Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Perfectly Poppy: Party Pooper by Michele Jakubowski, illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters

I don't normally review this type of "lesson" book, but I've liked some of the other things Jakubowski has done and this is actually quite good, although I do have some reservations.

Each of these books features Poppy learning some kind of life lesson. In this one, she attends a party with her best friend Millie. Millie's favorite part of the party is games, Poppy's is the food. Poppy can't wait to try a s'more for the first time, but when her mom is busy and not watching she eats a lot of junk food, against Millie's better judgment. She starts to realize her error when she tries to play games and feels sick, and eventually admits that she shouldn't have eaten all the junk food. She decides not to have a s'more in the end, but she has had a good day and learned a lesson.

There are three chapters in the book and it ends with a list of vocabulary "Poppy's new words" and questions for further reflection "Poppy's Ponders". There's also instructions for playing kick the can.

The pictures are cute and colorful. Poppy's best friend, Millie, is black and the children in the background seem to be fairly diverse, although they're not clear enough to really tell. The text isn't quite at the level of a beginning chapter book, but more complex than a beginning easy reader. It's one I'd put in my intermediate easy readers and recommend to the average 1st grade reader. There is a typo on page 26, where Millie's name is used instead of Poppy. The writing is quite good for this type of easy reader and it manages to get quite a bit of story in around the lesson and some little jokes. Parents and teachers will eat up the themed/lesson aspect and the pink aspect will attract a lot of little girls to read this series.

Verdict: The main drawback of this book is the price - either paperback or library bound at $17. That's way more than I'm generally willing to pay for an easy reader. If you have the budget and want some additional titles for your easy reader section, I'd recommend this, but even though I'm always looking for easy readers I just can't swallow the price so I'll probably pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781479522828; Published 2014 by Picture Window Books/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My Little World: Roar a big-mouthed book of sounds! and Zoom a fast-paced book of colors by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

Two books today! These delightful board books are bright, colorful, and appealing to babies and toddlers. They combine a whole slew of different things - concepts, animal sounds, rhyming text, and tactile interest - to make the uses for these books limitless.

In Roar, each page features a different animal, a rhyme, and a clue to the next animal. For example, "Frog croaks a worried CROAK! and hops into the air./Which tiny animal has given him a scare?" shows a surprised looking frog on the page facing the text. Follow the direction of his eyes (developing eye movement!) and at the bottom corner under the text you see a curly tail and a bit of cheese. Turn the page and there's a mouse. All the animals' mouths are thick, die-cut holes starting out with the biggest for the lion and ending with the smallest for the frog. The mouse ends the story by yelling into a megaphone and showing that he was the animal all the others were scared of. The font emphasizes the name and sound of each animal and there are vivid colors and shapes incorporated into the book as well as the sounds, holes to trace, and seek-and-find activities.

Zoom has a similar format, but features two die-cut holes, forming the tires of various vehicles being driven by animals. Each rhyme emphasizes an animal and a color and each animal boasts of being the fastest as they whizz by in vehicles with smaller and smaller wheels until turtle finally wins the race in his rainbow car. There are some numbers incorporated into the text as the animals talk about who will be first or second, but not in any organized fashion. Many of the vehicles make some kind of noise as well.

The books are solid, chunky 7.5 squares. The black spine on the back lists the different developmental skills that the book promotes.

Verdict: I think these will be a hit not only in baby storytime but also on our shelves. Highly recommended.

Zoom
ISBN: 9781589255944; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Roar
ISBN: 9781589255937; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown

It is, probably, not quite fair of me to review this - I'm pushing it to call this teen anyways and anyone who knows me knows that graphic memoirs and biographies are not to my taste at all. I also have extremely limited interest in celebrities of any kind. However, after I'd read this, it really stuck with me, enough so that I want to talk about it some more.

Andre the Giant, probably best-known now for his role in Princess Bride (at least, that's what most people of my acquaintance know him for) was also a popular figure on the pro wrestling circuit for years. The story opens with some thoughts from the author on comics and professional wrestling - is it fake? What's true and what's entertainment? The graphic novel itself begins with an interview with Hulk Hogan in 2010, talking about the complex life and uncomplicated personality of Andre. It then follows his life chronologically from brief vignettes of his childhood in rural France to the French wrestling circuit, to the international scene where he visited a doctor for the first time and was diagnosed with acromegaly and told he wouldn't live past 40. He went on to wrestle as a pro for many years, acted in Princess Bride despite a recent back operation and growing pain, and in one of his final appearances as a wrestler set up Hulk Hogan as the next pro wrestling star. He died at the age of 47.

Box Brown tells the story of Andre Roussimoff in a series of vignettes, remembrances, and interviews. The story is interspersed with frequent discussions of pro wrestling and several bouts are described play-by-play with explanations of how the industry works and what the participants are doing. As he explains in his introduction, pro wrestling is a kind of storytelling - it's hard to find the truth, especially in stories about someone as legendary as Andre the Giant. He had to make a decision how to present the stories, how much to believe of what he was told, and where to use artistic license. In the end, I think he does a good job presenting Andre as both legendary and human, with a larger-than-life presence but everyday flaws and problems.

The black and white art is bold and striking, with sharply outlined panels and distinctive characters. I did feel that it didn't give a lot of space for emotion in characters and since there isn't a lot of action, other than in the wrestling scenes, this bothered me. In several places the author adds in commentary on Andre's emotions and feelings at the time. That felt really off to me - in my opinion, the art should be conveying the emotions, but Andre's face rarely changes expression.

Who is the audience for this? I have a lot of pro wrestling fans, but, of course, they're all kids. There are teen wrestling fans, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about putting this in the teen area. There are several crude sexual jokes, some off-screen sex, and some language. I'm not really sure those elements were integral to the story. I feel like the readers could have gotten just as good a picture of Andre without them and it would have made the book appropriate for a wider audience. The library I borrowed it from has in teen, but my teen section mainly caters to middle schoolers. On the other hand, since this seems to be assuming an audience who doesn't know anything about back-scenes wrestling, a fan is probably not the audience they're going for here anyways. Someone interested in graphic biographies and memoirs, who's willing to learn about the pro wrestling industry and might have some pop culture interest in Andre the Giant, seems the best person to promote this too. Unfortunately, I can't think of any adults in my small town that fit that mold. Notably, there are many blurbs from well-known and award-winning comic artists on the back; we do have most of their classic works and they...don't circulate.

Verdict: Despite my own personal bias against graphic biographies and memoirs, I did find this intriguing but like most artistic or literary graphic novels it just doesn't have the appeal in a small library like mine. It's most likely to be picked up by young kids who see the title and want to read about wrestling and Andre the Giant, and the potential issues with this happening aren't worth the few adults and older teens likely to read this. A large library serving a more diverse range of reading interests seems the best place for this.

