Monday, May 22, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Deep-Cover Spies and Double-Crossers of the Cold War by Rebecca Langston-George

I keep looking at the 900s and then shying away. What do I get rid of? What do I add? Where do I get the money for new sets? Do I even need new sets? Does anybody even read the 900s? Well, yes. Mostly the kids want books about war and Who Was... biographies. I gratefully seized on some review copies sent me from Capstone to get me started in this section.

From the "Spies" series, which includes four titles covering World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and modern times, I previewed Deep-Cover Spies and Double-Crossers of the Cold War. The book opens with a brief explanation of the Cold War then looks at five spies who operated during the Cold War;  Gary Powers, an American spy who was eventually exchanged for a Russian spy and returned to America and the complicated story of the Rosenbergs. George Blake, a hero of World War II who was imprisoned during the Korean War and voluntarily became a double agent, and Janet Chisholm, wife of a British diplomat and agent who became involved in spying while in Moscow. Finally, the only non-Western person featured, Pham Xuan An, who had a complex relationship with the Western world where he was educated and earned the respect of both sides for his journalistic integrity.

In addition to the main text covering the activities of the people featured, there are also photographs of primary documents and people, additional facts, while back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and a few titles for additional reading. There are also questions that tie into "critical thinking" for the common core, source notes, bibliography, and index.

Although I would have liked to see more perspectives from people who were not white males, this is a good coverage of a complicated topic. It includes exciting stories, descriptions of codes and spy equipment, breathtaking escapes, and all the thrilling adventures kids look for in war stories. It also includes thoughtful examinations of the motives of the various people involved and how events are viewed differently after the fact, like the case of the Rosenbergs.

Verdict: This is a good, basic series on a popular topic. It includes both familiar, mainstream stories and some lesser-known events and people. Librarians will be pleased to know that it's available in paperback as well as library bound editions. I've found Capstone's paperbacks to be very sturdy. A good choice for filling in your 900s.

ISBN: 9780756554972; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, May 20, 2017

This week at the library; or, Now it's hot. Nope, make that cold.

view out my bedroom window
What's happening
  • Monday
    • Department Staff Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Swim into summer
  • Wednesday
    • Planting program
  • Thursday
    • Mother Goose on the Loose
    • Lego Club
  • Friday
    • Scholastic Warehouse Sale
  • Saturday
    • Play through the Ages
Projects in Progress
  • Summer reading
  • Summer programs
  • Weeding the 900s
Projects Completed
  • Weeded the picture book favorites
Reader's Advisory
  • Last-minute project from the high school sent me on a scramble for classics
  • Read-alike for Catcher in the Rye - Spud by Van der Reit
  • Family read-alouds, finishing Children of Willesden Lane. Recommended Bronze Bow, Guts & Glory World War II, Snow Treasure, Irena's Children (young reader's edition), and Boys who challenged Hitler
  • Book about Native Americans for preschool (another high school project). Got them to go with Rabbit's Snow Dance.
  • Finished all the Flying Beaver Brothers. Suggested Kevin Sherry's Yeti Files.
  • "sequel" for Natasha Preston's Cellar. Settled on "Cabin" which we had to request.
  • Mythology
  • American flag for young kids (finally remembered they were in the patriotic holidays)
  • Notebook of doom
  • I survived read-alikes - got to hand out my new I Survived bookmark!
  • The middle school book to movie at your lexile project reared its head again. This is a tough one.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The spy next door: Mutant rat attack! by Jay Cooper

Dexter has great dreams of being a super skate-boarding spy. Sadly, they're just that - dreams. He doesn't even own a skateboard. But when his wacky teacher, worried that his farting rats will be taken away, makes a big mistake in trusting a mysterious villain, events start happening fast. Next thing he knows, Dexter has been inducted into a super secret spy society, given a skateboard with artificial intelligence, and is risking life and limb (not to mention his olfactory senses) in the pursuit of the gaseous Princess, a rat who has been enlarged by bionic broccoli.

If this sounds a little too silly for you, you are not the right audience for this book. If, however, you immediately wanted to know why the teacher was keeping hundreds of farting rats and the explanation "to harness the electricity of their gas" makes perfect sense, then this is probably the book for you. Also, there's a good chance you might be a nine year old kid who's also a big fan of Captain Underpants.

This quirky little book, first in a series of course, has plenty of black and white illustrations and cartoons. It's full of skateboarding rats, secret gadgets, and a rather snarky skateboard. I am disappointed that the main character is a white boy - there was plenty of opportunity to add more diversity - but with a story inspired by the author's own love of media it's not surprising.

Verdict: Nothing new here, but if your readers can't get enough of silly adventures and gross humor they'll happily pick this one up.

ISBN: 9780545932974; Published 2017 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca

Princess Cora is absolutely perfect. Or, at least, she will be once she's been thoroughly trained. Every day she bathes (following the directions of her nurse), studies dull books (as her mother requires), and endlessly skips rope (her father the king thinks a ruler should be strong).

