Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman

A Pocket for Corduroy is one of my favorite childhood books and I was interested to see how it looked as a board book.

It was...kind of disappointing to be honest. If you haven't read it before, it's the second book in the Corduroy series. Having finally found a home with Lisa, Corduroy accompanies Lisa and her mom to the laundromat. There he gets the idea to go hunting for a pocket - and ends up going through the washing machine! After being left behind and having some adventures at the laundromat, he's greatly relieved when Lisa comes back to get him. Happily, he also gets his pocket and his name in it, so he won't get lost again!

Freeman's classic illustrations are instantly recognizable, with glowing colors, lots of sketchy lines, and interesting characters and settings. This was probably one of the first books I read as a child that featured African-American characters in a normal, every day setting.

So, this is a classic and one that definitely stands the test of time. What's not to like? Well....it's just really not a good book for a board book edition. Freeman's illustrations lose much of their charm and detail when they're squashed into a 4x7 inch book and the text is far too dense for a board book audience. That's not to say that parents won't enjoy introducing this classic to their little ones, who may also enjoy picking out the colors, the bear, and hearing part of the story, but this is one that would be better off kept as a picture book.

Verdict: This might make a nice gift to a Corduroy or Freeman fan, but if your library needs more Freeman, update the picture book collection, not the board books.

ISBN: 9780451471130; Board book edition published 2015 by Viking/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim

I bought this title primarily because nobody else in my consortium had it and I wanted to read it, because I like tapirs, and because I wanted to play a joke on a colleague from the adult department who was subbing for me for a book club and told the kids tapirs were giant rodents (no, I am NEVER letting you live that down Chad. Heh heh heh). Of course, it's more a folktale than a factual tale and so it confused my cataloger who was trying to figure out what animal neighborhood it went in, especially as she's not so strong on animal identification either. Heh. If you're interested, tapirs are ungulates.

So, moving on! "This story took place long ago in a jungle where many animals lived." The animals make quite a ruckus, booming, trumpeting, stomping and just generally raising the canopy. All except the tapirs, who quietly mind their own business. But one day they are found by a jaguar. They run and run but it's not enough and they're just about to get caught when BANG! It's the hunter! The tapirs have pity on the jaguar and teach him their secret and they all....tiptoe...away together. And all the animals learn to tiptoe and the hunter goes away.

The swirling art is funny and intriguing. It's certainly not accurate - crocodiles, elephants, rhinos and apes don't live in the South American jungles with tapirs and jaguars - but it's fun just the same. The tiptoeing animals are a hoot and the swirling, splashy pictures are eye-catching.

Verdict: While not a required purchase, this story has a fun, folktale-feel to it and lots of fun sounds and actions. It would make a fun read-aloud in storytime and fills a niche for interactive stories about an unusual animal.

ISBN: 9780823433957; Published 2015 by Holiday House; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 28, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Guts & Glory: The Vikings by Ben Thompson

I don't remember where I first saw this series or what inspired me to purchase it, but I bought Civil War and then Vikings. I picked Vikings to read when it was nominated for Cybils and, well, the cover advertises "100% Not Boring" and I can personally attest that not only is it not boring, it is hilarious, informative, well-researched, and altogether awesome.

This is a comprehensive look at three hundred years of Viking history, including religion, contextual history of Europe, effect on history right down to present-day pop culture, language, and more. And it's not boring. Chapters cover subjects like "Kievan Rus: The amazing true tale of how the Vikings inadvertently found modern-day Russia." and "The Siege of Paris: When the heathens come knocking on the gates of the City of Love, a defiant Frankish count responds by dumping a vat of boiling-hot oil on their heads."

There are black and white illustrations at strategic points, frequent sidebars and profiles of famous Vikings and other personages from history. Each chapter ends with a "Know your Vikings" profile of the main character from the preceding chapter. An intensely detailed bibliography and index show the meticulous research that went into the book and give serious readers a chance to continue learning about the subject.

It's awesome how Thompson explains the difference between substantiated historical fact and legend, the way he weaves complex threads of history together, and his readable, accessible style. You can grab readers by telling them it's the true history behind films like How to Train Your Dragon (these people didn't need dragons to make them tough!) and the inspiration for Lord of the Rings (read about the real-life Eowyn!) or by reading a few chapter subtitles. Possibly mention that this is the best history of three hundred years of blood, war, mayhem, and people swinging giant axes. Or read a few excerpts:

"Sigfrid made his demand: "You open the path for us to travel down the Seine, and we promise we totally won't double-cross you and sack Paris. You have my word as a bloodthirsty, utterly untrustworthy Viking marauder who wants nothing more than to chop off your head and decorate my living room with it.""

Egil Skallagrimsson "He did battle with armies of might warriors, cut his enemies apart with an axe, and once killed a wolf with his bare hands and ate it raw. Oh, right, and he also wrote two of the most famous poems in the history of medieval Iceland and is believed to be one of the best literary minds of the Viking Age. Wait, what? ... some modern doctors [believe] he suffered from Paget's disease, an incredibly painful disorder in which the bones continually change shape. Egil did not have a sense of humor about this."

Verdict: A must buy for your nonfiction section, a top pick for booktalking, and a great selection for book clubs. In short, it's amazing and you must have it as soon as possible. Adults and kids alike will enjoy the combination of research, legend, fact, and witty writing.

