Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why you should apply for Cybils (preferably in my category, but I can be broad-minded)

Cybils is a wonderful thing and right now you, fellow bloggers, have the opportunity to apply to be involved as a judge. Reasons why this is an awesome thing you should do:

  1. Cybils is the best of both worlds - child appeal and literary merit. You will have the opportunity to read, discuss, review, and choose great books that kids will love to read. You will be involved in promoting those books to parents, teachers, and librarians as well as to kids themselves.
  2. As category chairs, we try to pick the most balanced, diverse panels possible so as to have a wide range of viewpoints, experiences and professions to draw from in the judging process. The more people apply, the wider field we have to pick from and the better panels we can construct!
  3. Think you've got the past year in publishing covered? You don't know what you're missing until you read 100+ books in your given category. You'll discover new books you never heard of, gems you'd completely missed, and a whole slew of titles to pass on to eager kids who can't wait to read something new. Those books you may have dismissed - you'll get another look at them from the perspectives of your fellow panelists and maybe see new aspects you missed before.
  4. Great professional experience; working with a panel of wildly different people, with all their varying tastes, biases, and quirks to choose a slate of 5-7 finalists from as many as 200 nominations is a very useful professional experience. Collaboration, there's nothing like it.
Why you desperately want to apply to be on my panel, Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
  1. This is a category that's growing by leaps and bounds. The awesome nonfiction published for young children has exploded in the last few years and you will be amazed and delighted by the range of subjects, formats, and writing styles being used.
  2. Because our panel covers such a wide range, you'll have the opportunity to read everything from picture books about science aimed at kindergarteners to history books for 10 year olds.
  3. We are a super fun group. Seriously. Ask my employees, I bring the FUN. Er...well, I bring the chocolate anyways.
What do you  need  to apply?
  1. A Blog
  2. Posts on nonfiction (or your other hoped for category) that show off your awesome reviewing skills.
  3. If you want to be part of Round 1, you'll need a pretty significant chunk of time available, October - December. You'll be gulping down books as fast as you can read them and joining in preliminary discussions before the final, in-depth discussions happen. Right at Christmas (who says I don't celebrate holidays?)
  4. If you're thinking of Round 2, you'll need to swallow down the books much faster (6 weeks as opposed to three months) but you will only be reading the finalists - this round involves much deeper reflection and discussion all the way through.
  5. The deadline is September 5

Saturday, August 30, 2014

This week at the library; or, The fleeting days of summer

I'm innocent! Totally! Heh heh heh.
What's happening - in my head and at the library
  • Just like vacation, off-program time always seems to fly by. I go from thinking "I have a whole month!" to "augh programs start tomorrow!" This week's projects:
    • Staff meeting, variety of small tasks, including changing all the publicity because one of the hamsters *cough* went back home after a lengthy visit (his remaining brother is looking waaay too smug and happy to be the only one left. I suspect foul play, but, as I said the last time this happened, I am not conducting hamster autopsies). Also shelving movies, 80% of our collection seems to have been on the shelving carts. This took several hours. Also toilet-plunging. Yech. Not a lot got done that day....
    • Finished outreach/marketing packets for schools!!! This was a lengthy undertaking that I've been working on in bits and pieces over the summer. I put in flyers, a special half-page sheet with programs after school and on no-school days (adapted to individual schools) and my new outreach schedule/flyer, listing all the outreach programs, add-ons (like getting library cards) and available days in the fall that teachers can sign up for.
    • I wrote a small grant to expand our collection of circulating toys to include baby/young toddler toy bags, inspired by this post on ALSC
    • I cleared out most of my office (a gargantuan task after I threw a bunch of donated craft supplies back there and have essentially just been piling everything on the desk). 
    • Also got a sweet donation from some girls who ran a lemonade stand to benefit the library!
    • Signage - for the teen area, still waiting for a replacement laminator to make it final and I'm not sure I'm completely happy with it, but it's not like it's permanent - just taped to the shelves basically. Also adding magnetic signs for the favorite sections and series and shelf-edge signs for the neighborhoods. This turned out to be a LOT more time-consuming than I'd expected - I'm nowhere near done.
    • Getting started on planning programs. The schedule and calendar was all done - I just have to actually plan what's going to happen beyond the exciting titles!
    • We also got a new copier, so I changed around my schedule (I work Sat. so normally take a half day on Friday) to be there when they showed us how to use it, completely forgetting the ballet studio was coming to give us a donation and take pics! I feel awful that I forgot, but at least our cataloger was willing to have a picture taken (then again, she didn't know until afterwards what they were going to do with it - I think they're putting it in the paper). Oh well.
    • Put together a post for our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program - will make it easier to give out to other librarians who ask.
    • Saturday was insane. That is all.
What the kids are reading
  • Not so much this week, as I spent a lot of time in my office and it's been a pretty quiet week.
  • Raina Telgemeier. I ordered more! They're not here yet!
  • Dear Dav Pilkey: PLEASE DO NOT PROMISE BOOKS THAT DON'T EXIST. Sorry small and very disappointed child, even though it has a PICTURE in the back of the book, there is no Ook and Gluk 2
  • Vampire kisses - a couple girls have discovered this series and are obsessed with it
  • Adult looking for read-alikes for Eragon - of course the opening trilogy for Anne McCaffrey was out, but I gave him Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire, some later titles in Dragons of Pern, and recommended Eon. He'd already read most of Cinda Williams Chima (or what I have that hasn't been stolen anyways). We probably do need more teen fantasy.
  • Underground railroad - for once I actually had a decent selection!
  • All 3 of my copies of Sisters finally came in and of course had holds! I put the free stickers that came with them into one of the books and left the patron a note to share with her sister - I love working in a small library (-:)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Flare by Kallie George, illustrated by Genevieve Cote

I was in a busy hurry when I read the first book in the Tiny Tails series, Spark, so I only had time to write a brief "this is adorable" note. Now I have more time, the next book in the series, and all the words in the world, so settle in and enjoy.

Flare is a magical bird, a phoenix. Wind, Sun, and Cloud watch over him. But Flare has a problem - he is strong and tough, but he does not cry. Wind and Cloud both try to show him that it's important to cry sometimes, but it's not until Sun shows him something very sad that Flare cries - and discovers his tears are magic.

One of the things I love about this new series, Tiny Tails, is that you think the author is going for an "issue" - everyone has to cry, it's ok to be sad, etc. and then she flips it around and AH HA his tears are magic! He has to cry to fix the baby bird! So, it incorporates a gentle lesson, that it's ok to cry, without being didactic and still having a fun story that doesn't need the lesson to work on its own.