ISBN: 9781596438514; Published 2014 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, July 27, 2014

RA RA READ: I Read Dead Girls

This isn't the same list of read-alikes for fans of Ellen Hopkins, or for those into the goth scene (which doesn't really exist in our small town). It's more for teens (and it's usually girls) who like John Green and Lurlene McDaniel (there is a bigger cross-section of this group than you would think). They can just go read Nicholas Sparks' entire output as well of course.
  • John Green
  • Lurlene McDaniel
  • Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Before I die by Jenny Downham
  • If I stay by Gayle Forman
  • Love you, hate you, miss you by Elizabeth Scott

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This week at the library; or, Planning Ahead

What's Happening - In my head and at the library
  • Yes, I know everyone keeps saying it's too soon to be planning the fall. I notice that they are also asking me for schedules, calendars and plans though so....Of course, everything I've planned I pulled apart again to try over. I had thought about doing a Mother Goose on the Loose program in November/December, but decided I didn't want to try to fit something in there and will hopefully do that in the winter/spring instead.
  • Other projects I am currently working on, in addition to planning fall and 2015 programming: Writing a long-term plan for teen programming (even if only in my head), weeding the juvenile cds, inventory in preparation for my new plan of doing all my replacement orders in August, finishing the massive neighborhoods project, planning displays and stealth programs through the end of the year, redoing the winter reading program (just a few minor changes), planning summer reading next year (gotta do it while this year is fresh in my mind!) and the last few weeks of summer programming.
  • I also started changing the structure of my programs and including goals etc. an awesome idea that was suggested to me by someone on one of my fb groups. I also separated the take home bags from Preschool Interactive, since I will be discontinuing the program in the fall, but continuing the bags as a stealth program.
Programs
What the kids are reading
  • Shark books - every single title checked out!
  • Lego Ninjago - need more of these next summer
  • Squish - I'm missing the latest
  • Books about New York - I thought I had a travel guide for kids, but apparently not
  • Magic tricks - definitely need more of these next year
  • Like Pegasus (O'Hearn) - Loki's Wolves was checked out, gave her Savage Fortress and also recommended Theodosia
  • Mustache Baby - should I buy another copy of this? seems I've been asked for it a lot
  • "princess books", "barbie books" (everything was checked out) I tried Fancy Nancy and then she asked for pop-up books...
  • Press Here

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash by Frank Cammuso

I really enjoyed the first Salem Hyde book, enough that I'll break my rule of never reviewing sequels and review this one!

Salem and her cat Whammy (he's a companion, not a pet, thankyouverymuch) sorted out much of the growing pains of their initial meeting and relationship in the first book, so now they can relax into their latest adventure...birthday drama! Salem's first misadventure, on the very first page, is a hint at what's going to happen later on in the story and the lesson she learns; bigger isn't always better.

Salem's best friend is having a birthday party and Salem just has to get him the perfect gift. And what is the perfect gift? Why, the one that will show up snooty Shelly of course! When Shelly makes fun of Edgar and his party, Salem tries to cheer him up by making it the BIGGEST party ever! But bigger isn't always better...or is it?

The art in the first book was black and white with touches of green shades; as you can guess from the cover, this book's second shade is pink. The art is classic cartoon style with exaggerated expressions, Looney Tune eyes, and lots of wild gestures. Cammuso shows just how effect black and white art with just a blush of color can be as he tells a fun story with a light touch.

The plot of the birthday and Salem's "lesson" is sidetracked continually by Salem's misadventures, shopping observations, and finally the surprise twist of Edgar's reaction to the birthday spell, but it's all in good fun. Beginning reader's will have a giggle over this quick read and comic fans will enjoy a little light relief.

Verdict: Fans of Calvin and Hobbes will enjoy the snarky sidekick and skilled comic art; fans of Jill Thompson's Magic Trixie will enjoy the magical mishaps; fans of Babymouse will like the friendship and school trials of Salem, not to mention the suspicious teacher. There's plenty in this quick read to enjoy and it's definitely worth adding to your library collection although it's not a stand-alone and you'll need to purchase the first volume if you haven't already.

ISBN: 9781419710254; Published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

I usually need a bit more substance in a picture book than cuteness for a full-length review here, but this book was so funny that I felt it deserved a spotlight.

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle, Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep find a great cave to hang out in on a cold, rainy day. Yes, there's a sheep in the jungle. Also a moose. They're playing cards, possibly a little poker judging by the sly grins on their faces, when they realize they're not alone...the cave actually belongs to a BEAR and he's quite unhappy about this noisy group of card-players. So out they go into the rain, leaving their cards behind. The animals decide that what cheers them up; stripes, antlers, and a mane, will surely cheer up the bear. Nope. But it sure does make him look silly! But with some extra information from Bear, Sheep realizes what's needed - a nice, fluffy pillow. Luckily, she's got just the thing.

If you've never encountered Nick Bland's illustrations before, you should know that he is the king of British cute. His animals are roly-poly, slick and colorful, little bundles of adorableness. Even the cranky bear is adorably cranky.

Verdict: There's a nice bounce to the rhyming text and this will definitely be a hit with toddlers and preschoolers, who will wait with bated breath to find out what's in the cave and roar with laughter when the animals deck bear out in their best attributes. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545612692; US edition published July 2014 by Orchard; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My book of opposites by Britta Teckentrup

I adore Britta Teckentrup's colorful artwork and was delighted to find she had two new board books out with Tiger Tales; My book of opposites and My book of counting. I'm looking at Opposites today.

Each page has a contrasting pair of animals. The first spread is covered by an elephant, twining his truck through the word "Big" while a tiny bee buzzes next to the word "small." Monkeys and a butterfly are loud and quiet, a yak and a snake are hairy and smooth, a giraffe and iguana are tall and short, laid out vertically. A hippo holds the O of "Open" in his mouth, while a crocodile dangles "Closed" from his mouth by the d. Then the pictures get more fanciful with a car full of giraffes zipping "Fast" past a "slow" turtle. The book flips vertically again to show a stack up "High" with birds perched on it and a cat at the very top. Watching the rescue operation from below, is a "low" penguin. White and black feature cats, zebras, a polar bear, an owl and more, all including black, white, both, or gray. A lion who is "out" pensively looks over his shoulder at a car crammed full of cats who are "in". On the final page, a boat of dry animals contrasts with the wet animals in the water with "wet" and "dry" sprinkled all over the page.

Teckentrup's illustrations are as adorable and fresh as ever, with light touches of humor for older readers and parents and brightly colored animals and backgrounds for delighted toddlers to enjoy. The book is a large rectangle, 8.5 x 7 inches, which makes it easy to turn for the vertical pages.

Verdict: Perfect for one-on-one reading or toddler storytime. This is a fun and fresh opposites book that will be sure to be popular. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781589255869; Published 2014 by Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Alan Marks

Of course, everyone's first response to this is going to be "ewwwww!" but if you can get past that, it's a beautifully written and illustrated book, just perfect for sharing with preschool and kindergarteners.

The text explains the three different types of dung beetles; dwellers, rollers, and tunnelers. It describes their physical makeup and habitats and how each of the different types uses dung as food, shelter, and to propagate their species. It also briefly references their place in Egyptian mythology and their importance to ecology. Back matter includes additional information and facts about dung beetles, a glossary, and bibliography.

My general preference for easy, read-aloud nonfiction is photographs, but I have to admit these illustrations are pretty good. They're done in watercolor and pencil so you don't get a really close-up, detailed look at the beetles and dung, but a nice overall impression, especially of their colors and habitat.

The book is laid out in my favorite format for read-aloud nonfiction - short, bold sentences, coupled with longer paragraphs of text in a smaller font. This makes the title ideal for reading aloud in storytime or for a beginning reader to tackle, with additional information to discuss and read with older kids.