ISBN: 9780316320566; Published 2015 by Little Brown and Company; Purchased for the library

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Awards: A "putting my money where my mouth is" retrospective for 2015

This is the awards hibiscus.
Like the statistics octopus.
It's a thing.
So, every year, more or less, I post one of my "putting my money where my mouth is" lists of which award titles I purchased. This year I suddenly realized that, although I make a lot of guesses about what will and won't circulate, I never really follow up. So, here is how the award books I purchased did this year in my library. Of course, there are a lot of other factors - how long have we owned them, did I push them at pre-summer school booktalks, average circulation in those areas (easy readers circulate more than teen fiction) the books I forgot to put on this list, etc. but this gives you a rough idea.

I've highlighted titles that had really good circulation, compared to the average circ of their location.

Cybils Awards (* were also ALA awards)
  • Here comes the Easter cat by Deborah Underwood
    • Added March 2014
    • Circulation: 10
  • Maple by Lori Nichols
    • Added May 2014
    • Personally recommended to multiple parents
    • Circulation: 21
  • Shhh! We have a plan by Chris Haughton
    • Added May 2015
    • Circulation: 15
  • This is a moose by Richard Morris
    • Added May 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits to great acclaim
    • Circulation: 21
  • Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery
    • Added June 2015
    • Used in book club
    • Circulation: 15
  • Feathers by Melissa Stewart
    • Added February 2014
    • Used in birdwatching station display; Used in outreach visit storytimes
    • Circulation: 22
  • When lunch fights back by Rebecca Johnson
    • Added September 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits; On staff picks display
    • Circulation: 14
  • Extraordinary Warren by Sarah Dillard
    • Added February 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits
    • Circulation: 13
  • Like carrot juice on a cupcake by Julie Sternberg
    • Added May 2014
    • Circulation: 6
  • Lulu and the rabbit next door by Hilary McKay
    • Added February 2014
    • Circulation: 11
  • My new friend is so fun by Mo Willems
    • Added 2 copies July 2014
    • Circulation: 41/34
  • Okay Andy by Maxwell Eaton
    • Added July 2014
    • Circulation: 22
  • Pigsticks and Harold and the incredible journey by Alex Milway
    • Added April 2015
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits, used in book club
    • Circulation: 10
  • Chicken Squad the first misadventure by Doreen Cronin
    • Added May 2014
    • Circulation: 14
  • Violet Mackerel's possible friend by Anna Branford
    • Added June 2014
    • Circulation: 12
  • Bird and squirrel on ice by James Burk
    • Added November 2014
    • Circulation: 17
  • *El Deafo by Cece Bell
    • Added September 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits, Used in book club
    • Circulation: 12
  • Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
    • Added August 2014
    • Circulation: 9
  • Ice dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
    • Added May 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits
    • Circulation: 18
  • *Crossover by Kwame Alexander
    • Added March 2015
    • Circulation: 9
  • Meaning of Maggie by Megan Sovern
    • Added May 2014
    • Circulation: 10
  • Castle behind thorns by Merrie Haskell
    • Added July 2014
    • Circulation: 9
  • Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry
    • Added January 2015 (donated by the author)
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits
    • Circulation: 5
  • *Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Wilson
    • Added October 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits
    • Circulation: 17
  • Hi Koo by Jon Muth
    • Added March 2014
    • Circulation: 21
  • Be a changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson
    • Added December 2014
    • Circulation: 3
  • Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
    • Added February 2014
    • Circulation: 10
ALA Awards
  • Beekle by Dan Santat
    • Added May 2014
    • Circulation: 20
  • Nana in the city by Lauren Castillo
    • Added March 2015
    • Circulation: 20
  • Sam and Dave dig a hole by Jon Klassen
    • Added October 2014
    • Circulation: 21
  • You are (not) small by Anna Kang
    • Added July 2014
    • Circulation: 25
  • Neighborhood sharks by Katherine Roy
    • Added October 2014
    • Booktalked at pre-summer visits
    • Circulation: 9
  • Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Elya
    • Added April 2015
    • Circulation: 7
  • Green is a chile pepper by Roseanne Thong
    • Added February 2014
    • Circulation: 12
  • Boy and a jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
    • Added March 2015
    • Circulation: 14
  • I'll give you the sun by Nelson Jandy
    • Added September 2014
    • Circulation: 14
  • And we stay by Jenny Hubbard
    • Added March 2015
    • Circulation: 7

Saturday, December 26, 2015

This day at the library

Yep. I took the whole week off except for today. I expected a busy four hours and it was certainly hopping. Busy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Amazing Stardust Friends: Step into the Spotlight! by Heather Alexander

I knew I probably wasn't going to like this book, but I picked up a galley of it at ALA anyways, because the Branches imprint has been popular at my library and I wanted to see what new titles they had.

I did not like it.

Marlo and her mother are joining a circus. Her mom is going to be the cook. Marlo is thrilled and desperately wants to join the three Stardust girls, who all have special skills - acrobat, dog trainer, clown, bareback rider - but does she have a special skill?

This is one of the more challenging Branch titles, similar to Notebook of Doom, with illustrations on most pages but paragraphs of text. The sparkly, circus/gymnastics theme will attract quite a few readers, but the drawbacks of the book are such that I can't bring myself to purchase it, when there are other, similar titles and series available.

So, there are two diverse characters. Great! Um, not really. First of all, the blonde is, of course, the main character. The two non-white girls are both Asian - one is a trapeze artist and the other a bareback rider. The other white girl is a clown. With the troubling history of exotizing (is that a word?) Asian women, this is annoying at best.