The font isn't extremely large, but it's still bold enough to be very readable. The text is about midway for an easy reader; more than a beginning reader can handle, but just right for kids who aren't ready for paragraphs and chapters yet. The text has the simple repetition and short sentences of an easy reader without being bland or boring.

Genevieve Cote's illustrations complete the delightful books. They're brilliantly colored, but still adorable, cute, and other small and cuddly words. Bright swirls of color are outlined with bold charcoal lines and light, sketched in outlines. When Flare listens to the wind, the sky is full of blue swirls, a ladybug flies by upside-down, and he's just a bundle of feathers crouched in the grass. When Flare finally cries, his blazing color and flaming tears pop right off the page.

Verdict: If, like me, you're ready for something new in easy readers, these are a perfect choice. Accessible text and lovely illustrations will make these a favorite with both parents and children. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781927918597; Published August 2014 by Simply Read Books; Review copy provided by the author; Donated to the library

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Always, Abigail by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

This was one of those books that I breezed through quickly, thought about the appeal to readers (which is definitely there), but several things left a sour taste in my mouth. Also, you may mark this in your journals as one of the rare times I agree with a Kirkus review.

Abigail is excited to start sixth grade. She's got two best friends and they're absolutely sure they're going to be Pom Pom girls. If they don't, their lives will be over. But right away, things start going wrong. Abigail isn't in the same homeroom as her friends, who get a dreamy male teacher. She's stuck with Mrs. Hawke, who taught her mom and gives lectures on "kids these days" and is tough and is making them write letters to each other. Guess who Abigail got? Flabby Gabby, the biggest loser in school. When she doesn't get onto the Pom Pom squad, her life is officially over. Even getting to read to the kindergarteners for extra credit and the discovery that Gabby is actually kind of fun, can't make up for her disappointment, not to mention she doesn't want her erstwhile friends to see her around a loser - it will finish off any possibility of that friendship. When her dream comes true and she gets on the squad, is it really what she wants?

This is written in lists "five reasons my life will be over if I don't get on the squad", "three reasons Gabby is a loser" kind of thing. It appears to be heavily illustrated, but as I read it in ebook format on my kindle, I didn't see anything but the basic text. It's not exactly a graphic novel, but in the style of Jennifer Holm's Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf.

Girls will eat this up. The drama of friendship, the angst and embarrassment of middle school, the quick read aspect, the lists, all of it. I swallowed it down in half an hour and it was a quick, light read. Ms. Yingling says it's "pitch perfect middle school voice." But, and it's hard to tell how much of this is reading it as an adult, several things really bugged me. Abigail's family feels remarkably absent. They do little things for her, ask her how her day was, but there's no point where they really talk about what's going on. Some families are like that, of course, and presumably her parents think she should be handling herself in middle school, but it didn't seem to fit in well with the family lives of middle class suburbanites that I know.

The format of the book doesn't allow for a lot of character development, and Abigail is supposed to be a shallow, self-centered girl "a follower" as Gabby says, but to me she and the other characters were just too black and white. Sure, middle schoolers are self-centered, but even Abigail's epiphany at the end is about what she wants and likes to do and how guilty she feels about how mean she's been. Maybe this is me as an adult, wanting to say "you know, it's NOT all about you" to the kids but still...it bugged me. Gabby is so good she's unbelievable. She's a type of character that particularly bugs me; the ethnic character there to show how tolerant and broad-minded the main character is, the impoverished girl with the awful life to teach gratitude to the middle class, suburban girl. I cannot believe Gabby's goodness. Even when she finally loses her temper, it's only to deliver a very adult lecture to Abigail and walk away. All the Pom Pom squad girls, including Abigail's friends, are super nasty and irredeemable; the only thing she can ultimately do is walk away. The adults are totally oblivious to the nastiness and I can believe that about the subtle things, but not about everything they do. I also don't believe social services would allow Gabby to be in the custody of her brother, who can't be more than 18 at the most and a high school dropout, no matter what his motives are.

I'm also skeptical about the school. Now, I have, admittedly, limited experience with schools. But I can't see a teacher who's been in the game for over twenty years ignoring Abigail tackling and knocking over Gabby, accepting their lame excuses, or, and most importantly, being so blind to the girls' friendship drama. Choosing to ignore it and let them work it out on their own, sure, oblivious to it, no. I also don't see her being allowed to still be teaching after twenty years with such an eccentric curriculum. Do they have no tests, no state standards to meet? It sounds like no sixth grade language arts class I've heard about from teachers or students.

Abigail's innocence and naivety (in addition to her complete self-centeredness) was possibly the most realistic thing about her; she has no idea what her more sophisticated friends are getting at with their nasty comments about her friendship with Gabby, and she's thrilled that the eighth grade boy would invite her to a party and appear to be interested in her to the point of maybe even kissing her (omg please, please, please let there be chaperones at that party). As an adult, that whole thread of the plot just made me want to scream at the parents to at least try to teach their daughter some basic safety rules and how to deal with attention from an older boy.

Verdict: This is supposed to be a light, fun read and I can't grudge the kids that - I read plenty of fluff myself. But there are so many other books that will meet kids' desire for friendship angst and middle school drama, I find it hard to choose to spend my budget on this one with such stereotyped characters. So, it would definitely be popular. Girls will gobble it down. I do have lots of similar fluff series like Cupcake Diaries. But I'd rather spend my budget on books with similar appeal but a little more substance. I'd recommend Michele Hurwitz' The Summer I Saved the World, Calli be Gold, Tara Altebrando's The Battle of Darcy Lane, Wendy Mass, Lauren Myracle, Raina Telgemeier, Leslie Margolis, and for books that feature diverse characters (yes, I know Gabby isn't necessarily a minority character, but I'm thinking of her circumstances) as protagonists of their own stories, Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez and The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods.

ISBN: 9781402293030; Published August by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; E-ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: Run home, little mouse by Britta Teckentrup

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

The title pretty much covers the story. Little Mouse is lost and scared and no wonder - one each page he encounters another scary animal and is told to hurry, hurry and run home!

The art is typical of Teckentrup's carefully designed shapes, although it's much darker than her usual bright color scheme. After the first few pages, which show the brightly colored trees, the backgrounds are all black with the various animals showing up in shades of grey and brown with glowing eyes. One page will show little mouse looking up to see eyes through a pair of die cut holes, turn the page and you will see the animal chasing the mouse.

The book is oversized for a board book - about 10 inches tall and the pages are thinner than the average board book, about the consistency of shirt cardboard.

Verdict: I thought this was a cute idea, but it felt very dark and scary. Too scary for the audience? My colleague tested it out in storytime and the kids didn't seem to have a problem with it, but with the potential scariness combined with the oversized shape and thinner pages, I don't feel that we really need it.

