for mouse making music with maracas" the text is workable but not particularly unique. Zebra once again follows along, making impatient comments as he waits for his turn, only to give the reader a little surprise under the Z flap.

The art is bright and cheerful and the text simple and works well for the age of the audience. The books themselves aren't, strictly speaking, board books. The pages are a thin cardboard - slightly thicker than shirt cardboard - and the flaps are shirt cardboard sturdiness. Each spread is folded and then bound together (it's hard to explain without seeing it) so the binding basically holds a handful of folded cardboard. I can tell by looking at it and touching it that's it's nowhere near as sturdy as a traditional board book and, apart from the tearing of the flaps, the spine will quickly disintegrate.

However, while I wouldn't recommend this for your board book section, I think it would make a fun addition to your pop-up section (if you have one) or for a toy section. I'll be adding them to my circulating toy collection and making them seem "special" will help keep them intact a little longer. They'd also be a great purchase for supervised lapsit or baby storytimes. The large size of many of the flaps will help build fine motor skills.

Verdict: A fun purchase if you are looking to add different types of pop-ups and movable books.

Peekaboo Pals: Opposites
ISBN: 9781626865228

Peekaboo Pals: 1 2 3

Peekaboo Pals: A to Z

Published 2016 by Silver Dolphin; Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt

Michelle Robinson is back with another silly story, paired up with another kooky illustrator.

On a lovely clear day, a brave knight rides off on his, that's not right, he didn't have a horse. He did have a sandwich. No, I mean a sword. He had to fight....something. What was it? Oh, yeah, a dragon. Worst of all its offences, it has eaten the knight's best friend, Sir Clopalot! He can't quite remember what Sir Clopalot looked like, but he definitely misses him....

After much confusion and wackiness, the knight finally remember what really happened, gets his friend back, and all ends happily.

Blunt's colored pencil illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's messy and funny scrawls, with untidy hair, bulgy eyes, and hasty swirls denoting scales, smoke, and more. The dragon looks both cool and bored as he waits for the knight to get his act together and the fleeing townsfolk, shown in medieval disarray in the vet's office, are hilarious.

Verdict: If you're planning any fractured fairy tale storytimes or programs, or just looking for some silly reads, make sure to add this one to your list.

ISBN: 9780803740679; Published 2016 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Otters love to play by Jonathan London, illustrated by Meilo So

I've felt ambivalent about some of London's previous nonfiction picture books, but I embrace this one whole-heartedly.

The bold text of the main narrative describes a family of otters who have moved into an old beaver lodge. "It's spring, and in a nest of moss, leaves, and grass, three newborn otter babies drink warm rich milk at their mother's teats." Frequent references to play behavior accompanies the descriptions of the otter pups' antics as they grow, learn, and live through the seasons. In addition to the primary text, there is a running narrative of information in a smaller font, explaining the instincts and reasons behind the otters' playful behavior and giving additional otter facts. There is an additional "About Otters" section at the back with more facts and a brief index.

Meilo So's playful watercolors really make the book, with frolicking brown otters, whiskers quivering, leaping, sliding and pouncing across the pages. The seasons glow with color and detail, from the cool greens and blues of spring to the chilly white and grays of winter.

Verdict: The layout follows that of Candlewick's series about Australian animals and leads me to hope there will be more books from different authors and illustrators about all kinds of animals! I love the juxtaposition of the bolder text, for reading aloud, and smaller text for more information for older listeners and readers. This delightful story will be loved by children and parents alike. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763669133; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This week at the library; or week with vacation