This is definitely a wish-fulfillment story, but it was exasperating, to put it mildly. One of the Stardust girls isn't very happy about Marlo joining them but the story is one of those "just find your talent" and "you can always fit in and have new friends." But...the other three girls have spent years honing their skills and building their friendship. Marlo finds a talent and joins them in less than a week. That would piss me off if I was one of the other girls. Of course, in a story this short there's not a lot of time for character development, but it's awfully shallow.

Verdict: This is pure fluff, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It's nice to see diverse characters included, however problematically, and some kids will like the world of the circus, but there are so many other better choices for beginning chapter books out there now that I'll pass on this one.

ISBN: 9780545757539; Published March 2015 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Seasons by Ailie Busby



 Oh Child's Play, how I love your board books. LOVE. Ahem.

So, seasons. There is no such thing as too many seasons books and certainly not in board book format (or any format really. If I never see another apple book again I would die happy...). This is a delightful interpretation with a sweet illustrator and a diverse cast of characters.

I'm starting with Fall because, well, it's fall! The first person narrative talks about typical fall sounds, sights, and smells from rustling leaves to picking blackberries, stomping in the mud to baking pies. In the end, the children dream of all the wonderful things they have experienced.

In Winter, the narrator talks about cold toes and winter clothes, snow, feeding the birds, and playing indoor games. Snuggly bedtime stories end the delightful sensory experiences of the season.

Spring brings singing birds and baby animals, outdoor exploration and everything growing - including kids!

Finally, Summer is a season for hot days and swimsuits, for picnics in the sand (and sand in the sandwiches!). There is warm rain and colorful flowers, and finally falling asleep, tired but happy, in the late evening sunshine.

Busby's illustrations are colorful and busy with lots of details, from flowers and plants to animals and people, to point out. As in many of Child Play's board books, there is a diverse cast not only in race but also in ability and age. The children pictured range from babies and toddlers still in diapers to preschoolers and those old enough to ride a bike without training wheels. There are curly red heads, children with dark skin, and many other races and biracial children. Many children have glasses, one has an eye patch, one wears a headscarf (not that that's a disability, but it sort of fits with the accessories, in my weird mind anyways). There's a child with a hearing aide and one with a cast or brace on their wrist. In the dress-up scene in winter, the children happily mix and match fairy wings, dresses, pants, and short hair without regard to gender stereotypes. Both rural, urban, and suburban backgrounds are pictured.


The books are sturdy 8x8 inch squares with easy to clean pages and decent bindings.The text is a large font and easy to read while little ones juggle and poke at the book.

Verdict: Another winning series from Child's Play (if board books won awards and someday when I find some other regular board book reviewers I'm going to get on that!) and one that your library should definitely own, especially if you live in an area with these typical seasons. Highly recommended.

Published 2015 by Child's Play; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Fall
ISBN: 9781846437441

Winter
ISBN: 9781846437458

Spring
ISBN: 9781846437410

Summer
ISBN: 9781846437427



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

I knew I was going to love this the moment I saw the cover. It has all the feels in both text and pictures.

A little boy and his pet elephant just don't quite fit in. No matter how they try, there doesn't seem to be a place for them in the city, with the other children, or in Pet Club. But maybe two good friends can make a place not only for themselves, but also for the others who don't fit in...

This had lovely language, but wasn't all fluff and poetry, there's a definite plot and some gently humorous moments as well. The quiet reflections on friendship are balanced by the flow of the story and the parade of delightful animals.

However, the pictures are my absolute favorites. I love the gently rounded elephant and the palette of greens and blues, the slightly weathered look of the art, and the tiny details, like the braids of the boy's new friend and the the glowing yellow leaves in the park.

So lovely. Deep satisfied sigh.

Verdict: An absolute must for your collection. Read it in storytime for fun and a gentle lesson on inclusion and friendship, enjoy it one on one, display it, recommend it.

ISBN: 9781481416474; Published 2015 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Explore My World: Snow Leopards by Jill Esbaum

Who doesn't love fluffy, adorable snow leopards? Match that with a fun text that's perfect for young listeners and National Geographic's excellent layout and photographs and you have a fun book for any young reader or listener.

The Explore My World series is meant to be read aloud to young children, or for beginning readers to tackle on their own. Large captions start two or three pages of simple text, narrating a snow leopard's life as she gives birth and cares for her cubs, who grow up in their turn. The background vary from full-spread photographs to simple figured colored backgrounds - snowflakes on a blue background for a section about winter, etc. The text is on plain backgrounds, either white or colored. The book ends with some simple additional information - a map of where snow leopards live and a challenge to name the parts of the snow leopard, from paws to tail.

The book is an 8x8 square and available in both hardcover and paperback. Throughout the book are questions and pictures to make children think about what they are reading or listening to. When it talks about the snow leopard's diet, it asks kids to think about what they eat and how it's different and the same as the leopards' food.

Plus, lots and lots of snow leopard photos, from adorable to majestic.

Verdict: This is a great book to add either to your nonfiction picture books, easy readers, to use in storytimes to add some nonfiction, or just promote to parents. This series has been very well-received at my library and I strongly recommend it.