ISBN: 9781771380331; Published 2013 by Kids Can Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

Bertozzi, author of several other historical/nonfiction graphic novels tackles the epic journeys of Shackleton, specifically the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914.

The book begins with the failed British expeditions, ending in the disastrous Scott expedition that was beaten by Amundsen and died on the return journey. However, despite setbacks and discouragement, Shackleton was obsessed with the south pole and refused to give up. The expedition intended to be the first group to cross the Antarctic. They had careful plans, a relief ship waiting on the other side, and everything seemed like clear sailing. Unfortunately, they met disaster almost immediately, when their ship was trapped in the ice and crushed. Despite hunger, cold, illness, potential mutiny and hallucinations, the expedition team survived and completed their expedition.

The book opens with an author's note mentioning that some parts of the story were "compressed for dramatic reasons." It ends with an epilogue giving a general idea of what happened to the members later and a list of sources.

The black and white art, neatly divided into small panels, accurately conveys the boredom and endless white wilderness of the Antarctic and the men's grim struggle to survive. Most of the characters are featureless, populating each small panel like posed figures in a silent film, moving a little farther on for each successive step in the story. It's effective and artistic and fits the story well, showing the isolation and privation of the journey.

So, this sounds great, right? Actually, I really disliked this book. The more I read it, the more irritated I got. The book itself is fine, if you're into Antarctic exploration. I'm not. I can discount my boredom on the premise that I'm not interested in the subject matter. What I find really annoying is the fact that we have here yet another book about a dead white male explorer. Again, not my field of interest, but looking at it from my perspective, the guy got funding for an expensive and basically pointless expedition just because he liked wandering around in the Antarctic and wanted to prove a point about the British Empire. What, exactly, was the point of the expedition and why are people still writing books about it? A quick search in our library consortium turns up 136 items on Shackleton, including 5 for children and teens just on the first couple pages. Why do we need another book on the same old, tired canon of male explorers? I'd like to see more biographies of overlooked historical figures - there are plenty of female explorers to choose from.

Verdict: It's not just that I don't like Shackleton (I don't) it's that I'm completely fed up with the continued churning out of biographies of the same group of people. I wouldn't buy any more biographies of Amelia Earhart either. The book would be of interest to someone who has an interest in the topic, but the art style isn't going to attract any of my teen patrons and I'm looking for more diversity in my collection development.

ISBN: 9781596434516; Published 2014 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, August 24, 2014

RA RA READ: Quick Reads for Teens (novels in verse)

Teens have a much more enthusiastic reception for novels in verse than middle grade kids. The general audience is girls who are fans of Ellen Hopkins and other heart-wringing books. A lot of reluctant readers will pick these up because they go by fast and they're very dramatic and draw you into the story instantly. So I try to stay away from the more literary novels in verse because they really don't circulate much (if at all). These are some that we do have that are very popular:
  • Ellen Hopkins
  • Sonya Sones
  • Shark girl by Kelly Bingham
  • Because I am furniture by Thalia Chaltas
    • This is the perfect read-alike for Ellen Hopkins and I'm surprised more people don't know about it
  • T4 by Ann LeZotte
  • After the kiss by Terra McVoy
  • Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
    • This is a good read-alike for Ellen Hopkins as well
  • Safekeeping by Karen Hesse (this isn't a novel in verse, it's more a novel in photographs, but the same fan base really, really likes it)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This week at the library; or, Vacation!

What's Happening - in my head and at the library
  • This week's projects
    • Put together my bulletin board display of alternative movies
    • Put together my activity table for Kandinsky circles - got this idea from a librarian on Facebook  from Hillside Library in NJ and it was awesome (I found it again on their website, and now I can't find it to link). Unless it turns out to be a huge mess, I hope to leave it up through September.
    • Filled in book bundles and other neglected displays
    • Started cleaning out my office - couldn't tell the difference. Oh well. Next week.
    • Finished general library publicity, started outreach packets for schools. Will finish that next week, also finding out about posting something at the laundromat.
    • Randomly collected some books to be changed in the Neighborhoods. Meant to finish the As in picture books, didn't get to it.
  • I had vacation on Thursday and Friday - fun things included the zoo, and associated journeyings and a trip to the salon.

What the kids are reading
  • Potty Training books. This is apparently what everyone thinks of in August before school
  • Trains - specifically Thomas
  • Katie Woo
and then I got distracted....um...Apply to be a Cybils judge! That's all folks...

Friday, August 22, 2014

I want to go home by Gordan Korman

This is my absolute favorite Gordon Korman title; I was sure I'd reviewed it before, but apparently not. It's wish-fulfillment for every kid who ever wanted to fight back against organized activities and be utterly cool whilst doing so. Mike Webster isn't thrilled to be at camp. Four weeks of being forced to play sports and meet a bunch of strange kids isn't exactly the reward he was hoping for when he got top grades. But then he meets Rudy Miller. Rudy isn't happy to be at camp either but he's not going to take this travesty lying down - he's fighting back! At first, Mike thinks he's a total kook, but he can't help getting drawn into Rudy's wacky plans and the two slowly become friends. In the end, they might not make it home, but they're going to have one crazy summer of trying!

Mike and Rudy are like Bruno and Boots from Korman's MacDonald Hall series but times ten. You can't help but sympathize with the adults, landed with a modern-day Bartleby who simply won't participate, especially when they discover that he excels at everything. On the other hand, if you haven't completely left your childhood behind, you can sympathize with Rudy too, being forced to play sports (which he hates) just because he's really good at it. Of course, the main draw of this book is the constant hilarity. From the first prank Rudy pulls on their annoying roommate Harold to the final epic disaster, there's not a dull moment. The hapless counselors, gung ho director, and outraged campers are as nothing before Rudy's determination and smarts, not to mention a little natural intervention.

Verdict: A perfect summer reading, most likely to appeal to middle grade readers. Alas, it is out of print in the US and the Canadian edition is unavailable. I purchasing a used edition for myself and you may wish to do the same. Until then, I can only hope the publisher reissues it so that every kid can snicker through the pages and come up with their own smart aleck pranks and remarks to drive adults wild. Why else be a kid?

ISBN: 0439969158; This edition published 2004 by Scholastic Canada; Purchased for my personal library

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This can't be happening at MacDonald Hall by Gordon Korman

This was Gordon Korman's first book, written in seventh grade. For a book written in the 70s by a twelve-year-old, it's stood up amazingly well. It's still funny and shows the knack Korman has for really getting how kids think and act - or even how they want to think and act, which isn't always the same thing! It was recently released in paperback with a new cover, which I promptly snatched up for my library, but I own an older (and very tattered) ex-library copy from my childhood library.