Verdict: This is a well-written look at a neglected but fascinating beetle and a story that will be of interest in storytime to both children and adults. Get over any squeamish feelings you might have and enjoy reading this aloud as kids learn not only about the dung beetle, but about how every creature has a role to play. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580895545; Published 2014 by Charlesbridge; Purchased for the library

Saturday, July 19, 2014

This week at the library; or, Celebrating the chaos

What's going on - in my head and in the library
  • This grew out of a conversation I had with another staff member last week, as we were encouraging each other to make it through a really exhausting week, as well as some, well, negative things I've been hearing/reading about the mess, noise, and general craziness of summer at the library. Summer can be, and often is, frustrating, exhausting, annoying, and just plain messy. I can vent with the best of them about the craziness. I strongly advocate for children's staff to have seasonal help! I work with families and kids to learn appropriate library behavior. I can't tell you how many times I remind kids "use your library feet!" every day. But you know what? I also EMBRACE THE CRAZY MESS and this is why:
  • Why I do not get upset when families leave a mess in the play area. When I see toys everywhere I see the family with four kids under 8 trying to check out materials and get out before the baby has a meltdown. I see busy working families with only a little time to spend with their kids - and they chose to visit the library. I see families with no background of visiting the library, or any other public family space (not that there are any in our town) who maybe don't know "how things work" but they are spending time with their kids, teaching them early literacy skills by using our play area, even if they don't know it. And I see the next family to come in, see the messy play area, and use it as a lesson in cleaning up. I see toys left over or in the wrong place because a four year old was totally absorbed in matching the toys up with the pictures on the shelves and had to leave in a hurry. I see families using our services to the best benefit of their family and that is more important than the children's area being tidy.
  • Why I do not get upset when I hear noise. I hear little voices yelling "choo choo!" and I know another family has discovered the joys of imaginative play at our train table.  I see the mom who has just moved to our town and brought her three year old for their first visit ever to the library and was anxious that they were "too noisy" as he excitedly showed me his block towers - and I was able to reassure her that there was no such thing as too noisy in MY library! I see my families who have children with special needs tell me how welcome they feel and what a relief it is to have a place where they don't have to worry about being stared at or asked to leave if their child makes loud/strange noises. I see the middle school boys loudly telling their just arrived friend how he should sign up for summer reading so he can get FREE BOOKS. I see the little girls who are so thrilled at being allowed to walk across the street and visit the library by themselves that they just can't stop giggling. I am surrounding by excited kids who are loud, enthusiastic, and just can't wait to tell me about how much they love books, the library, and that really cool fact they just learned. The library is about learning - and learning is more than just what's in our books. Learning is exciting, fun, and NOISY.
  • Why I do not get upset when the shelves look like swarms of locusts attacked. Studies have repeatedly shown that kids are more invested in reading when they choose their own books. When kids choose their own books, the shelves are messy. They put things back in the wrong places, the books get pushed back, they slide off the shelves, they set things down and forget to put them in the basket. They get excited and pull everything off, they remember something else they wanted to look up and race to another shelf. Every book out of place, every disorganized shelf, is evidence that kids are exploring, reading, and discovering on their own. A messy shelf is a happy shelf!
When I see mess and chaos, when I hear noise, first I stop and think - what could be going on in the lives of my patrons that I don't know about, that I don't see? Secondly, I tell myself: You are having a successful summer. This is what a library should be; the thriving, growing heart of the community where families are safe and welcome and every child feels ownership and has the freedom to explore, learn, and grow.

Programs
What the kids are reading:
  • Tale of Despereaux (added another copy)
  • Monster High - I still have not brought myself to buy these
  • mysteries to read aloud to a six year old - I told them Brixton Brothers was probably a little too involved and suggested Encyclopedia Brown
  • books for a 1 1/2 year old - showed some of our new board books
  • Minecraft - two more requests for this. i did find a couple things coming out this fall that i have put on order
  • books about injuries (for a preschool child with a severe burn). I was stumped on this one - asked on my listservs for help.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger

I had no idea of the history of this book. I just saw initial announcements and thought "hey, new series by Tom Angleberger!" Only later did I discover that it was actually his first published book and has now been reissued under his better-known name. I'm also not absolutely sure it's going to be a continuing series, which I will not tell my cataloger because we put the series on the spine! Oh nooooes!

At first, Lyle, Marilla, and Dave were a casual group of friends. However, when they realized they'd be the only kids who didn't have something to do on Christmas - Lyle's parents work at the Qwikpick, Dave is Jewish and Marilla's family are Jehovah's Witnesses - they decide they need to have a real adventure. A chance notice of an article in the paper and they decide on an outing to the soon-to-be-renovated sewage factory to see the poop fountain before it's removed. It's a journey full of unexpected surprises, much laughter, and horrible smells.

The story is narrated by protagonist Lyle Hertzog in the journalistic style that will be familiar to Angleberger fans now, but must have been quite confusing when this first came out, back before Wimpy Kid fever had hit. Lyle is honest, funny, and casual about the things that make up his quirky group of friends. He talks about his family's financial issues, how he feels about his wealthier friend's casual acceptance of money, and how their adventure changes their friendship.

Like Angleberger's later books, this is a surprisingly light and funny adventure with a lot going on beneath the surface. It doesn't hammer home the lessons, but uses the kids' realistic voices to not only give a voice to kids who are generally not portrayed in middle grade fiction but also to inspire a little deeper thought about what's going on in the lives of the kids around you. Unlike Amy Koss' The Not-So-Great-Depression, there are no fairy-tale, happy-ever-after endings; life goes on as usual (possibly just a little smellier than before). But there's laughter and friends and, as Lyle says, "now we're more than just kids who eat together or hang around together - we're The Qwickpick Adventure Society and nobody else at school can say that."

Verdict: A must-have for your collection. Not only will kids pick it up because of the author recognition, it's worth recommending on its own as a great story with just a little more. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781419704253; Originally published 2007, this edition published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

From picture book to easy reader: A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

I have something a little different today. I've been noticing a growing trend in publishers of taking classic and popular picture book series and reissuing them as easy readers. It started with Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious and now Jackie Urbanovic's Duck, Rob Scotton's Splat the Cat, Tad Hills' Rocket, and more have jumped on the bandwagon. Going back to the classics, authors whose classic picture books have been made into easy readers so far include Alexandra Day's Carl (which is especially weird since the original is wordless), Leo Lionni, and, of course, Eric Carle. So, today I'm looking at both the original picture book and the new easy reader edition.

If you're not familiar with the story, Hermit Crab grows too big for his shell. He quickly finds a new house, but it's plain and boring. One by one, he adds new friends to his shell - sea anemones, starfish, coral, a snail, sea urchins, a lanternfish, and he ends by building pebbles into a wall around his shell. Of course, by that time his perfect shell is too small. He's worried about all his friends, but then finds a smaller crab who is happy to move in and promises to take care of all his friends. Hermit Crab finds a bigger shell and sets off to new possibilities, thinking of all the things he can add to his shell. There is an introductory list of facts about hermit crabs and at the end there are facts about the different friends the hermit crab collected. Eric Carle's signature art is colorful and distinctive, the creatures are easily distinguished, but still have a definite representational quality.

The easy reader version is listed as a level two "super star reader" with "longer sentences, simple chapters, high-interest vocabulary words." The easy reader does not have the swirling paint of the endpages, or the introductory information on the hermit crab. The basic text is the same with only a few minor alterations. The facts at the end are kept as well.