ISBN: 9781426317040; Published 2014 by National Geographic; Purchased for the library

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dreaming of Books: The diversity I want to see

These are the diverse books I'd like to see available for purchase.
    Realistic fiction featuring diverse girls, specifically Latina. My girls love authors like Lauren Myracle, Wendy Mass, etc. that feature middle grade girls dealing with life, friends, family, etc. If there's just a little romance, that's popular too. However, while some offer the "diverse group" characters (each character from a different ethnicity) there are very few books with one main protagonist who isn't white. They've got to have commercial covers though! By which I mean, DEFINITELY feature the protagonists on the cover, but they can't be artistic - please use photographs! Yes, my predominantly white patrons WILL check out books with poc on the covers.
    • Diana Lopez's two titles are good, Confetti Girl and Ask my mood ring how I feel. Very popular with all my girls.
    • A couple others with African-American or biracial protagonists, The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond and Wilson's memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. Also very popular.

    More funny books about boys who are diverse. Where is the African-American Wimpy Kid? The Hispanic Big Nate? EllRay Jakes is awesome, but it's too young for most of these readers and I struggle to get kids to pick it up. I don't necessarily have kids asking for this, but I would love to add some diversity to the notebook novel genre and I absolutely know they would fly off the shelves. Why don't diverse kids get to be funny too?

    I'm working on updating the teen nonfiction, which is a small browsing collection. I'm not sure exactly how to describe this one, but...books like Child Called It and Soul Surfer but with diverse protagonists, especially Hispanic teens of both genders. My teens love memoirs with dramatic stories, current issues, and inspirational stories and it would be amazing to have more with diverse protagonists that are short and accessible to reluctant readers and get them thinking about real, contemporary teens and their lives.
    • Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez is great; it discusses issues of how girls, especially Hispanic girls, and teen pregnancy are viewed and treated.
    • The Naked Truth by Marvelyn Brown is good too, although it's a little harder to check out b/c some parents object to the title and the implied nudity on the cover.
    Read-alikes for Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry trilogy. I have gotten so many teens hooked on reading with this trilogy - and adults too, who told me they don't normally read. I don't understand why more of my neighboring libraries don't own it!

    Saturday, December 19, 2015

    This week at the library; or, Happy Birthday to Me

    What's going on, in my head and at the library
    Moved a small shelf for
    easy reader display
    • Winding down from programming. Still a few busy days with outreach, but mostly the programming is over for the season!
    • I've started a new blog, http://readnplaylibrary.blogspot.com/, to collect my circulating toys and developmental aids. I'm going to post weekly until I run out of toys!
    • Tuesday was kind of exhausting.
    • Thursday I worked about 3/4 of the day and then freedom! I'm taking the next week off. It's my birthday.
    • Pictures of some little moves to make room for the new self-checkout which is coming soon.
    Legos back on top of easy readers
    Programs
    • Monday
      • Read with Pearl (Jess)
      • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
    • Tuesday
      • Headstart tour and storytime
      • Toddler Cookie Party (Pattie)
      • December outreach (3 sessions)
      • Sophos outreach w/cookies
    • Wednesday
      • Gingerbread Man storytime
    Projects in progress/Completed
    • Working on budget and scheduling programs/performers
    • Updating and adding toy bags and maker kits
    • Weeding nonfiction - still in the 300s
    • Newsletter and calendar
    • Moving things to make way for the new self-checkout!
    What the kids are reading
    • Last-minute lexile requests - recommended Nim's Island, Claudia Mills, Andy Griffiths, and just not stressing about it.
    • Nathan Hale and read-alikes
    • Stranded by Jeff Probst - need the second series
    Add caption

    Friday, December 18, 2015

    Magical Animal Adoption Agency: Clover's Luck by Kallie George, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

    I fell in love with Kallie George's charming easy readers and I'm pleased to see she now has a chapter book with all that charm and magic included.

    Clover is sure she has bad luck, especially where pets are concerned. When her latest pet flies off into the mysterious woods, she decides to follow it even though there are lots of rumors about strange creatures in the woods. She discovers there are indeed strange creatures in the wood - but they're more magical and delightful than she expected. Soon, she's volunteering at the Magical Animal Adoption Agency. But will her bad luck spoil everything?

    I'm not crazy about Boiger's cover, as Clover's head is oddly enlarged, but I do love her interior illustrations. The soft sketches capture the sweet magic of Clover's experiences and the scary adventures as well.

    I would have loved this book as a child and I think kids will definitely click with it. It's at that sweet spot after early chapters and before middle grade chapters and it's a magical book to read with a sense of wonder and excitement.

    Verdict: This book is the perfect balance of magic and adventure. Hand it to fans of magic and animals who aren't ready for massive tomes yet but can handle an intermediate chapter book.

    ISBN: 9781423183822; Published 2015 by Disney/Hyperion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

    Wednesday, December 16, 2015

    Small Readers: Hamster Holmes: A Mystery Comes Knocking by Albin Sadar, illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

    I bought this series for myself. I admit it. I mean, a hamster! Dressed as Sherlock Holmes! I had to have it. Ahem.

    Hamster Holmes and his friend, firefly Dr. Watt (he communicates in Morse code) are settled cozily down one evening when their friend Corny O'Squirrel shows up with a mystery. Someone keeps knocking on his door...but there's nobody there! Hamster Holmes and Dr. Watt think over the problem and then try several methods until they have enough clues to come up with a solution to the mystery. Soon there's warm milk and new friends all around and Hamster Holmes is ready for his next mystery.