Bruno has the ideas and Boots carries them out. Together, they take the punishments doled out by their strict but fair boarding school headmaster, Mr. Sturgeon (aka The Fish). Then there's the excitement to be had from the neighboring Miss Scrimmages's Finishing School (although even Bruno has to admit that the young ladies play a little rough). But this time it's different. The Fish is putting his foot down and they are being....SEPARATED. Hapless Bruno is sent off to room with the king of the nerds, Elmer Drimsdale, and horrified Boots is exiled to share space with hypochondriac rich kid George Wexford-Smyth III. This means war! Who will win, Bruno and Boots or Mr. Fish?

Verdict: No matter how many times I read this, the wacky antics and the innocent mischief of the kids never fails to make me laugh. I also simply adore the tough female characters who take no argument when doing their own thing. There's no delving into the inner life of a child, reflections on the meaning of growing up, or serious discussion of friendships and school life. It's just fun, plain and simple. Hand this to reluctant readers and anyone who wants a good laugh.

ISBN: 9780545289245; This reprint published 2011 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: Good Night, Little Bunny by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Sam Williams


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

Now, I admit I don't usually do sweet. But...he's got stripey pajamas! I have a thing for stripes. Each page has a touch and feel section, including a puffy bit of blanket, velcro on a toothbrush, and soft bunny. The touch and feel sections all appear to be washable. The story is a simple but classic rhyming text of familiar bedtime rituals, illustrated with Sam Williams gentle colors and shapes.

This was popular not only with my colleague's kids but also with the toddlers at storytime. Hunting for touch and feel parts is a favorite activity and this book's classic text and friendly art appeals to a wide variety of toddlers and parents.

However, it is made on thinner cardboard than is usual for board books, especially for a touch and feel book. We greatly enjoyed this title at my library for a few years, but then it went the way of all touch and feel, thin cardboard titles and was no more.

Verdict: Fun and super popular while it lasted, but it's now out of print and it didn't last more than a few years so I can't recommend it wholeheartedly.

ISBN: 978-1416983019; Published January 2010 by Simon; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates; Donated to the library

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

Another superlative history graphic novel from Nathan Hale is always a cause for celebration. In this volume, he tackles a hugely complicated subject: World War I.

After some preliminary badinage amongst Nathan Hale, the Hangman, and the Provost, Hale reluctantly agrees to explain the war using "cute little animals" (requested by the Hangman) and the story begins. The author explains the causes of the war and graphically shows how country after country was drawn into the conflict. As the years go by and the war spreads, its increasing toll is shown in increasingly horrific images of Ares, God of War, devouring all he sees. Finally, the conflict ends as country after country surrenders and the warring countries pack away the monstrous creature of war. "War is built and controlled by human hands -- humans start it, humans stop it." The narrator finishes by saying the war is best summed up by those who experienced it and the book ends with quotes from World War veterans, including Ernest Hemingway, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Winston Churchill. After this sobering conclusion, a spread of simple panels shows the changes World War I brought from technological advances in weaponry to the deaths of millions. The final page shows the three narrators having a little relaxing break and a nice story to relax before they tackle the next tale.

The appendix lists a bibliography and a revolt by the research babies, who inform the author that he is not allowed to do a whole war all at once again! They do, reluctantly, supply a photograph of Cher Ami, the heroic carrier pigeon.

My only...not exactly a critique, more of a hopeful pining, is that so far Nathan Hale has concentrated pretty heavily on mainstream, white male history. Fascinating, awesome retellings, but still... Of course, trying to pack an entire war into one book is not easy, but it would be great to see some future tales featuring more women and minorities. I was disappointed that none of the women who played important roles in World War I were mentioned, including Edith Cavell, or any of the Russian women who actually fought in combat, not to mention the women's involvement in civilian life. There were quite a few quotations and individuals spotlighted to explain how they felt about war, but only one (Juan Pima) was not a white male. In the final list of how the war changed history, no mention is made of how the death of almost an entire generation of men had an impact on women's roles in society. However, I'm eagerly hoping that Hale is just hitting his stride and we'll be seeing more minorities, women, and untold stories featured in future books.

Verdict: It's hard to imagine fitting an entire war into 124 pages of comic art, but Hale manages to do it and not only that, he explains it in a way that's clear, simple, and striking for a middle grade audience. Kids who read this will not only have a few giggles over the quarreling narrator and the animal representation, they'll also be sobered by the realities of war and maybe spend some time thinking about the people behind the history they learn in school. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781419708084; Published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's Cybils time again!

No sooner has summer reading ended (for me at least) then something exciting comes to take its place - Cybils! The call for judges goes out tomorrow and I am looking forward to seeing some really stellar applicants for my elementary/middle grade nonfiction category. Make sure you fill in the application completely and give good samples of your work in relevant categories!

We have an amazing new website - check it out and apply to join us!

This is a good time to start thinking about nominations too - October will be here before you know it! I will continue to post RA RA READ lists on Sundays, but they will be interspersed with various Cybils announcements and other interesting Cybils information. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This week at the library; or, Summer is over, let the projects begin!