Next summer is a building theme. Hmmm, building, coral, I
think there's an idea there. I also want to do a display on all
the reasons Finding Dory is bad for fish, only more tactfully,
but that's a different discussion.
What's going on in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Supervisory stuff. Smelling toy bags to find the bad-smell culprit. reader's advisory meeting with a patron (why does Scholastic Reading Counts crash every summer without fail??). going through new books. cleaning off my desk. working on updating the toy bags.
  • Tuesday - Thursday
    • Vacation! I went to Chicago to visit the Shedd with Sara the Librarian, we also went out for yummy food several times, I did bits of this and that and cleaning and writing. I also started an afghan, using a pattern! I've never tried this before.
  • Friday
    • Back to work. Next time I take vacation it will be the whole week and that is all I have to say about THAT.
  • Finished redoing the Read 'n' Play bags, now tackling the handful of Imagine a Story and the bags that weren't redone with tips. I've weeded out the bags with costumes - they are being cleaned and will then alternate in our new dress-up corner.
Fall Schedule
I think we have it mostly figured out through December, although I still have to schedule outreach and field trips. Of course there are other things - conferences and substitutes for programs and vacations and things...
  • Monday
    • Morning - Jess on the desk, Pattie has two playgroups a month
    • Afternoon - Jess on the desk, I have off desk time to do important managerial things
    • Evening - I work the information desk, twice a month Pattie has Tiny Tots, twice a month Autism Support Group
  • Tuesday
    • Morning - I'm on the desk, Pattie has 2 toddler storytimes
    • Afternoon - I'm on the desk, charter school meets at the library
    • Late afternoon/early evening - I have book club twice a month
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach/Field Trips (September-October)
  • Thursday
    • Morning - Jess is on the desk, Pattie has baby storytime
    • Afternoon - either Jess or I cover an hour on the information desk
    • Late afternoon - after school club
  • Friday
    • Outreach
  • Saturday
    • I'm supervising the Ice Age Trail Mammoth Hunt in September
    • Pattie is doing It's Great to be 3 in October and Jess and I are both working a Saturday at the information desk (mine will coincide with Pattie's program)
    • Fairy Tale Adventure in November and it's my turn to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving
    • Scholastic book sale and Santa's Kitchen in December and Jess is working a Saturday

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers

Louie and Ralphie are tough, just like their dad, Big Lou. Big Lou doesn't talk much, especially about their mom. He always says they should be tough. Louie and Ralphie decide it's time to show everyone just how tough they are.

First, they steal tough Chad Badgerton's hat. But it turns out to belong to Tiny Crawley and the boys get congratulated for standing up to bullies. Then they try shoveling all the snow in front of Mr. O'Hare's store - but they shovel in the wrong direction and get told how thoughtful they are, instead of how tough. They try to pick on a new kid and accidentally make her feel at home. They soap a mean neighbor's window and get thanked for cleaning it.

When their dad finds out about how kind they've been, they admit that they've been trying to be TOUGH, just like him - and Big Lou admits that it's hard to be so tough all the time - and maybe they should be kinder, just like their mother was. Now they're not the toughest Ratsos anymore - they're the kindest.

Black and white cartoons fill the book, showing silly bunnies, tough rats, and more animals populating the Ratsos' city. This light and funny story, with a not-unexpected ending, is a fun addition to beginning chapter book collections.

Verdict: This was cute, but I'm not sure I have an audience for it. It's a little too didactic for my taste also.

ISBN: 9780763676360: Published August 2016 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publisher at BEA

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Great Flood Mystery by Jane Louise Curry

I hate to tantalize you with books you cannot purchase for your library, but occasionally I cannot resist. I was delighted to see that Aladdin has recently republished Willo Davis Roberts' classic mysteries - so why not Jane Louise Curry?

While this includes an historical element, like many of her titles, it's also a straight mystery with hidden rooms, criminals, and, of course, skeptical family and police! Gordy Hartz is in trouble - again - for his wild stories. He was absolutely sure he saw a burglar in the empty house next door, but nobody believes him after the UFO scare. Even his best friend Izzy's dad, who is a policeman, is mad at him. On top of this, his family isn't doing too well - his dad has been unemployed for a while and money is tight. Gordy is both worried and excited when his parents decide to rent out their house and spend the summer with Great-Aunt Willi. Soon he's finding secret rooms, mysterious happenings, and potential criminals. Even when he gets Willi and some of her elderly friends involved, researching events of the great Johnstown flood that seem to be resurfacing, will anybody believe him? And is there really a treasure?