The art is the same, but has been, of course, shrunk to fit into the easy reader. The text is rearranged to fit into the smaller format and some of the pictures are cut or in the case of the last picture, combined into a new page to fit the story. The pages don't have the glossy finish of the picture book, dimming the vibrant colors of the art.

I do feel that the text is generally more advanced than most beginning readers can handle with vocabulary including "debris," rearranged," and "possibilities." Then there's the specific names of the various creatures like anemones, etc. The art doesn't have the same impact once it's compacted into the smaller format and some details of the pictures are lost down the gutter of the book as well.

I can understand why publishers are going this route; with more kids being pressured to read at younger ages, the audience for the classic picture books with longer text is being lost and this is way to introduce them to a new generation as well as generate a new market for these properties. However, I can't help but feel it's a pity to give kids the watered-down version and I doubt that kids who have the higher reading ability necessary to tackle these books will really be interested in the subject matter. They do circulate briskly at my library, but I believe that most of that is parents choosing the titles, not kids.

Verdict: From an aesthetic and librarian perspective, I don't care for these. However, the majority of patrons enjoy them and since I frequently struggle just to keep the easy reader shelves stocked, let alone worry about quality, I will continue to purchase these and would generally advise most libraries to hop on the bandwagon and do the same.

Picture book
ISBN: 9780887080562; This edition published 1991 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library (replacement for worn out copy)

Easy Reader
ISBN: 9781481409162; This edition published 2014 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hide and Seek Harry at the beach by Kenny Harrison

One of the things I'm currently working on this year is bolstering my board book collection. To that end, I've purchased a lot of new board books. I'm very picky about this; so many board books I see are not developmentally appropriate for my board book audience. I really feel that the picture book and board book audience is younger than ever. As more parents get into the idea of reading to their babies and at the same time start pushing easy readers and chapter books on younger and younger kids, picture books have become limited to kids five and under while board books are for the very young toddlers. That's how it's going in my library anyways.

This is a really good example of a board book that's perfect for the young toddler. It's a very simple seek and find story. After a brief introductory sentence, each spread has a question asking where Harry the Hippo is hiding. The art is cheerful and colorful and Harry is hiding just enough to make a toddler look, but not enough that they can't find him. Older preschoolers will enjoy finding smaller details, like the crab that is in many (although not all) of the pictures. The text is bold and dark, drawing the eye to the letters.

This is a nicely designed book as well. It's a nice standard board book size - 7x7 inches - with a sturdy binding and thick pages. The publisher suggests it for ages 2-5, but, as I said earlier, the kids in my library are skewing younger and younger for picture books and board books. This would be fine for looking at with a baby, but 3 and older are unlikely to get much out of it. It's ideal for one to two-year olds though. Kids young enough to still enjoy peek-a-boo will like the open nature of the hide and seek and those a little older will enjoy finding Harry on their own.

Verdict: A perfect choice for a baby or toddler storytime or to enjoy with the average toddler under about age three. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763666033; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley

I've been waiting eagerly for the next volume to follow the gruesomely informative How They Croaked (which I somehow missed out on reviewing). This one tells the stories of fourteen famous people - and their famous failures.

  • Marco Polo, after a lifetime of diplomacy and surviving in the dangerous court of Kublai Khan, decided to try his hand at military strategy and failed so dismally he ended up in prison. 
  • Isabella of Castile, who proved she had the guts to rule her kingdom and her family - but started the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Montezuma II, who was a powerful (if feared) ruler, but failed to protect his empire from the Spanish invaders.
  • Ferdinand Magellan, who was a skilled navigator and sailor but his social skills were so awful his crew left him to die and he never completed his journey to the Spice Islands.
  • Anne Boleyn, who watched her older sister's example and thought she'd avoided the pitfalls and landed a king but ended up losing her head.
  • Isaac Newton, a brilliant scientist and mathematician, refused to collaborate with other scientists of the day and spent the latter half of his life secretly and illegally practicing alchemy. It probably killed him.
  • Benedict Arnold, whose arrogance and greed led to him becoming famous...for treachery.
  • Susan B. Anthony, who fought all her life for women to get the vote but died before her dream became a reality.
  • George Custer thought his luck would never run out - but it did, at the Battle of Little Bighorn where he got not only himself but his men killed. It wouldn't be the first time.
  • Thomas Alva Edison, so determined to prove he was right, he performed cruel experiments on dogs (not to mention all those places he burned down).
  • Vincent Van Gogh. Never sold a painting, was universally disliked, feared, and hated.
  • J. Bruce Ismay tried to get out from under his father's shadow and finally became famous - as the coward responsible for the construction of the Titanic and the deaths of thousands.
  • Joseph Jefferson "Shoeless Joe" Jackson thought he had it made with baseball, but a few mistakes and some scandals and he never played ball again.
  • Amelia Earhart believed her own press and made one final flight without preparation or training.
Each mini-biography ends with further information the person and events of their life, varied by the person. Some list other people involved in their failure, more context for events, further information, etc. The book also includes an introduction, a conclusion discussing how failure is a normal part of life, acknowledgements, sources, further reading, and an index. The black and white caricatures are ghoulish and lend a sly tone of humor to the outrageous anecdotes.

It can be hard to judge this type of book from an adult perspective. Of course, the sections are only brief overviews of the subjects' lives - I personally think Amelia Earhart and Benedict Arnold were much more complex than they're made out to be. But that's part of the layout - it's just a tantalizing glimpse into each person's life, hopefully enough to get kids interested in searching out more information so they can judge for themselves. I felt like I already knew most of the information presented, but again - adult perspective. Most of this information will be new to the kids reading it, unless they're big history buffs. Most of the biographies they've previously read will probably have focused on the personages triumphs and contributions, not their failures.

Verdict: This is a unique perspective and slice of life look at fourteen famous and very different people. It will require a fairly good reader to make it through, but the short sections and the additional information breakdowns at the end of the chapters will pull through readers who are daunted by the complete length of the book. It's a great layout and Bragg is a strong writer who brings the people to life in a humorous and down to earth way. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780802734884; Published 2014 by Walker/Bloomsbury; Purchased for the library