What's Happening - in my head and at the library
  • Summer reading and programs are over, but lest you think I am resting on my laurels, it's time for projects! I've been working on these things on and off all summer, but I had time to really buckle down and spend some serious time on them this week.
    • Weeding the YA fiction
    • Publicity (flyers, update the calendar, etc.) have barely skimmed the surface on this!
    • Signage (took most of everything down when I moved stuff, now updating and replacing)
  • Inspired by our adult services librarian, we added covers to the floor to lead the kids to the juvenile series, since nobody can find them now that we moved them.
  • The biggest project was my replacement project. This is one of those things that people who don't work in the library have no idea how time-consuming it is. I've always done it piecemeal here and there but this year decided to do it once a year in August, send all the replacement orders then, and that's it for the year. These are the steps:
    • Inventory - this involves scanning every single book (I had some staff to help with this and a volunteer, but not everyone could work at the same pace and each location must be completely scanned in one day or the reports won't run correctly. This took us from May through July and we still completely missed out on the biographies. But it's better than when we used to do it by hand with pencil and paper. To put this in perspective, our teen collection, one of the smaller areas, has 2,000 books. Our picture books, one of the bigger areas, has 4,000)
    • Reports - thankfully, our head of circulation runs these for me. I get reports of everything that was not scanned, and therefore is theoretically missing. They can include 100s of items.
    • Theoretically. Then I search for each title (quickly) and then run those I don't find through the computer. Many of them will show up as lost-claimed return or paid-discard, even though that last is not supposed to. Everything I haven't found or that isn't in one of the aforementioned categories I mark in the catalog as missing.
    • The paid-discard category I look through to see what I've already reordered and what still needs to be ordered. Then we send a help desk ticket to find out why the 50+ items that were all supposed to have deleted last month did not delete. Fairly simple.
    • Lost-claimed return - For some reason, many of these weren't deleted when they were supposed to be and I had a list of 150. Our head of circulation is going to deal with it. Meanwhile, after much discussion, I decided to just go through and make a list of everything I needed to reorder, which totaled about $150, and if they do miraculously reappear or are paid for, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
    • Missing - after running this list through and marking which titles we had duplicates etc. of, and then going through the whole list again because the first report came out not quite right!! I and my associate did one final search for missing titles. I started with 700 but got it down to 400 before we started looking. This took us the better part of two days, especially since we had to do major shelf-reading before we could find anything. Everything missing that we found had to be discharged and reshelved.
    • Then I had to decide how long something had to be missing before I replaced it, if we should wait in hope that we'd missed something and it would show up again, if we needed a replacement, was it out of print, etc.
    • Then I took the carts of books, realized I didn't have that much budget, and spent hours trying to figure out where to cut back.
    • Then I had to go through the list of all the replacement items - discarded for damage, weeded for ickiness (yes, this is an official category in my world), needs a new cover if we ever hope to circulate it again, a small number of updated titles for nonfiction, etc. Then I had to go back to the shelves and pull the items I was replacing that weren't already weeded.
    • Finally, orders were sent! Our cataloger got a large list to delete, but I kept all my lists in case the books mysteriously reappeared in the catalog (this has been known to happen and she and I call these Zombie Books, because they rise from the dead)
    • Of course, everything has to be cataloged etc. once it arrives but that wasn't my job, thankfully! Finally finished late on Friday and LEFT only an hour after I was supposed to go home!
    • Final stats
      • 15 items left on the missing list in hopes they will return
      • 182 missing items given to our cataloger to delete
        • cost - $380 for media, $380 for books, $50 for tub books
      • 80 items on the replacement list
        • cost - $920 (the small number of nonfiction replacements were expensive!)
      • 150 items marked claims returned
        • cost - $150 for replacement items (many already reordered)

  • I also had a miserable sore throat for most of the week - probably a combination of stress, exhaustion, and allergies, but at least I didn't get the stomach bug! (knock on wood)
What the kids are reading
  • Wow Wow Wubbzy - I took actually have a couple dvds of this show, but omigosh it's awful!
  • A read-aloud for ages 4-7 while on vacation - I ended up just recommending some classics, Encyclopedia Brown, Charlotte's Web, Three Tales of My Father's Dragon, etc.
  • Monster High books - I still don't have any. So they asked for Ever After High, which I do have and I also gave them Poison Apple and Candy Apple series, which was a suggestion from a neighboring librarian and they definitely liked Poison Apple. Then they asked for American Girl, which I also had.
  • Dog Diaries - need to see if there's more past the fourth one
  • Wings of Fire
  • School visited - more requests for drama, celebrity bios (I will add these at some future point when I finally weed the biographies)
  • 6th grade teacher - books on bullying at different levels. Gave her Squish, Bystander, Warp Speed, Misfits and Blubber.
  • House of Hades - all but one copy is missing!
  • Panda books - I think I need more. Have gotten a lot of requests for panda books this summer
  • Ellen Hopkins - for a wonder, only about 2 books are stolen. I also gave her Glimpse and Because I am Furniture, which she was excited about.
  • Allegiant - boy wasn't very thrilled with any of my alternative suggestions, but agreed to try The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tao The Little Samurai: Ninjas and Knock Outs! by Laurent Richard, art by Nicolas Ryser

This is a new comic strip collection imported from France. I ended up looking at the second volume, but it doesn't seem to make any difference as it's basically a collection of individual stories, one per page. Typically, each story is labelled with a wise saying, for example, "The wise man reflects, the madman climbs" accompanies a story showing Tao complaining as he races up five flights of stairs in order not to be late for class....only to discover that his class was on the first floor. More stories include Tao's mishaps in class, battles against rival schools and villains, and his misadventures in love.

The art is colorful with lots of excited speech bubbles, movement, and gags. The pervading color scheme is mostly yellows and browns, with some blue-themed stories that happen around the water. As you can see on the cover, the class of samurai students is quite diverse. It's obviously a fantasy Japan as Tao has a shaved head and wrapped tail of hair, his best friend is blonde, his love interest appears to be Indian with darker skin and a caste mark, and there also are characters who appear to be stereotypical Chinese.

I'm a bit conflicted about this title. On the one hand, it's quite funny, kids love the comic strip books, and with Lego Ninjago there's a lot of interest in fantasy-ninjas. On the other hand, I wonder how stereotyped/potentially offensive it is (not a culture I know a great deal about, so I can't really tell) and it's from Lerner so the choice is either paperbacks or library bound at over $20 apiece.

Verdict: If you are looking for more light comic reading, it might be worth trying these out in paperback, which I think is what I might do. Otherwise, I'd probably pass on these.

ISBN: 9781467732727; Published 2014 by Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Jake Parker

My audience for picture books has gotten younger and younger; very few kids over five check out picture books (or, more to the point, their parents don't allow them to do so. I have become inured to hearing "those are the baby books"). However, a truly funny picture book will really go the mileage - I can talk them up on school visits and will get six year olds and older kids slipping up to my desk and asking (often with some embarrassment) "Do you have that book you showed us at school?" Some of the titles that have really worked for this are Perry's The Book That Eats People, Reynolds' Carnivores, Morris' This is a Moose and Heos' Mustache Baby. So I am very pleased to find another book I can add to my super funny category that will grab older kids.

When Nathan loses his first tooth, his mom tells him to put it under his pillow and the tooth fairy will leave him a dollar. Nathan, however, prefers to keep his teeth. The tooth fairy has other ideas. She finds the tooth in the drawer, in the fort, in the garage....acting on his mother's advice, Nathan tries corresponding with the tooth fairy but ends up getting a series of increasingly unhelpful and annoyingly official letters - and she still finds all his teeth! So Nathan decides to set one final trap and wins....or does he?

The colored pencil and digital illustrations have a soft, warm glow of color. They show an adorably gap-toothed and determined small boy, his best friend with dark skin and curly hair, and an array of charming and menacing fairy tale creatures. The little details, like the tooth patches on the fairy tale creatures' uniforms and the tooth fairy's fancy devices really make the story come alive and increase the humor.

Verdict: For all the kids who love hilarious stories about kids beating a grown-up at their own game and who enjoy popular fractured fairy tales, this is the perfect book. It's not so steeped in fairy tale context that kids will miss out on the story, but includes enough little insider jokes that kids will feel in on the joke. It's also genuinely funny, nicely illustrated, and overall a delightful books. Highly recommended, especially for use with school visits.