    The pictures are cute and cozy, showing a plump-cheeked and smiling hamster zipping about his investigation with lots of furry animals and several amusing details; a hamster water bottle and hamster wheel in the park, There is a weird pink streak on two pages, which I think must be a printing error (my kids have been known to destroy books quite rapidly, but not that soon).

    Ready-to-Read's level two is quite advanced and will need a fairly experienced beginning reader - one not quite ready for chapters, but getting close. The story contains short chapters, longer sentences, and some more complex vocabulary.

    Verdict: Most kids are unlikely to get the Holmes references, but they will appreciate the funny details and enjoy the simple mystery. This is the age when kids start getting into mysteries and this is a good beginning mystery for them to start on.

    ISBN: 9781481420372; Published 2015 by Simon Spotlight/Simon & Schuster; Purchased for the library

    Tuesday, December 15, 2015

    Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

    I'm not sure how we'll process the fold-out portion of this book, but I intend to shower our processor with chocolate and leave it up to her, because this book is certainly worth it.

    A little boy is having a great time playing robot, but his family isn't quite so enthusiastic. Don't they understand how fun it is to play robot? If only he could turn into a real robot....and he does! But things don't work out quite as he expects.

    Now, at this point you know what to expect, right? The boy realizes it's better to be a human and have his family and friends and "changes back" since he was just pretending in the first place.

    Heh heh heh heh.

    Beep.

    Rubin and Salmieri, creators of subversive fun like Secret Pizza Party, Dragons Love Tacos, and Those Darn Squirrels (a staple of my fall storytime repertoire) have returned with a book that's funnier, weirder, and more wacky than ever. Be prepared for blank stares erupting into riotous laughter.

    Verdict: The revolution has arrived. Buy this book and be prepared.

    ISBN: 978052548879; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

    Monday, December 14, 2015

    Nonfiction Monday: Swan: The life and dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad

    This isn't the best cover picture - some of the delicate color the illustration is lost - but it gives you an idea of how beautiful this book is.

    Anna is dressed in a delicately pink dress and her wings shine with a soft silver sparkle. Her story begins with a little girl looking out of a window into the snowy night. Snyder's poetic prose takes the reader through Anna's poverty-stricken childhood, her love of dance, her rejection and eventual acceptance and success and her transformation into one of the most famous and beloved dancers of all time. Finally, she dances her final dance and leaves the stage forever.

    There could not be a better illustrator for this stunning picture book than Julie Morstad, whose exquisite and delicate lines convey the beauty and grace of Anna's dance. Softly tinted colors fill the page and Anna whirls through the pictures, seeming both remote and close enough to touch as she changes from costume to costume.

    An author's note explains more details about Anna Pavlova's life and influence on ballet, especially making it available to not only the wealthy and nobility but something that many people could enjoy and even participate in. A final page includes a brief bibliography and source notes.

    Verdict: A stunning, lovely book that ballet fans and lovers of beauty of all ages will love. An absolute must for your picture book collection, especially if you have a dance section.

    ISBN: 9781452118901; Published 2015 by Chronicle; Purchased for the library

    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    Dreaming of Books: Sports

    More sports series featuring boys AND girls for beginning readers. So far as I know, there are no beginning chapter books featuring girls actually playing sports like soccer, basketball, etc. (bonus if they are diverse!). I hear Random House is planning a series in this vein for, possibly, 2016.
    • Jake Maddox circulates well and has a certain amount of racial diversity, but it's a little too hard for some of my readers plus almost all the girls are featured in sparkly pink and mostly in gymnastics, dance, as cheerleaders, etc., not team sports.
    • Ballpark Mysteries by David Adler has both a boy and girl main character, but it's more a mystery series than a sports series.
    Middle grade (the older end toward middle school) GIRLS playing team sports. I have specific requests for books about girls playing football and softball. The girls asking for these are often reluctant readers and they want upbeat, fast-paced books that focus on their favorite sports. There are a few things, but I want MORE.
    • Dairy Queen (for the older girls)
    • Bat 6 (which I have to sell harder because it's historical fiction and the cover isn't appealing)
    • Gold Medal Summer/Gold Medal Winter (although this is Olympics, not team sports)
    • Kicks is great for the younger middle grade readers - more like this featuring different sports and for middle school please!

    Saturday, December 12, 2015

    This week at the library; or it's not feeling much like Christmas

    What's going on, in my head and at the library
    • Sigh. Nothing like starting the week with a trip to the dentist. It actually feels a lot like fall with fog and temperatures in the 30s-50s. I do actually like this type of weather, but I like to walk in it and then curl up at home. Oh well.
    • Our director was on vacation so I had Jess do the morning outreach visits on Wednesday and I just did the two afternoon ones - and then covered the Friends meeting in the evening.
    • We had HUGE holiday programs this week. I am ready for a break.
    Programs
    Projects
    • Nonfiction weeding - still working on the 300s
    • Cleaning up the last parts of the budget
    • I did a little promo for Paws to Read with the homeschool group
    • Working on scheduling/booking performers for next year
    What the kids are reading: A selection
    • Ever after high
    • Beginning easy readers
    • book on Antarctica
    • pink books
    • pokemon chapter books or easy readers (we don't have any)
    • polar express (can't find it)
    • lexiles
    • lexiles again
    • still more lexiles
    • house of robots (need to buy this)
    • morgan rhodes (note to teen selector)
    Popular titles from my outreach to high-level readers
    • Keeper of the Lost Cities 
    • Magicalamity
    • Heart of the Samurai
    • Shadow on the Mountain
    • Counting by 7s
    • Moon over Manifest
    • The Headless Cupid
    • Cabinet of Wonders
    • Cupcake Cousins
    • Battle of Darcy Lane
    • Dogs of winter
    I am THRILLED that some of my older favorites, Headless Cupid and Cabinet of Wonders, were popular!