Saturday, July 12, 2014

This week at the library; or, A Typical Week in the Summer

A Week in the Life of a Librarian
  • Of course, no week is exactly typical - Pattie is gone on one of her rare vacations and my associate subbed for her storytimes, I've never done a toddler drive-in before, etc. but this gives you a rough idea.
  • Monday
    • Arrived at about 11:40. Rummaged through stuff on desk, talked to cataloger and looked over new books, heard the news that my aide had gone home sick with equanimity, called in my second aide.
    • 12-12:30. Lunch break for my associate. Little rush of questions on the desk, computers crashing briskly, we're down to only 3 operable computers in my area. Make that 2.
    • 12:30-1:15. Put up a new display of new and coming soon comics in the teen area, answered more questions, heard back from my second aide that she was sick also (did NOT accept this news with equanimity), collected boxes for Friday's program, looked with horror at the mounting pile of donations (nothing all year long and suddenly POW)
    • 1:15-2. Cleaned a little stuff off desk, finished planning programs for this week. Had to preview my movies for Toddler Drive-In to make sure they worked.
    • 2-4. Continued cleaning off desk, found in pile reminder to post open job position today! Planning next week's programs. Updating signage, working on new display of forthcoming books. Look over Stuffed Animal Sleepover slideshow my associate made.
    • 4-4:20. Ate something (not sure how old that piece of pizza was, but I forgot to pack anything...)
    • 4:20-5. Finished new display of forthcoming books.
    • 5-8. Information desk. Did all my typical Monday evening things - checking the slideshow for updates, renewals for institutional cards, etc. The evening was pretty slow since we had no storytime and I did the usual run of questions; renewals, study rooms, hold requests, summer reading, etc. Also worked on collection development - I have a bunch of back issues of SLJ I marked but never transferred to order lists.
  • Tuesday
    • 9-12:45. Youth Services desk. My associate did toddler storytime. I mostly stickered kids and did summer reading. Also worked on pulling some more books for neighborhoods and continuing through my back issues of SLJ - only one left to go! Gave my colleague a break at the information desk and dealt with numerous computer/printer problems.
    • 12:45-1. Grabbed a snack in my office and went through some donations and new books.
    • 1-2:30. I thought I had a volunteer scheduled, but he was actually coming later! My performer helped me move tables. 175 people showed up for Duke Otherwise and it was an awesome show! Second year we've had him and he did a great job even with our super-wiggly audience. 
    • 2:30-3:45. Plunging toilets, talked to my director about some stuff, ate lunch and talked to another staff member (we had some interesting ideas, which I'll talk about later), talked to my associate, checked on the volunteers, showed them how to shelve picture books, collected donations from the back to start going through, interspersed with some reader's advisory, directional questions, and some circ desk transactions.
    • 3:45-5. Uploaded pictures from Storywagon to Facebook, went through a few boxes of donations, gave the volunteers some new projects, checked email, my volunteers helped me haul all the boxes for Toddler Drive-in up from the basement.
  • Wednesday
    • 9-10. Set-up for Preschool Interactive, talked to aide about upcoming programs on Friday that she's helping with, had an idea for how to run We Explore in the fall and onwards and fiddled with that, inspected the gardens with my aide.
    • 10-11:30. Preschool Interactive. About 26 people came, including a large and attentive group of older kids. Chatted with parents, cleaned up, did some reader's advisory and computer help on my way to the staff room.
    • 11:30-12. Lunch, loaded up the cart with donations, collected stuff off my desk, talked to a parent about potty training, listened to my associate do some excellent teen reader's advisory.
    • 12-5. Youth services desk. Went through new books, sorted donations, went through my e-mail, reader's advisory, summer reading, computer questions - the computers finally got fixed! Yay! Serenity the bunny and Norman the kitten came from 12:30 to 2:30. I didn't visit as frequently as I usually do, because I am allergic to cats, but I kept an eye on them and afterwards turned on the fan and wiped down the tables (Norman was very exploratory). I was going to vacuum, but after fiddling with the vacuum for a while (and getting filthy) could not find a bag to fit. I also went through gorgeous boxes of new books in the back! Always fun. Also had a long discussion with my director (in bits and pieces) about where we're going with programming next fall.
  • Thursday
    • At home before work- edited the survey I put together last year (didn't get any responses so I'm trying again with an improved version)
    • 9-12. Youth services desk while my associate did Books 'n' Babies (Pattie is gone this week). Summer reading, chatting with patrons, still going through new books and donations, fiddling with the upcoming calendar some more.
    • 12-2. Information desk. Got through a few more donations, had a discussion on how to improve the survey with our adult services librarian, lots of great ideas! Questions on scanning, guest passes for the computer, etc.
    • 2-3. Grabbed some lunch, discharged new books for Lego Club display, did...something else, can't remember what. I think I went over some things with my associate.
    • 3-5:20. Lego Club. Had a bunch of kids and my aide help set up, about 50 people showed up, lots of building, and then at the end I was TIRED. Left the pictures with our adult services librarian to upload, hauled all the legos back over to the library, stared hopelessly at my desk, and left.
  • Friday
    • 9-10. Set up for the playgroup, realized I had forgotten it was senior travel day and it's doubtful anyone will come since there is absolutely no parking, realized I forgot to put this afternoon's program on the website and so it didn't get sent out in the txt reminders, but it's been on fb and it's on the paper calendar so hopefully some people will still show up. Stressed about the low number of applicants I've received for my aide position, contacted some people at the high school to hopefully coax some more applicants out. Putting away Legos from last night that I left on the cart, sorting through donations.
    • 10-11:15. About 25 people came, everyone had fun playing with the puppets and making their own. Chatted with parents about school and upcoming programs.
    • 11:15-11:35. Lunch
    • 11:35-12. Talked to adult services librarian about holiday programming and did...something else. I think I was looking for something in my office.
    • 12-3. Information desk. Also directed my aide in cleaning up from the puppet program/setting up for the drive-in, talked to someone about potential student candidates for the open position, helped people with computer problems, placed holds, answered the phone, gave my associate a break at the children's desk (just took summer reading up to the front desk) and worked on sorting donations and fiddling with the calendar some more for fall/next year. Wrote and sent out the weekly youth services staff newsletter.
    • 3-3:30. Still working on donations, went over assignments with aide, cleaned a few things off my desk.
    • 3:30-4:45. Toddler drive-in! About 20 people showed up, which was perfect for my room. We had a lot of fun building our cars, watched two short Mo Willems films, and that was it.
    • 4:45-5:15. Clean-up (had to lug all the leftover boxes back to tech services, as the Friends were a bit disconcerted when they showed up today to sort and found no boxes!) and posting pictures. Then home!
    • Our cataloger and my aide stayed to run the teen movie night and the Friends were also doing their monthly family movie night, showing the Lego Movie, but thankfully I did not have to do anything for those!
Programs
What are the kids reading? A sample of requests and questions
  • Captain Underpants read-alikes - offered Squish, Beaver Brothers, Dragonbreath, and Knuckle and Potty go to Happy Land. Remembered after he left that I forgot Third Grade Barbarian!
  • American Girl movies and books - Caroline, Isabelle, etc. Asked cataloger to put in brief record for Isabelle movie so I could place a hold.
  • America's Horrible Histories: who are you calling a woolly mammoth? We didn't have this series at all, but this girl loves horror so I gave her Haunted Histories by Everett instead.
  • Candy Fairies - sorry, don't have it, what about Rainbow Magic? No.
  • Despicable Me books - only one, checked out.
  • Smile (Raina Telgemeier needs to create faster - and I need to buy more copies!)
  • "comics for girls" (with the complaint that there aren't enough comics for girls!). I gave her Hilda and Zita.
  • American Girl - Felicity
  • Schooled - Korman. Teacher request. I didn't buy that one, talked up Ungifted and she took that instead.
  • Teen was gushing about Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry and was absolutely thrilled when I told her there were sequels. On this note, I have to wonder WHY so few libraries in our system own this series. They are insanely popular with teens and adults alike, one of the few novels that feature Hispanic protagonists, what's not to like? Just gotta wonder...
  • Had a long discussion with a new patron - just moved here from another town and was quite the avid reader. He hoped I would tell him what happened in the next Brandon Mull but I wouldn't (at least partly because I didn't know). I showed him some other things he would like; he was also a Blue Exorcist fan, and he left with several volumes of Beet the Vandel Buster.
  • He came back the next day for the rest of Beet and I recommended Psyren to try next.
  • Horse movies - I had nothing this avid fan has not already seen.
  • Mysteries - WHY aren't there more mysteries for middle grade? Kids really want something like Nancy Drew. Will have to do some digging.
  • Smile (ok, really, REALLY need more copies! and they don't want any read-alikes!)
  • Complicated reader's advisory question of a book she remembered seeing that turned out to be one of the Disney Princess chapter books
  • Rick Riordan
  • Boy I recommended Nolan's Down Girl and Sit to last week was back for more.
  • Long discussion with a parent about finding family movies that are appropriate - it's hard, especially if you don't like the cruder humor and innuendo. I recommended trying Miss Minoes and maybe some of the really old Disney, like Absent-Minded Professor.
  • Fault in our stars read-alikes - I have not actually read this, but I have no problem recommending read-alikes. The problem is, everything is checked out! Our cataloger is going to make a more detailed read-alike suggestion list. Finally gave the patron Elkeles' Leaving Paradise and Schroeder's Falling for you.
  • bug books - to identify caterpillars
  • Little girl who loves animals and her mom wants her to read chapter books, but she only likes to read "baby books". I gave her Lulu and Daisy Dawson. Her brother, 3rd grade, wanting fantasy and adventure, his mom wanting something not as intense as Harry Potter (he had picked Alchemyst. Uh....no....) I gave him Magic Thief and he was very happy with that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Puddle Pug by Kim Norman, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