ISBN: 9781416979159; Published 2014 by Atheneum; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: Duck & Goose: How are you feeling? by Tad Hills


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

The web-footed masters of early concept board books return in a book dealing with feelings. Having covered friendship, opposites and counting, they now take on feelings. From frustration to pride, sad to happy, their expressions are perfect and the pictures easily understood by small children. The sly humor and vibrant illustrations will make parents happy to read Tad Hills' board books over and over again.

This board book has a slightly smaller format - about 5 by 5 inches. It's just right for holding in small hands. Normally, I'm a little skeptical of board books with "different" concepts, like feelings etc., because they're so often too abstract for kids at the board book stage to really understand. Some of these fall into those categories; frustration, patience, etc. but they also have many more broader emotions that are conveyed not just by facial expressions but by their whole body language.

Verdict: Tad Hills' art is bright and attractive and there are a lot of fans of Duck & Goose who will be happy with whatever he does, so I would recommend adding this - and the other Duck & Goose board books - to your collection.

ISBN: 978-0375846298; Published January 2009 by Schwartz and Wade; Purchased for the library

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

I am going to say, right up front, that I am not a fan of Brian Floca. I did like Locomotive, but it was in spite of the art, not because of it. I realize I am in a tiny, tiny minority here, and I can objectively recognize his artistic merit, but I, personally, don't find his style of watercolors attractive and the books he works on tend to fall in that amorphous area of picture books for older elementary readers, which are almost impossible to circulate at my library.

All that being said, I actually rather liked this book. This is the true story of an elephant seal who decided that she preferred living in the freshwater Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand, instead of the ocean. Attempts made to relocate her were repeatedly unsuccessfully as she returned even after being relocated hundreds of miles away and taking months to swim back. After the last time she returned, the city gave in and put up signs for an elephant seal crossing. A final note gives additional facts and information about elephant seals and includes a photo of the actual Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. Cox's text is simple and informative, but also has a poetic warmth and a feeling of triumph as Elizabeth stubbornly refuses to leave the place she considers home.

I don't know exactly why I liked these pictures so much more than Floca's other illustrations. Something about the soft greens and blues and the feeling of peace and contentment that Elizabeth radiates just really grabbed me. The final full-page spread of Elizabeth, gliding up the river in the moonlight, the weeping willows gracefully draping over the banks of the river, is perfect.

Verdict: This is still pretty long for a picture book and probably won't circulate as much as the typical picture books I purchase, but if you have the budget and audience I definitely recommend it. I'm putting it on my wishlist in hopes that I'll have the budget for it later on, as I think the animal aspect will really draw in kids, even those who would normally be reluctant to pick up a picture book or too wiggly for a book of this length.

ISBN: 9780375858888; Published 2014 by Schwartz & Wade; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to my library's wishlist

Sunday, August 10, 2014

RA RA READ: Sarah Dessen Read-Alikes

Sarah Dessen is the go-to summer reading for at least 80% of the teen girls who come in to my library. I frequently get suggestions "more Sarah Dessen!" and so, in my own defense, have compiled a list of books to suggest when they've finished reading her complete works for the umpteenth time.
Authors
  • Deb Caletti
  • Susane Colasanti
  • E. Lockhart
  • Sara Zarr
  • Carolyn Mackler
  • Jenny Han
Individual Titles
  • Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell
  • Diva by Alex Flinn
  • For keeps by Natasha Friend
  • Into the wild nerd yonder by Julie Halpern
  • Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
  • Something Maybe; Perfect You; Bloom; Unwritten Rule; Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott (A word of warning: Do NOT recommend Elizabeth Scott as an author without caveats! Her work veers back and forth from Sarah Dessenish titles like those listed above to really wrenching, intense works like Living Dead Girl and Grace. All great books, but NOT all Sarah Dessen read-alikes!)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This week at the library; or, All Good Things Must Come to an End

What's happening - in my head and at the library
  • The last week of summer reading. I don't have the final numbers, but we passed 500 participants this year, which is up by about 30 or so kids. We had record attendance at programs, I hired two new staff members, and pretty much everybody got sick at least once. 
  • I am bound and determined to go prize-free next summer, so we'll see if my director agrees and what the patron response is. I'm also going to try to extend summer reading into August but end programs at the end of July. I'm planning to end the big craft-program extravaganzas and have more performers and just to generally simplify things. What I'm hearing from the patrons is that they like the book as a prize so I'm going to focus on that.
  • I don't think I ever posted our final Neighborhoods layout. We finalized this at the beginning of summer and although I've only completely changed over two categories (Tales and Go) we've already seen a big increase in circulation. My seven categories and their subcategories can be seen here - I printed them out on colored paper and laminated them. We will be keeping a "general" picture book section and I still have to decide where the zoo books are going, otherwise I'm (hopefully) finished. Er, except for actually pulling all the other categories and deciding which to replace/update, going through the nonfiction, shifting the nonfiction, etc.





Programs
What the kids are reading
  • Spirit animals
  • Minecraft books - I am planning to buy the guidebooks that Scholastic is releasing this fall, but I'm really reluctant to purchase the self-published graphic novel/fiction things I've seen on Amazon. I already buy a lot of tie-in stuff and I don't really want to add one more thing.
  • Lego books
  • Arthur chapter books (took me forever to find the exact number he wanted - these are not serialized well!)
  • middle school boy and grandmother looking at the teen shelves - he had finished his required reading and was getting something for fun - I listed off genres until he said he liked adventure, then gave him Dragon and Thief
  • Divergent - she really, really wanted it right away and fortunately one of our neighboring libraries had some copies on the shelf, so I sent her there.
  • Fairy books - she wanted Rainbow Magic. I think I need to put something on the floor to lead people to the paperback series. They're not finding them in the new spot.
  • Tractor books. Yay Neighborhoods!
  • Books with fish - mom who is painting a nursery wall. She took Trout Trout A Fish Chant

Friday, August 8, 2014

Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O'Neill

Candlewick's Templar imprint isn't one I usually look to for picture books. Somehow they all just seem, not exactly short, but to have abbreviated stories. This one isn't any different, but what it does have is truly superb art.

Geoffrey is a young and clumsy giraffe. He just can't control his long legs, neck and all those awkward bits in between. When he tries to make friends...it does not end well. But then he finds some animals who can use help and some more that don't have any friends either and it turns out there are some creatures that would love to be friends with him after all!