    Friday, December 11, 2015

    Where triplets go, trouble follows by Michelle Poploff, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

    I won't usually pick up Holiday House's chapter books, because the covers almost always look amateurish and unattractive and I know, from sad experience, it's hard to get kids to pick them up. However, this cover isn't bad and some kids are really into the twins/triplets thing.

    Daisy, Lily, and Violet aren't identical, especially in their interests. Daisy is sporty, Lily likes to write poetry, and Violet is dramatic (and kind of bossy). When Violet fails her science test, she and her sisters have to figure out a way to help her overcome the problem without doing her work for her. Meanwhile, Lily is trying to overcome stage fright and Daisy is having her own problems. Just when Violet thinks things can't get any worse, realizing how she and her sisters have both differences and similarities gives her an idea and there's a happy ending for all.

    The black and white illustrations are pleasant but not particularly memorable. To be honest, that's pretty much how I felt about the whole story. It meanders rather. The plot wanders from the sisters' troubles at school, the stereotypical mean girl, siblings squabbles, to a sudden diversion into the girls thinking their grandparents (two different sides) are dating.

    Verdict: A light, amusing story but not a required purchase. If you are bulking out your beginning chapter section or have a lot of twin/triplet fans, you might consider this, but it's definitely additional.

    ISBN: 9780823432899; Published May 2015 by Holiday House; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015

    Wednesday, December 9, 2015

    Small Readers: Rubble to the Rescue by Kristen Depken, illustrated by MJ Illustrations

    If you want to know how I feel about Paw Patrol, take a look at my review of the tv series. Ugh. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan. BUT. But, but, but, these are HUGELY popular. Generally, I try not to buy tv tie-in easy readers because they are so ill-suited to the actual task of, you know, learning to read. But sometimes popularity trumps actual readability and I did buy a selection of popular ones recently. Let's see what concoction of words and pictures I have inflicted upon the innocent children of my town.

    Rubble is one of the Paw Patrol puppies. He drives a bulldozer. In this story, he has been watching a tv show about a superhero dog and wants to be a "super pup" and help people (even though....that's what Paw Patrol already does....?). He helps a farmer corral her chickens and then tries to take on a bigger task alone with disastrous results. Rubble calls Ryder (the human boy who leads the Paw Patrol) and they show up with friends to help. Working together, they save the day.

    The generic illustrations could have been copied and pasted from the film or website, unsurprisingly since they're made by a company and not an actual, individual illustrator. The flat, digital illustrators lack expression or interest and are bland and forgettable, much like the text. The only positive thing that can be said about the storyline is that the message isn't hammered home at the end, but implied by the storyline which is remarkably subtle for this type of material. The text is large and laid out on plain backgrounds, which is a positive, but includes many words specific to the show which are more complex than this level of reader would usually encompass.

    Verdict: Is this a quality book in regards to text or illustrations? Nope. It's bland, forgettable, and of only the vaguest literary quality. Will it check out? Heck yeah. This is one of the things I buy that fall into the "let kids choose their own books and they'll love reading" category. It's going to fly off the shelf and by the time it's utterly destroyed Paw Patrol will hopefully have been left in the rubble (heh) of another show.

    ISBN: 9780553522914; Prebound edition published 2015 by Random House; Purchased for the library

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Crunch by Carolina Rabei

    It's a guinea pig!! Ahem. I do like guinea pigs and there are not nearly enough books featuring their adorability.

    Crunch, a plump and happy guinea pig who loves food. But even though he has lots of food, something is still missing....he's just not sure what it is. Then one day Cheddar the mouse shows up. Cheddar has a shocking suggestion: Crunch should share his food! And hugs?? NO WAY. But maybe Cheddar is what Crunch has been missing all along....a friend.

    I love the scratchy woodcuts and fresh colors of the fruits and vegetables that are scattered about the pages. The animals are the perfect blend of anthropomorphic and animal with all their cute furriness intact and human emotions added. I like the way the pictures are laid out in smaller spots as Crunch goes searching outside his cage for the first time.

    Verdict: Sweet story with a gentle reminder about friendship and sharing, lovely pictures, and very well-written, especially for a debut picture book. I'll definitely be watching this author for more stories - hopefully featuring more guinea pigs!

    ISBN: 97818464373335; Published 2015 by Child's Play; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    Nonfiction Monday: Brown Bears by Cari Meister

    I looked at some of Bullfrog's books when Jump! first debuted the imprint, back in 2014, and I'm revisiting them today, specifically one from My First Animal Library. I picked this one because I like bears.

    Each book has an educational section, "Ideas for parents and teachers" that talks about reading with and talking to children. The book is divided into three "chapters" that follow a simple narrative structure while including facts about brown bears. A female brown bear hibernates, gives birth, and takes her cubs to feed in the salmon stream. Additional information at the back includes the parts of a bear, a picture glossary that matches captions of the photos, a simple index, and a link to the website.

    These books are a very handy size, a tidy 8x8 with sturdy bindings and colorful backgrounds behind the simple text. This one has lots of gorgeous pictures of bears (all pictures of bears are gorgeous, in my opinion) and the text is not only a good read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, but makes a good easy reader. The books don't have the lyrical flow of a nonfiction book that's meant to be read aloud, but they are informative and at a good level for the audience. If you're going to buy series nonfiction for young listeners and readers, this imprint is the best choice.