Verdict: A snazzy new cover on a reissue would make this an excellent mystery - it's got historical elements, features kids with economic struggles, and has plenty of clues and excitement. I hope some publisher puts this on their reissue list!

Used copy purchased on Amazon; Donated to the library book sale

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Small Readers: Slow, Slow Sloths by Bonnie Bader

I have a confession to make: I do not find sloths cute. Or particularly interesting. Now you know.

This nonfiction easy reader features photographs of sloths, both on a white background and a blurry green habitat, and walks readers through basic facts. It starts with their habitat and related animals, and pictures the two different types of sloths. Most of the book is devoted to a description of the sloth's early life and habits, from a baby to adulthood.

This is a level 2, for a "progressing reader" which is roughly intermediate. The sloth pictures are cute (if you like sloths) and the information clearly written, but I am not a big fan of Penguin Young Reader's nonfiction titles, compared to, say, National Geographic. My primary complaint is the layout of the text. It's a larger than normal font, but it's still fairly small and you have to search for the words on some pages. Also, some pages change the text from black on a white background to white on a blurry photographed background, which I find confusing.

Verdict: An additional purchase if you need more nonfiction easy readers or have a lot of sloth fans.

ISBN: 9780399541162; Published 2016 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Aberdeen by Stacey Previn

Aberdeen is a sweet little mouse with a lot of curiosity. He "didn't mean to leave the yard. BUT a balloon floated by, so he followed it." Aberdeen wanders away following the balloon and gets carried away (literally) on a little adventure. Eventually, his adventure turns scary when he is confronted with an owl. Scared and lonely, he manages to frighten away the owl and find his way home. He apologizes to his mama for making her worry, "I didn't mean to make you worry." The story finishes with Aberdeen getting a hug and his mom saying, "BUT you did."

This was a sweet story although it wasn't earth-shaking. However, I did find the abrupt and somewhat cryptic ending a little disturbing. I can see it's meant to circle back to the beginning, but it just sounds kind of weird. The rich watercolor art is lovely, especially cute little Aberdeen, his balloon, and the brightly colored flowers. I did think Aberdeen's mother's face in the penultimate spread was a little out of perspective.

Verdict: A peaceful, sweet story, albeit without particularly memorable characters or plot. If you are looking for additional picture books, especially about listening to parents or staying focused, it would make a nice addition to the library.

ISBN: 9780451471482; Published 2016 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 15, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Platypus by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson

It's here! It's here! Candlewick has been publishing an amazing series of nonfiction picture books about Australian animals and there's finally one on the platypus! Now all I need is one on the wombat for true happiness...

The narrative begins with a pond in the shade of gum trees and a mysterious duck bill poking out of a hole. But it's not a duck; it's a platypus! The story takes us through a typical night for a platypus, from early evening to sunrise. The platypus dives, feeds, and hides from predators, and briefly encounters his mate and pups. Throughout the story, additional information about the platypus is included and we learn about their habits, diet, and unique adaptations. There is an additional spread on the oddities of the platypus and their current threats (pollution etc.) and a quick introduction to their reproductive cycle. There is also a brief index.

The mixed media illustrations are very swirly and muddy. It's a perfect medium for a creature that's most active at night, diving into a weedy pond and camouflaging itself among reeds and undergrowth. There are a couple spreads where the text is difficult to decipher against the convoluted background, and if you are looking for photo-realistic images this is not the best choice, but I like the atmospheric illustrations.