The illustrations are an explosion of color, texture and shapes. The endpapers show rich red, orange, and brown abstract shapes which, when you open to the title page, you can see are part of the colorful blotches on Geoffrey's skin. Geoffrey has a sandy color and texture with the splashes of color and all the animals have the same blend of fancy and realism. The elephants show textured images drawn into their skins and the flamingos have brilliantly hued feathers tucked into the thick pink lines of their bodies. When Geoffrey has his final wet, muddy disaster, the page is splashed with thick white and blue shades. When he looks up at the stars with his new friends, the sky is thickly sprinkled with fiery specks. It's not just the colors and textures that make the art awesome. Geoffrey never quite fits on the page and all we see is bits and pieces of him - head, neck, flailing legs - all showing how doesn't fit in and is always getting into trouble. On the final page, when he's found friends and a place where he belongs, he's neatly curled up, his whole body shown on the page, with all his friends tucked around him.

Verdict: The story isn't particularly new or fresh, but it's told in a light, fun way with short enough text to make it fit into a toddler or young preschool storytime. The art is the real draw here and both parents and children will enjoy the vibrant colors and clever mixed media illustrations. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763666590; Published 2014 by Templar/Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hooey Higgins and the Tremendous Trousers by Steve Voake, illustrated by Emma Dodson

I completely fell in love with the first Hooey Higgins book, Hooey Higgins and the Shark and continue to encourage new readers to pick it up. Sadly, it doesn't go out as often as I think it should, which I largely attribute to only one in the series being available in the US. But weep no more! Hooey Higgins is COMING.

Hooey and his best friend Twig are not having a good day. First, their class blatantly ignores the Health and Safety rules Miss Troutson has been teaching them, especially the bully Basbo, which ends in Twig being menaced with a stapler and facing potential retribution from the bully. Then there's the contest for the best safety design; Twig and Hooey would like nothing better than to win free tickets to the fair, but can they come up with a design, avoid Basbo, and possibly get the attention of the amazing Samantha Curbitt before Monday?

Luckily for the boys, they have the amazing (although sometimes eccentric) genius of Hooey's brother Will and in a hilarious (if not particularly surprising) plot twist, their design is...well, not exactly successful but it all works out in the end.

I will admit that I am not a big fan of Dodson's cartoon illustrations. I find her faces, especially the heavily outlined eyes and straw-like hair to be a little creepy. However, they do fit in well with the imaginative wackiness of the story and will reassure reluctant readers who are just getting into chapters.

This series is just fun, plain and simple. It's not meant to be a realistic picture of a child's inner life, teach the values of friendship and communication, or inspire anyone. It's hilarious, ridiculous, and really rather British. I love it and now that more books are coming out I am strongly hopeful that I can convince more kids to love it as much as I do.

ISBN: 9780763669232; US edition published 2014 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hot Dog Cold Dog by Frann Preston-Gannon

This sounded like a good concept, but I don't think it was well-developed.

The book starts with simple comparisons. The "Hot dog" is standing on a beach under an umbrella licking a popsicle, the "cold dog"  is standing in the snow on a wintry night. Then "new dog" and "old dog", which sounds a little odd since one is obviously a puppy and one has a beard - shouldn't it be "young dog"? "Likes to travel slow dog" is sitting on a turtle. "Go, go, go, dog!" is on roller skates. This is followed by some size comparisons. Then it...stops making sense. The next picture shows a white dog standing in the snow "Playing in the snow dog/Where did you go, dog?" At this point, I realized that maybe this wasn't an opposites book after all? The next page shows a dog with a spotted clown coat and a serpentine dog whose body is curled up. Then a dog digging. Then  a dog reading (this book) and another jumping with springs on his feet. Then dogs hiding in cacti and finally all asleep in a big pile.

The art has a bit of an Eric Carle feel, only more in earth tones. It looks like hand-painted paper cut into collages to form the variegated dogs. The font has a light, almost hand-written look. The book itself is an oversized 9x9 square.

I think if I hadn't gone into it expecting it to be an opposites/concept book I might have liked it better, but I don't think this worked well as a board book. I can see it more as a picture book for a younger crowd, however it's too scattered and abstract in the concepts to make a good board book. The oddly shaped dogs don't seem to be good choices for illustrations for a very young child.

Verdict: As a picture book I would have liked this better, since it would be directed at a slightly older audience, but I can't quite like it as a board book. I definitely shows promise though and I'll keep an eye on this author to see what else they do in the future.

ISBN: 9781576876794; Published 2014 by POW!/powerHouse Packaging & Supply; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: About Parrots a guide for children by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill

The Sills have previously written books about broad categories of animals - birds, mammals, reptiles, etc. I'm hopeful that their forays into specific birds, first hummingbirds and now parrots, mean that more volumes on specific animals will be forthcoming.

The book opens with a simple explanation of parrots and then describes briefly their characteristics, habitats, and habits. Each spread has a simple, concise sentence paired with a stunning illustration of a different parrot. The book ends with the sentence that ends all the titles in this series - that it's important to protect parrots and the places where they live. Back matter includes thumbnails of all the colored plates with additional information about each bird or action pictured, a brief glossary, further resources, and suggested reading. There is also lists of some of the Sill's other titles.

What I really love about this series, and about this book in particular, is how carefully the pictures illustrate the characteristics described in the text. So when the text reads "Most parrots use their feet to climb and swing from branches" the accompanying illustration shows two Blue-Topped Hanging Parrots doing just that - climbing and hanging upside-down from a branch. I especially like the close-up illustration of a Blue-and-yellow Macaw using its claw to hold a piece of food to its beak, as the text explains how parrots use their feet to feed themselves.

I'm looking forward to creating a bird storytime using this title. The pictures make great flannel boards/matching games and the brilliant colors give an added dimension for younger kids, if you want to play a color matching game.

Verdict: Beautiful illustrations, text that works both as a read-aloud and for beginning readers on their own, and plenty of scope for expanding into a lesson or storytime. What more could you possibly want in an easy nonfiction book? I highly recommend that every library has a complete collection of this series and definitely add this latest gem to your collection.

ISBN: 9781561457953; Published 2014 by Peachtree; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

For more reviews of this title, follow the blog tour!
Tuesday 8/5- Geo Librarian and Kid Lit Reviews
Wednesday 8/6Chat with Vera
Thursday 8/7Blue Owl and Kid Lit Frenzy
Friday 8/8The Fourth Musketeer

Sunday, August 3, 2014

RA RA Read: I want to read what the big kids are reading!

Popular series get a lot of media hype and we'll often get younger kids wanting to read "what the big kids are reading" or "what everyone is reading" even if it's not appropriate yet for them - either in content or reading difficulty. Here are some alternate titles and series for popular books.

Twilight
     Kids want to read this for the romance, the drama and, of course, because they've probably seen the movie. This is probably the hardest to match because it's really difficult to find romances for middle grade kids, let alone paranormal ones!