    Verdict: This imprint has continued to grow in popularity at my library. Many families now look for the smaller size to pick up books for the kids and it's also perfect for our classes of beginning readers. Even if you can't afford to purchase whole sets, take the time to go through their catalog and select what your budget can handle and they will definitely circulate.

    ISBN: 9781620311660; Published 2015 by Bullfrog Books/Jump!; Purchased for the library

    Sunday, December 6, 2015

    Dreaming of Books: Things you think there are enough of, but there really, really aren't like tractors

    More tractor picture books. No, I'm serious! I realize people are like "well, duh, there's tons of those" but that's because tons of people check them out! And then there aren't any! I've started buying multiple copies. They're especially popular in the fall here, when kids see the tractors in the fields. I've had a lot of requests for John Deere's Johnny Tractor but they look flimsy (not to mention pretty yech for art) and I'm going to try the Tractor Mac series, which is being republished I think.
    • Otis the Tractor I personally hate these books and only a few kids specifically like them, but they're good fill-ins when I've run out.
    • Farm Machines from Jump - I just bought a second copy of the tractor book.
    In the same vein, more horse picture books! There was a recent thread on a Facebook group suggesting horse books, but many of them are, sadly, out of print. I'm not sure why there is such a dearth of horse picture books, especially with beautiful illustrations, but I have lots of horse fans who would love more books about this animal.
    • Horse by Malachy Doyle is amazing and gorgeous - more like this please!

    Saturday, December 5, 2015

    This week at the library; or, hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to work I go

    so much for my squirrel resistant birdfeeder
    What's going on, in my head and at the library
    • Back to work! And all the things I forgot to do before I left...I will merely sum up Monday by saying my aide told me we need more vinegar and a bottle brush and I packed up six baskets of books for delivery.
    • Tuesday was just as crazy. Desperately trying to get everything ready for book club and outreach and work the desk and staff evaluations and PHEW.
    • I ended up staying late several days and came in late on Friday, going to Walmart for last-minute use-up-the-budget-and-the-pig-money purchases like vinegar and marbles (and then I decided to save the pig money after all)
    • and then it was even more busy. the end.
    Programs
    Stealth Programs/Displays
    What the kids are reading: A selection
    • Lightning thief (couldn't find b/c they got split on two shelves)
    • Alice by Naylor (need to continue buying new replacements for this series)
    • Tis the Season by Payton (I am the only library that gets these, promised to put the new one on hold as soon as I get it - no more $$ left this year)
    • Rabbit books
    • high lexile quick reads - gave her some nonfiction animal books - Steve Jenkins, Nic Bishop, Ted Lewin
    • Family movies - Miss Minoes and Molly Moon
    • Books about "characters" Chloe and the Lion
    • read-alikes for Voyagers and Paulsen - 9 year old just getting into reading. Will Hobbs, Infinity Ring, 39 Clues
    • more like Capstone Nickolas Flux - Nathan Hale
    • Lots of requests for Christmas around the world this year - need to get a set or something.
    • Lexiles
    • Books for a 7 year old having a baby sister - Emma Dilemma and other picks from Family neighborhood
    • patron stopped to tell me how much they loved I will take a nap and how grateful they are I got them into E&P
    • encyclopedia - realized after patron left that i had exactly what they wanted back on my weeding cart as i meant to get one that wasn't 20 years old. darn it.
    Paws to Read 
    • Lazy Dave (my recommendation)
    • Rainbow magic
    • a silly book about a cat
    • Dirty dinosaur
    • Rescue princesses
    • Nickolas Flux
    • I really like slop

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    The Masterpiece Adventures: The Miniature World of Marvin and James by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

    I've been meaning to read this for a long time and finally got around to it in one of my Read All The Things marathons. Full disclosure: I have not read the full-length novel, Masterpiece, which is where these characters come from.

    James is going to the beach for a week. His best friend Marvin, a beetle, is very sad and worried. What if James doesn't like him anymore when he comes back? What if he meets new friends? James reassures him the best he can, but Marvin is feeling quite miserable after his friend leaves. His mother tells him not to let himself get bored and suggests he play with his cousin Elaine. They are quickly not bored when they get trapped in a strange, giant, and very dangerous place! Will Marvin and Elaine escape? Will James still be his best friend when he returns? Finally, Marvin has an idea to let James know how much he misses him. When James returns, Marvin gives him his masterpiece and they've both learned that "You can only be missed when someone goes away!"

    Kelly Murphy's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this simple but heartfelt story. The sepia hues, ranging into black and white, amplify Broach's lovely text and show the small world of the house from a beetle's viewpoint. The pencil sharpener becomes a terrifying and massive monster, and James' is a friendly but sometimes remote creature. Marvin's masterpiece is, of course, the masterpiece of the series; simple brushstrokes and tiny details that capture the essence of the beach and Marvin's loneliness without his friend.

    The book is just over 100 pages with copious illustrations on each page. The font is clear and bold and a large size that's suited to readers just starting on chapters. Broach's text has the shorter sentences and sometimes choppy feel of an easy reader, but she manages to make the story flow within the confines of the format.