I didn't think I'd like this at all - I didn't care for the pastel colors and the white space on the cover (or should that be blue space?), I'm not into the "ugly cute" thing, and I don't like pugs. But I was won over despite all my objections and I can't wait to introduce this adorable book to my patrons.

The story opens with "Percy was a puddle pug. He loved puddles of every sort" and goes on to introduce us to all his favorite puddles, with him delightedly bouncing through the mud and water of course. He even makes a map of all his favorite spots. But something is missing...then he discovers the best puddle of all! There's just one problem; it's already occupied with a family of pigs and while the piglets would love a new friend, mama pig does NOT think pugs belong in her puddle. Percy persists though and finally is welcomed to join the plump and pink family of porkers in their perfect puddle.

The art is light hues and pastels, with plenty of cuteness; all the animals have adorable expressions and are round and cute. There's plenty of character not just in the animals but in the different puddles themselves and the little things that make them all unique. The art is much better than the cover shows and there's a lot more detail and background than I expected. I think a less simplified cover would have encouraged me to pick this up sooner.

Verdict: This has a sweet little message, but it's not really didactic. It's mostly just a fun, cute story - the perfect addition to any library collection. Give it a chance and it will definitely repay the time.

ISBN: 9781454904366; Published 2014 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh

I loved the first Polly and the Pirates book, but somehow never got around to reviewing it. Then I read the second volume and was, well, disappointed. I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the only person disappointed as I note that the first volume is out of print - how are they supposed to get new fans of the series with only the (inferior) second volume available? As I'm recataloging and reviewing my personal library, I thought it was time to revisit exactly what it is that I loved about the first volume.

Polly, who has a doll-like look similar to Naifeh's goth creation Courtney Crumrin, is a prim and proper young lady in a girls' school until one night when she's kidnapped! She finds herself thrown into the frightening, dangerous, and decidedly unladylike world of pirates where she not only rises above the challenges to take over the rough pirate crew, she finds out secrets about her family and especially her mother. In the end, she has to make decisions about where her loyalty lies. She returns to her school outwardly unchanged, but a completely different person on the inside. Further adventures are hinted at as there's still a treasure to be uncovered, a rival pirate's son to defeat (and possibly romance) and the suspicions of her friends and rivals at school as well. Of course, we know how that sequel turned out (it didn't).

The art feels a lot like Courtney Crumrin, all shadows and angles, but with soft touches that give it a dark, brooding look. Many of the adults have only partially formed features which both focuses attention on Polly and the other main characters but adds an almost grotesque touch to the story. It's not as polished as Courtney Crumrin, but it's still a funny, poignant, and fascinating story.

Verdict: This is out of print and honestly it's never been super-popular in our library so I don't really recommend it (and I really don't recommend ever paying attention to Oni's age ratings - due to a couple mildly racy jokes, some serious topics, and actual, you know, DEATH, this is really not appropriate for ages 7 and up) but if you're a fan of Ted Naifeh it's worth digging around for a used copy to enjoy on your own.

ISBN: 1932664467; Published 2006 by Oni Press; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: In my forest by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich


[This review was previously published. It has been edited and rewritten]

Lorena Siminovich has done several board books with unique design and charming illustrations. This is one of her older books, part of a series about baby animals in various habitats.
As you can tell from the cover, each page has a die-cut circle, set to show the little finger puppet that sticks through from the back. The pages showcase the little finger puppet in the snow, chewing on twigs and acorns, running with friends through what appears to be a spring scene, and curled up at night with its family. The finger puppet has a kind of light nylon stocking for the finger with a flat felt puppet on the end of the finger.

The writing is pretty blah and there's not really a good sequence to the "story" but the main draw of something like this is the novelty aspect, i.e. the finger puppet. Which means my main concern is how will it hold up? The copy I borrowed has had the spine taped and shows light wear along the inner edges of the die cut circles, but the finger puppet remains intact. The stitching holding the deer to the finger stocking is tight and the details on the deer itself are embroidery, so nothing that can be pulled off. Siminovich's illustrations are adorable, but nothing more than that.

Verdict: This is cute, but I'm not in love with it enough to go back and purchase it from the backlist, although it's still in print. It would be a good choice if you're looking to add more interactive/novelty books to your board book section though.

ISBN: 9780811875660; Published 2010 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell

Every time I see yet another book about standard historical fare - usually all featuring white males - I wonder, "Aren't there ANY other stories to tell?" Turns out, of course, there are. This is the true story of the nurses who were stationed in the Philippines. From a peaceful life in the tropics, treating a few tropical diseases and family illnesses, they were thrown into combat nursing with little to no experience. They retreated with the military and were then taken prisoners of war where they suffered disease and starvation for three years as they struggled to care for the civilians and military. After their rescue, they suffered from physical and emotional effects - compounded by a military that didn't recognize their service and a country that didn't understand, or want to know, what they had done.

The book includes a forward by an Army Nurse Corps veteran of Vietnam and copious documentation including a glossary, list of the nurses who served, timeline, detailed endnotes, bibliography (both print and online), acknowledgements, photo credits, and index. The main text includes many photographs and original documents.

Sometimes books about overlooked people and events in history can be difficult to promote. There's more speculation than information or there isn't the cultural context of heroism/adventure/excitement especially to war stories. While I'd like kids to read a more balanced selection of war history books, realistically that's rarely what they're looking for. This book, however, not only educates on a little-known group - nurses in World War II and how they were overlooked in history - but also includes enough adventure, excitement, and heroism for any war story aficionado.