Cora desperately wishes for things to be different and to have just a little time to herself. Maybe even a pet, like a dog. But when she asks her parents they say no. So she asks her fairy godmother. But something gets a little confused and instead of a lovely, fluffy dog for a friend, Cora gets a....crocodile.

However, she's willing to compromise and the crocodile is certainly willing to help Cora to one day of her own. So as Cora experiences her first day of freedom, playing in the orchards and running through the fields, the crocodile takes her place and teachers her nurse and parents some very...sharp lessons. When Cora returns after her day of adventure, things will never be the same!

I can see this being promoted as a read-alike for the Princess in Black series, but it's a completely different animal. It reminded me most strongly of E. Nesbit and Eleanor Farjeon's short stories. Floca's delicate watercolors have a gently humorous and old-fashioned look, showing Cora's simple pleasure in her day out and her parents' shock and bewilderment at meeting the naughty crocodile. It's also much lengthier; it would work as a read-aloud for patient listeners or a short read for intermediate to older readers, since the vocabulary is more complex than a regular beginning chapter book.

Verdict: Delightful and different, this will appeal to parents and children who like a gentle style of humor, light fantasy, and excellent writing. Readers like me, who have a certain amount of nostalgia for old-fashioned fantasy will find this a perfectly cozy evening read as well. I have a strong audience for more classic fiction in my library, so this is a perfect title to promote for the summer.

ISBN: 9780763648220; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Small Readers: Snail-Snaily-Snails by Bonnie Bader

This is the latest in a series of nonfiction readers by Bonnie Bader. Previous titles have mostly focused on the fuzzier side of animals (hamsters, hedgehogs, and sloths) but I was pleased to see the series branching out into less well-known creatures.

Each book begins with a reiteration of the title. A close-up of a curious snail, then a side view, then a whole spread of different snails introduces the book. The book continues with a description of different snails, their bodies and shells. It looks at the different places they live, their slime, what they eat, and different types of seeing. The book ends with a cluster of hatching eggs, a comparison of the largest and smallest snails, and a list of the many predators who eat snails (not enough in my humble opinion).

The book is illustrated with sharp photographs on white backgrounds and a few underwater and garden scenes. It's a level 2, which for Penguin easy readers puts it at a level E-I and in our library would be marked as intermediate, two steps up from emergent and level 1. Penguin is more accurate in its leveling system than some other publishers and parents and staff appreciate that. The text is bold and simple, with sentences with only a few words and no complex vocabulary, which can be hard to do with nonfiction.

Verdict: This is an excellent nonfiction easy reader series and I look forward to seeing more additions to the various animals so far profiled.

ISBN: 9780451534408; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tinyville Town by Brian Biggs

 I looked briefly at this picture book a while ago, but when I received a review copy of the original picture book and three of the accompanying board books I decided to do a longer post, especially as I have a large community program coming up.

Tinyville Town is a creation of Brian Biggs, a whole world that is caught between the cozy, imaginary ideal of the 1950s and the diverse, tolerant world of the future (well, hopeful future).

The picture book which introduces Tinyville Town tells the story of a typical day. Everyone is getting ready for work and everyone has a job (no unemployment here). But there's a problem - a traffic jam on the bridge over the river! How will the people get to work. Fortunately, everyone works together for a solution. The mayor meets with the engineer and city planner, the various construction people put the bridge together, and voila, Tinyville Town has a new bridge!

Biggs' cheerful, colorful, chunky pictures show a remarkable diversity of colors and genders, all working hard to keep their city functioning and beautiful.The city is clean and friendly, everyone is smiling and even when there are problems they work together to make things end well. As you might have guessed, I am not a person who really likes or feels comfortable with this utopian-style vision of, well, anything. But I admit that's a personal quirk and for teachers, parents, or librarians looking for titles on how communities work together or construction this is a great choice.

After introducing Tinyville Town, Biggs branched out into a series of board book introducing various community workers. Each title uses simple sentences to describe the day's work of the various people. The veterinarian examines a dog and finds out why his tummy hurts. The firefighter puts out a fire at the bakery. The librarian answers questions, helps people find books, and puts the books away. These titles reflect the same cozy feeling of community as well as diversity; the vet is female and her husband cares for their child, the librarian appears to be gay, the firefighter's crew includes women and people of color.

I don't doubt the usefulness of these titles in a classroom setting or program on community helpers (although I suspect that mustache is a safety hazard and I have complicated feelings about the depiction of a male librarian which many of my colleagues share). I'm a little doubtful about these being good board books though. The typical audience for board books is ages 0-2 and these are definitely aimed at a preschool audience. The longer text, more complex pictures, and subject matter of community helpers is too advanced for the average toddler. However, there are plenty of uses for board books with preschoolers and these would make a good addition to a board book collection.