Alternate titles
  • Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber
    • This is a vampire romance series, but there's a lot more gooey flirting and goth angst than actual sex and violence. I still wouldn't give it to the average 9 year old, but it's going to be more appropriate for younger kids than Twilight (in my opinion).
  • My Boyfriend is a Monster series (graphic novels)
    • These range from funny to sweet to sad and are mostly pretty tame in the romance department. They do gently break some stereotypes and feature, for the most part, pretty independent girls.
  • Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
    • This is a long shot - most kids won't want to read something this long and it's a lot slower - but it's got all the dramatic, gothic, angsty elements you could want!
Percy Jackson and other series by Rick Riordan
    Most parents don't have a problem with kids reading this series - the barrier comes when younger kids can't manage to get through the books (which get progressively longer) and get frustrated. The trick is to find books that have that blend of mythology and adventure, but are easier to read. So far I've only found one series that is good.

Alternate Series
  • Heroes of Olympus by Joan Holub
    • This is a beginning chapter series that features all the characters of Olympus in their own adventures. It's a little lighter and funnier than Riordan, but still has lots of adventure and excitement.
Hunger Games
   This is, obviously, not a book for most younger readers. Aside from the violence, it features a lot of mature, complicated themes. Of course, what most younger kids want is the Excitement. This is probably the easiest series to match, since there are a lot of exciting series out there, and even some dystopias for younger kids.

Alternate Series
  • Gregor The Overlander
    • This is Suzanne Collins series for middle grade readers. I have not read it myself, because it features giant cockroaches, but it is full of excitement and adventure and definitely some perilous drama and emotion. It features Gregor, who travels underground to a hidden world to save his sister.
  • City of Ember by Jeanette DuPrau
    • There was a (not very good) movie made of this. It's a dystopia but it works for younger kids because it's not as complex and violent as Hunger Games.
  • Tripods collection by John Christopher
    • This is more science fiction/aliens attack, but it's got the same general theme of a group of kids fighting against overwhelming odds in a dystopian world.
  • Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    • This is a very popular adventure/thriller series for middle grade set in a dystopian world.
Cirque du Freak
  This is a vampire horror series. I've never had anyone actually ask for a younger alternative, but I would recommend Emerson's Oliver Nocturne. This is a middle grade chapter series about a boy who's a vampire. It's not too gory, but it's got some thrills and chills.

Jodi Picoult
   I haven't had questions on this for a while, but when she has a new book I'll often get middle grade or younger teens who want to read her titles. I also had a lot of people at one point looking for younger alternatives for The Lovely Bones. The family drama and the tearjerker elements seem to be what they most want. I recommend 
  • Suzanne LaFleur's Love, Aubrey
  • Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez
  • Edward's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Ways to live forever by Sally Nicholls
Harry Potter
  While a lot of younger kids do read this series, some parents may feel their kids aren't ready for either the length/difficulty or the more mature content in the later books. There are a lot of similar fantasy series out there, but these are the ones I most frequently recommend. I would also like to note that Harry Potter spawns the most illogical read-alikes I have ever seen, a phenomena I have noticed over the years which only seems to be getting worse.
  • Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
  • Septimus Heap by Angie Sage
  • Chris D'Lacey

Saturday, August 2, 2014

This week at the library; or, I am tired

What's Happening - In my head and at the library
  • I'm just really tired.
  • The Big Splash program was easy and fun. We had three kiddie pools, a sprinkler, bubbles, chalk and water balloons outside, with my associate and one aide in charge, and paint inside, with me and another aide in charge. Most people went straight to the water - about 80 people - and about 30 of those also painted. Next time we should cut out the water balloons which didn't work well and remember to bring the fingerpaint out at the beginning.
  • I also was the librarian-in-charge for the knit-in Friday night, so I worked until 6 and then hung out and crocheted until 10. Free food though!
  • I did get the fall program schedule finalized! It's beauuutifully color-coded. (this is my personal calendar)
Programs

What the kids are reading
  • Dork diaries
  • "books about reptiles" (my colleague asked "oh, do you like reptiles?" and the reply was NO but my mom is babysitting a kid who won't read anything else)
  • Dwarf hamsters (had to settle for our regular hamster books)
  • Dog breeds
  • Lemonade crime series by Jacqueline Davies (all but one were checked out. I offered Secret Science Alliance and Mac Barnett and....I feel like I offered a third book, but can't remember. Went with Mac Barnett, which was just as well as I discovered a giant rip in Secret Science Alliance)
  • Raina Telgemeier
  • Gave Tooth Fairy Wars to a favorite family. I am sad that Kate Coombs is no longer blogging, but glad that she is writing hilariously awesome books like this!
  • Which Harry Potter is the third one? (apparently nobody but me could answer this question. Really??)
  • Books about girls and friends and being popular for middle school. Tried Donna Gephart's How to survive middle school, but she wanted something more serious. Gave her Lauren Myracle and the Middle School Confidential books. Also wanted Sugar Plum Ballerinas.
  • Interactive books (mom is trying to get kid off truck books. I don't really see why, but whatever). Gave her Press Here, I Spy series by Gibb, and Tap the magic tree.
  • Tinkerbell picture books - I gave her the graphic novels, which are just as colorful.
  • A kid read Journey to Rainbow Island by Christie Hsiao and wanted a sequel. I didn't read this myself - it was an unsolicited review copy that sounded interesting enough that I put it in the collection, but I didn't review it. There are no sequels - I gave him Wings of Fire instead, which has sequels, so hopefully it will last a little while.

Friday, August 1, 2014

If you happen to have a dinosaur by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Colin Jack

You know, just looking at the cover, that this book is going to be a hilarious romp - and it totally is.

"If you happen to have a dinosaur, lying around your living room, and you don't know what to do with it..." this book will absolutely fix that problem. A series of hilarious pictures and suggestions follow, from a horde of dinosaurs doing yard work, to a determined dinosaur working as a snowplow - with mittens on all his horns. But what if you don't have a dinosaur? Well...the book ends on a cliffhanger, leaving it up to the reader to decide what they could do with, say, a kangaroo?

The art is very colorful and quirky and will have kids giggling in no time flat. The dinosaurs' expressions are one of the best parts with big, goofy grins, tongues sticking out in concentration, and a general air of good-humor pervading the story. The book is a little longer than the average 32-page picture book, but kids won't want the silly suggestions to end and will be begging for another reading when you come to the end. This would also make a great story starter or project for older kids to exercise their imagination and art skills on - what kind of animal would they like to have and what would they do with it?

Verdict: Fun, delightful illustrations, an always popular topic, and just a generally amusing book. Definite must for your library collection.

ISBN: 9781770495685; Published 2014 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers; Donated to the library