My only reluctance in purchasing this is that it really is aimed at a middle school and up audience. While there aren't really any truly atrocious or horrible stories, it is honest in describing the privation, illnesses, and peripheral horrors of war. There are also references to how newspapers and civilians treated the nurses when they returned, assuming they had been raped, as well as their own fears and expectations when they were captured. The thing is, teen nonfiction at my library really doesn't circulate well at all. I don't know if it's because we have such strong school libraries and the kids are looking more for popular fiction or if they're just not as into nonfiction at this age. Happily, we have recently moved the teen area downstairs next to the children's area which means that I can buy things for teen and then recommend them to kids. So it's not like I'm recommending inappropriate books because they're clearly labeled TEEN but they're right there so...yeah.

Verdict: I'm going to get this because it is so well-written and an important topic and also, I think, has enough popular appeal to make it worth adding to the collection, even in the dusty shelf of teen nonfiction. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781419710285; Published 2014 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Saturday, July 5, 2014

This week at the library; or, Fortifying Myself for the Coming Struggle

Programs
  • Stuffed Animal Sleepover
Random Commentary
  • A long time ago I did programs the week of July 4th, but no more. Attendance is, to put it mildly, spotty, my colleague isn't available because the school district office is closed this week, and I really, really need this break in the middle of summer reading! Not that it is a VACATION which every other patron seems to think "oh, are you enjoying your week off?" To which I mentally reply "If I had the week off, I wouldn't be here!"
  • The one program I do is the stuffed animal sleepover - kids drop their animals off on July 3, I stay with one other staff member after hours and take pictures, then they can pick up their animals on Saturday and a souvenir picture on Monday. I also make a cute slideshow. I used to do it on Picasa, but recently took all our pictures off since that's going to be retired in favor of google+ I think, then I spent some time angsting about what to use instead, then realized it's NOT A BIG DEAL plus I HAVE AN ASSOCIATE. So I dumped the whole thing on her and she did a test slideshow in Prezi of the old pictures which turned out well. Woo! I also, as I was waking up Tuesday morning, had an entirely new idea for the photos so how it ended up going...
    • Beforehand I put together the form for a souvenir booklet and die cut tags.
    • People dropped off 47 animals on Thursday July 3rd and the staff made sure they all had tags with their name and the child's name.
    • After we closed at 8, my aide and I stayed late and I got a volunteer (previous coworker) - they took photos, I added them to the souvenir booklets and printed one for each kid. The pictures were done by 9:30, but the stupid printer stopped working (stupid was not what I called it) and I didn't leave until almost 11 because I had to save each file individually so I could print them later if they didn't all come out overnight. I also uploaded a few photos to Facebook. Printer was still going when I left...
    • Saturday I came in early to finish arranging all the animals back on the shelf, match up all the booklets, and make sure everything had printed. It hadn't, and then I couldn't get it to print on my desk computer...I finally got it to work though.
    • My associate will do the final slideshow on Monday.
  • Added a sort of program at the last minute - someone brought over a bunny for us to read to! Really sweet, hopefully she will find a home soon - around 30 people dropped by to read to the bunny, pet her, and learn about bunnies!
  • Other things I did this week - monthly report, planning programs for the rest of July, thinking about next year, and I gave my associate most of the week off and then some other staff were gone so I spent most of the week on the youth services desk and/or the information desk. Lots of work on starting to schedule fall outreach - 2 schools scheduled so far and one new remote collection! Our cataloger (she buys teen fiction) and I were disappointed that the teen circulation didn't go up after we moved the area this month, so we're thinking about what kind of signage, displays, etc. we want to add to promote the collection.
  • And then I get an email saying my flight to ALSC Institute has been changed....to times that will make me miss half the conference. WHAT THE HECK. I am so mad and upset about this. I detest traveling, I hate flying, and it's like....it's just...I have no words. I ended up emailing a local travel agent for advice, spending a lot of time on the phone before going to work on Saturday (missing breakfast) (and did I mention I hate phone calls with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns?) and canceling my entire ticket. They said they would refund it, but I am doubtful after seeing some of the things online about fees etc. I still have to rebook the flights to times that will work. If I could make this my last airline flight ever, I would.
  • And then I worked Saturday. Half the computers were down, which made for a quiet day. I do not troubleshoot computers on Saturdays (they've been down for most of the week anyways and there's nothing I can do to fix them). And one of my little girls came in with a UNICORN BIKE HELMET. The world is better now.
  • I spent a lot of this week really thinking about next year. I want to cut back...somewhere, but I also feel kind of unhappy with dropping my preschool storytime. Attendance has gradually dipped from an average of 35 to 20, as more and more kids go to preschool and 4K, and my colleague does offer a lot of storytimes, but I'm just unsure about dropping it totally. Then again, if I go to an irregular schedule, will people come at all? I'm doing more outreach but....I just feel like I'm doing very few programs. I keep stopping and reminding myself that last I checked we have the highest attendance and number of programs in the consortium - it's not really something I have to worry about - but I guess I just have a bad case of librarian guilt. Then I try to actually plan the fall and...between outreach and ALSC Institute and some actual time off, I'm not sure I can fit in preschool storytime anyways! This is the schedule I'm thinking of for the fall:
    • Monday
      • Morning - once a month playgroup (Pattie), once a month Moms with multiples (Pattie)
      • Afternoon - my off-desk time
      • Evening - my evening on the information desk, 2nd and 4th Mondays Pattie does Tiny Tots evening storytime.
    • Tuesday
      • Morning - once a month 3 kindergarten outreach visits (1 remote collection). Pattie does 2 toddler storytimes weekly. Youth desk if no outreach.
      • Afternoon - youth desk
      • Schools can schedule visits to the library if I don't have outreach
    • Wednesday
      • Morning - I'm gone for quite a few Wednesdays - 2 in Sep and 2 in Oct. I threw in a couple We Explore Art and Stories and am anticipating scheduling monthly outreach visits here as well and opening this morning up for schools to come visit.
      • Afternoon - monthly outreach visit, youth services desk, Wii gaming for middle schoolers on the 1st Wednesday of the month
      • Evening - monthly Teens on Screen (run by cataloger)
    • Thursday
      • Morning - Books 'n' Babies with Pattie, 3 outreach visits monthly, Youth services desk if no outreach.
      • Afternoon - 12-2 on the information desk, after school clubs (theoretically I work 9:30-5:30 on Thursdays. In actual practice it's more like 9-6 but that's not that bad)
      • Schools can schedule visits in the morning
      • Evening - 1st and 3rd evening is family game night with Pattie
    • Friday
      • Morning - no pgms 1st Friday of the month (major parking issues). Pattie does a monthly We Explore series (science right now and for the foreseeable future). Monthly We Explore Art and Stories. Two theater/puppet performances scheduled this fall - one for the big 4K site (80+ kids) and one for the closest kindergarten (80+ kids).
      • Afternoons - if I have an afternoon program, I don't do a morning program. I'm thinking of a Wimpy Kid party in October, but that's it for the fall.
      • Fridays are wonky because I often get scheduled to close on the information desk if I don't have a morning program, or if I'm working Saturday I take a half day. There is desk time in there somewhere usually.
    • Saturday
      • Pattie is planning a community baby shower which will kick off the fall programming semester and which I don't have to do much for but I'll try to be there that Saturday and we always end with our big holiday program, Santa's Kitchen.
    • Other programs and projects
      • Paws to Read (winter reading program), still have one school with 3-4 classes to schedule, visits from the two closest elementary schools, may or may not resume Tail Waggin' Tutors
      • Finish Neighborhoods project, possible large-scale weeding (if we go to RFID), plan outreach more intentionally - am thinking of morphing some of those into nonfiction type storytimes that would eventually become similar to Abby the Librarian's Preschool Labs. Finally finish that stupid lexile project, write a grant to expand the children's garden Pattie started this summer.
      • Personal projects - Cybils, ALSC Institute, finish recataloging and organizing my personal library
What are the kids requesting and reading? A sample
  • Disney books for a small child (I mostly have Disney Princesses and he wasn't too enthusiastic about that, but there were a lot of books in that tub so I'm sure he found something)
  • Very specific request for mysteries with a number of parameters. So far I've met this, but I'm running out of ideas
  • Beginning chapters for a boy who doesn't like anything scary. He really liked the Boris books by Joyner which I recommended previously. I gave him Nolan's Down Girl and Sit, Hooey Higgins, Zapato Power, and Guinea PI.
  • Books about snakes
  • National Geographic animal books
  • Thea Stilton
  • Cupcake Cousins (checked out so I gave them Cupcake Diaries)
  • Smile (checked out so I gave them Babysitters Club graphic novels and Amelia Rules instead)
  • Critter Club
  • books about World War II for young kids
  • books about geckos
  • Stink series (complicated b/c there's too many!)
  • next book in the Olympians/Pegasus series by Kate O'Hearn
  • Jewel Kingdom - placed on hold, we don't own this series.
  • Monster High - I do occasionally get requests for this and so far have resisted buying it - it feels more teen, but all the girls asking for it are much younger. I already own a ton of Barbie and without more requests I'm not going to add this. It looks too much like Bratz to me.
  • Books like Gilligan's Island because I like that show. This one I will admit completely stumped me. I thought of Lost Island of Tamarind, but it was checked out. Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom, but that isn't really similar. I offered Here where the Sunbeams are Green and she loved the cover and then all her friends demanded "books like that" so I handed out Violet Wings and Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose, but they were all really too long for the kids so they didn't end up taking them (they were part of a school group).