Verdict: While I'm not as gung ho about these titles as some of my colleagues are, due to my innate cynicism and some personal feelings about representation, they are certainly standard additions to any library for community helpers units and present a pleasing depiction of a community-minded city with a broad range of diversity.

Tinyville Town
ISBN: 9781419721335

I'm a veterinarian
ISBN: 9781419721359

I'm a librarian
ISBN: 9781419723223

I'm a firefighter
ISBN: 9781419721342

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Motor Girls: How women took the wheel and drove boldly into the twentieth century by Sue Macy

Macy follows up her history of women and bicycles, Wheels of Change, with a new advance in women's liberation - the motor car!

The story opens with an introduction from Danica Patrick and Sue Macy, talking about their own experiences as drivers and women. Then the saga of automobiles begins, starting with the first race for motor cars in 1895 (which did not end well). Macy talks about the development of the automobile and the changes it had on women's rights and place in the world from the first electric cars advertised to women to their complete immersion in the driving world in World War II. She addresses early female racers, who were later barred from tracks in Europe and the USA, and the role the automobile played in female suffrage.

Throughout the book there are quotations from figures of the day, both for and against women drivers. There are selections from newspapers, accounts from female drivers of their experiences, and timelines and facts showing additional context for the main narrative. There are also copious photographs and graphics. An epilogue talks about how far women have come in the automobile - and how far they still have to go. Additional information in the back includes a bibliography of silent films featuring female drivers, additional facts, resources, websites, and museums, sources and credits.

Verdict: I was skeptical about the child appeal of Wheels of Change, but this is sure to grab the attention of kids who now accept cars as part of every day life and will willingly plunge into a very different world. Macy's writing is brisk and interesting and the plethora of additional facts will hold readers' attention to the end of the book. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781426326974; Published 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This week at the library; or I need more sleep

What's Happening
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
  • Tuesday
    • Teddy Bear Picnic
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Wednesday
    • Teen Makerspace: Recycled paper beads
  • Thursday
  • Friday
The exciting news this week is I received a Summer Reading grant from Dollar General! I can now fund my Library on the Go outreach venture. More on that soon!

Projects in progress and completed

Friday, May 12, 2017

Super Turbo saves the day by Lee Kirby, illustrated by George O'Connor

Turbo the hamster is a normal, ordinary class pet. During the day. But at night he comes SUPER TURBO! When he runs into some other classroom pets one night, they all discover they have something in common - super powers! While they are searching for evil (and snacks) they run into the maniacal arch-villain, Whiskerface the mou, er, I mean, rat. Totally a rat. Just kind of a small one....and his army of henchmice. Hench rats. Whatever. Can Super Turbo and the other Superpets save the day?

This is a graphic blend, so the text is accompanied by occasional chunks of black and white comic panels and lots of black and white drawings. The characters all have unique quirks that makes them easy to differentiate and the action and pace of the panels moves briskly. The dialogue has a pretty small font for a beginning chapter book though.

This is a light, humorous story. The text (except for the speech balloons in the comics) is a bold and readable font and it clocks in at 118 pages. It's available in both hardcover and paperback. The pets with super powers trope, combined with the class pets, has been coming out quite frequently so this is nothing new but if you're looking for books to bulk out your beginning reader chapters section this is a nice choice.

Verdict: An additional choice

ISBN: 9781481488853; Published 2016 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Behind the Legend: Bigfoot by Erin Peabody, illustrated by Victor Rivas

Cryptozoology is always a popular topic at any library and I was interested to see a sample from a new series from little bee addressing various mythical beasts. The series will eventually include such famous creatures as the Loch Ness Monster, as well as werewolves and zombies, but the review copy I received was for Bigfoot.

The book opens with an introduction to the legends and myths of giant creatures, then segues into the contemporary legend of Bigfoot. It discusses sightings and occurrences, scientific evidence (and the lack thereof) and finally presents all the facts for readers to decide - does Bigfoot really exist?

The final chapter concludes that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, and lists the various theories and their explanations. There's still room for mystery though, as the book encourages readers to weigh the evidence, go on a Bigfoot hunt, and decide for themselves.

A few sources are listed as well as further information for those wanting to research Bigfoot online. There are also insets throughout the book with related science facts and investigations. The art in the arc I had was not completed, but it looks like it will be cartoonish with a slightly gruesome/creepy edge. The books are available in both hardcover and paperback.

Verdict: For intermediate readers who can't get enough of weird and creepy creatures, this is a nice, intermediate read that encourages scientific methods and examining news and sources. It's a little on the humorous side for True Believers and won't satisfy those who are convinced that these creatures exist, but it's a perfectly acceptable addition to any nonfiction section.

ISBN: 9781499804263; Published May 2017 by little bee; ARC provided by publisher for review