Verdict: Part of me thinks I should focus more on getting kids to recognize local/more familiar animals (still haven't forgotten that kid who id'd an otter as a walrus or that 98% of the classes I visited said the biggest bird in the world was an eagle even after I told them it didn't fly, never mind the one who said our hamster was a beaver) but it's so fun to introduce kids - and adults - to animals they may have never heard of or know little about. I just love this series and it's delightful to see the kid's faces when they learn all about the strange creatures in Australia. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763680985; Published 2016 by Candlewick (US publication); Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The benefits of freedom; or, Fine free programs at the library

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not a "one-size-fits-all" library policies person. I think fines are just fine, if not necessary for some libraries. However, for my library and community, if given the choice, I'd clear out all fines for juvenile and young adult materials in my library and just block cards until missing items are returned or paid for. (I wouldn't make juvenile cards fine-free, as I know some libraries do, since the attendant issues with adults using their children's cards would be exasperating, to put it mildly). I've suggested this and a few staff are, if not completely in favor, at least in the "it wouldn't hurt to try" camp, but unfortunately the way our consortium is set up and other concerns mean that it simply wouldn't work. So, over the past couple years I've been working around it as best I can to make sure kids continue to have access to library materials.

Our current policy is 25 cents per day, per item, capped at $10 per item. When total fines of $10 accrue on your card, it is blocked. If you have a lost item and pay the replacement fee, any overdue fees attached to that item are removed (you don't have to pay both). If you have lost items that mount up over $50 (not just overdue fines) the police will eventually get involved (this is a process that usually takes up to if not more than a year and involves multiple letters, offers of payment plans, etc.).

I've instituted the following fine-free programs over the space of more than five years. It took a lot of research, discussion, argument, and waiting for the right moment, the right staff, and the right Board to support the programs. It's not something that happened overnight.

All year I have a "read off your fines" program for juvenile card holders. This would be kids under 16, since in our consortium when they turn 16 they get an adult card. The idea is pretty simple - read a book, fill out a form, get $3 off your overdue fines. You can clear off up to $21 every year. If kids really struggle with reading they can give their little "report" orally. If they only write two sentences, I don't care. If their parent writes it for them, that's fine too. They read a book at some point, I take some fines off and relieve a little stress. Here's the form if you want to try something similar at your library.

In 2014 I started a summer fine amnesty program. Every child I visit before summer reading begins (which generall means four year old kindergarten through middle school) gets a coupon that will clear off ALL their fines. It does have an expiration date (end of June or July) and they do have to not lose it. The thousands of dollars some people thought we would lose over this did not materialize - in 2014 it was $900 (with one $300 fine), in 2015 it was about $400 and in 2016 back to about $860. You can see a sample coupon here.

I have made "$5 off your overdue fines" certificates as a teen prize in the past, but they didn't get taken so either the kids with fines aren't reading much or they prefer to deal with the fines in other ways and have candy instead! Get out of fines coupon here.

Finally, in the summer of 2016 our Board approved a "clean slate" policy for kids turning 16 and moving from a juvenile to adult card. The policy is as follows:
  • Young adults who have reached the age of majority (age 16 for library purposes) and have a juvenile account with outstanding bills will have the opportunity to clear their account with a “clean slate” and start over with an adult (General) card. 
  • The library is willing to forgive one half of the fines owed, if the young adult will pay the other half, with a maximum payment of $20.00. 
  • Fees for lost items will not be forgiven, but transferred to the co-signing parent or guardian’s account. 
  • The profile on the account will be changed from Juvenile to General. If the juvenile card is lost, they will not be charged for a new card.
  • This policy is not applicable for juvenile accounts that have been sent to the police.

I'm super excited about this - it will mean teens who had fines years ago as kids can start clean, and it will also clear the cards of kids whose parents abused their children's library cards.

The main arguments I've heard about not forgiving fines for kids is that the library will lose money, that they won't learn responsibility, it's not fair to adults who don't get their fines forgiven, that kids won't return their books on time if there's no penalty, they'll just rack up more fines, and they're just going to use their cleared cards to go on the internet and check out movies/video games.

To the first argument, I tracked our first fine amnesty program last year and we forgave $900 in fines, $300 of which was one single fine. We got several hundred dollars worth of materials returned that we would otherwise have never seen again. Our yearly fine revenue is about $25,000 so that's really a drop in the bucket.

To the rest of the arguments my response is; I don't give a shit. What, you thought I was going to include some carefully reasoned points for debate? My job description is not "to teach kids to be responsible" or "to make everything fair for the grown-ups." My job is to get kids and families to visit and use the library. End of argument.