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young

It's always the most difficult to review the books you love the best. At least, it is for me. I tend to throw around words like "fantastic" and "awesome" and then stare at the ceiling in silent reverie, none of which makes a good review.

Ozma of Oz is my favorite Oz book of the entire canon. I was thrilled when it made Fuse #8's Top 100 Chapter Books, proving that I wasn't the only person in love with this story and have mentioned it here and there over the years but I've never actually reviewed it. Now that I'm recataloging and reviewing my personal library, and own both the original book, the audio narrated by John McDonough, and a beautiful hardcover of the graphic adaptation courtesy of my friend Sara the Librarian, I think it's time I explained just why I love this book so much.

It's the third book in the Oz series and reintroduces Dorothy, the heroine of the first book. After being shipwrecked with only the Yellow Hen for company, she discovers herself in a strange fairy country. With Billina for company she begins to explore and encounters the dinner pail and lunch box trees, one of my favorite moments. They find a machine-man, Tik-Tok and eventually civilization. Unfortunately, civilization isn't very civilized and consists of the Princess Langwidere, who changes her heads and her mind and Dorothy is imprisoned. Happily, Ozma, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Hungry Tiger appear, traveling magically across the great desert. Old and new friends are reunited and the group sets out for the domain of the Nome King, intent on rescuing the true royal family of the fairy country known as Ev. They encounter a few mild adventures, but their real adventures start when they arrive at the underground caverns of Ruggedo, the Nome King. At first friendly and funny, he soon proves to be tricky and cruel and only the cleverness of the Yellow Hen and the bravery of Dorothy save the day. After a happy celebration in the Emerald City, Dorothy gives the Magic Belt to Ozma and chooses to return home to Uncle Henry, who is ill with worry over her absence.

Shanower's adaptation is true to the story keeping all the delightful details and quirky characters. Young's illustrations bring a depth to the story that's missing in the print version, highlighting the puns and sly humor and bringing out more character in Dorothy, Ozma, and the Nome King. It's easy to fall in love with both versions of the story. So, why exactly do I love this story? The common sense of Dorothy, the serious but magical descriptions of the lunch box and dinner pail trees, exactly as a child would describe them, the sly Nome King with his logic and tempers, the tense guessing game...there's just so much to love. The story is the perfect blend of fantasy and reality, practical common sense and ridiculous leaps of logic. Baum was truly the creator of the American fairy tale and this graphic adaptation captures all and more of the story, introducing it to a new generation.

Verdict: Although most libraries are not going to carry the entire Famous Forty, you really should have the first arc of Oz books which includes the titles adapted and illustrated for Marvel. When I added the Marvel versions, kids checked them out vigorously and the originals got a new lease on life as well. I highly recommend purchasing the first couple volumes, if you haven't already, and introducing them to your patrons.

ISBN: 9780785142478; Published 2011 by Marvel; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tilly's Staycation by Gillian Hibbs

All of Tilly's friends are going somewhere exciting - to Paris, to Florida, to the beach, or even camping. Only Tilly is left behind. But her mom has promised something secret and exciting just for her. Although Tilly is reluctant at first, she quickly gets caught up in her staycation as they visit the library, picnic in the park, and go swimming. With a little imagination, she even manages a camping trip with her mom without ever leaving their apartment.

The art is bright and cheerful with broad swathes of color and touches of collage. There isn't a lot of detail to look for in the pictures and the figures are mostly static, but it's the story not the details that carries the book through.

This is a decent effort for a debut book. It's not particularly earth-shaking in the art or text, but it's serviceable and cheery. The really awesome thing about this book, and what makes it something you'll definitely want to add to your collection, is that not only does it feature a single parent family and one of color, it also features a family that can't travel for a vacation. There's plenty of "we're going to the beach" and "first time on an airplane" books out there, but there's not much for the kids left behind all summer while their friends go traveling. And, of course, it features an awesome library! It's also a gentle way to remind kids that not everyone can go on vacation and their friends at home might appreciate some postcards.

Verdict: While it's a little unrealistic in how quickly Tilly settles into her mom's plans, this is overall a fun book that fills a niche. I can see doing a whole "staycation at the library" display with this book as the central display. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781846436017; Published July 2014 by Child's Play; Review copy provided by the published; Donated to the library

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: The Bus Driver by Todd H. Doodler

[This review was previously published. I rewrote and edited it.]

This book counts from one to ten and back to one again. Sort of. We start with 1 bus driver and add people as he picks up groups - "Next, six doctors all paid their fare/Then seven nurses, late for work, came out of nowhere." After he reaches 10 groups (which is 55 people if you're counting), he drops each group off until only 1 bus driver is left again. Ok, the numbers on this are confusing. He picks up people in groups that match their numbers, and there are 10 windows on his bus, but if you're counting all the people it's way more than 10. In the picture showing the full bus only 24 people are shown. Also, the rhymes are flat and clunky and don't add to the story - it seems like the words were picked just so they'd rhyme, not to add to the "plot" in any way.

The book is shaped like a bus, a rectangle with the lower curves of the wheels sticking out. The pictures are small and the details are even smaller. They felt flat and had no depth of emotion. The pages are thinner than the average chunky board book and the hinges felt very flimsy.

Verdict: I think parents and kids would probably like the bus-shaped aspect, but the book would disappoint with its confusing counting and wouldn't last long on the shelf. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780307979070; Published 2013 by Robin Corey Books/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library's prize box