    Verdict: This is lovely and beautifully done but...honestly, nothing much really happens. I read it, I can see teachers assigning it, I can see some kids enjoying it, but it's not going to have the audience that a more action-packed or humorous beginning chapter book will have. It also felt very confusing not to know who the characters were - as if the reader was dropped into the middle of the story. This is understandable, since the characters' backstory is apparently told in the longer novel but a child who is reading beginning chapters is unlikely to have read the longer novel and a child who's read the novel, unless they are a major fan, isn't likely to go back and read the spin-off. An additional purchase.

    ISBN: 9780805091908; Published 2014 by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    Thrive Thursday: December 2015

    Programs for School-Age Kids

    Stealth programs and displays

    Other stuff of interest
    I feel kind of silly linking to my own blog, but here's the school-age programming I did in November or started that month.

    Is Thrive Thursday no longer thriving? Sadly, blog round-ups in general seem to be dying off. Ah, I remember the days....Anyways, I received only a couple submissions, so I supplemented them with what I collected from The Internets. Enjoy! And if you don't have a school-age event yourself but know of a great blog post about one that happened in November, pass it on!

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015

    Small Readers: Lana's World: Let's go fishing by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Jess Golden

    The author of the popular and imaginative Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series returns with a new easy reader series.

    Lana would really like someone to go fishing with her, but everyone is too busy. So she retires to her room to go "fishing" by herself. No sooner is she settled down in the "boat" than her family sees how much fun she is having and one by one they join her. Finally, Furry the dog joins them and they enjoy being together in their imaginary adventure until Lana decides she's done fishing for the day.

    What I really love about this easy reader was the watercolor illustrations. They reminded me a little of Julia Denos, of whom I am quite a fan. Lana might or might not have darker skin - it's hard to tell - but she's definitely darker than her siblings, possibly taking after her mother. I loved how her bedroom turns into the lovely lake and each family member adds another splash of color to the scene.

    The story itself is what I'd expect from Silverman. Lots of imagination, if not completely believable (I have a hard time seeing any family spending significant amounts of time sitting on a bed pretending to be fishing). But it's a lovely story and the imagination and art are attractive. The text is nicely laid out, not hidden by the illustrations which it narrates, and fits in well with a level 2, intermediate easy reader.

    Verdict: This will make a nice additional purchase for your easy reader section, if you're looking for more stories featuring actual families.

    ISBN: 9780544106529; Published 2014 by Green Light Readers/Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

    Tuesday, December 1, 2015

    Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

    It's a Minibombo book! You have to get it just for that alone. Minibombo! This is an Italian imprint offered in the US by Candlewick and it says it's "a little book buzzing with a big idea" and it couldn't be more true!

    Black Cat is completely black. White Cat is completely White. One stays up during the day, one prowls at night. But when they start wondering about what happens while they're asleep, they'll both make new discoveries - and friends.

    The art is super simple - just black and white - but very clever. First the backgrounds are flipped so the cats stand out against them, and then as they start meeting each other, they're blended together so you can still see each cat. And who could resist those smiles?

    I can think of lots of art ideas to use with this but there are also ideas online at the original publisher's website. Delightful.

    Verdict: This is one of those deceptively simple books that kids and parents will love. Enjoy it in storytime, make art, or just cozy up together to read before bedtime. Highly recommended.

    ISBN: 9780763681067; This edition published 2015 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

    Monday, November 30, 2015

    Nonfiction Monday: The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the mind of a mollusk by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Keith Ellenbogen

    I usually really enjoy Sy Montgomery's writing and I am a big fan of octopuses, so I was surprised that I didn't get into this more.

    Montgomery follows a group of scientists beginning a research project on octopuses on the island of Moorea. Some of them are researching the animals' feeding habits, some of them are investigating their personalities and psychological makeup, and they are all working towards collecting enough data to analyze whether octopuses are threatened as a species or not.

    The text is interspersed with stunning underwater photographs, lots of octopuses, and other shots of the island and research materials, like the shells and bits from the octopuses garbage piles. There are sections explaining different facets of the animals' biology, like how they change color and their influence in history and culture. Interviews with the various scientists are interspersed with the story of their research. There's a sum of the team's research and questions still to be answered at the end of the book, as well as a bibliography and index.

    Verdict: So, I like this series, this author, and this animal. But somehow the book just didn't engage me and I kept comparing it to Montgomery's stunning Tapir Scientists. I didn't feel as interested in the various scientists and the story of their research seemed cut short. I wouldn't not recommend this, but I was disappointed that I didn't get into it as much as I wanted to. I may be feeling a little wishy-washy today.

    ISBN: 9780544232709; Published 2015 by Houghton Mifflin; Purchased for the library

    Sunday, November 29, 2015

    Dreaming of Books: Beginning chapter sparkly books with diverse characters

    I had this feature as a page, but it didn't get updated enough. I'm going to make it an occasional posting thing. These are the books I wish publishers would publish....

    I am looking for more fairy, princess, sparkly, fantasy books for beginning readers with diverse characters, a la Rescue Princesses.


    Rainbow Magic is ok, but the only diversity aspect is the characters' skin color on the covers and every book is exactly the same.

    Mermaid Tales is very popular, but like Rainbow Magic the only diversity is the girls on the covers and there's even less variety.

    Rescue Princesses is awesome. It's got the princess factor, it's a good reading level, and it features a diverse cast of characters and cultures in a simple, kid-friendly way. It's also got girls who go on adventures and rescue animals! Pretty much all my girls love this, but I've also gotten enthusiastic responses from parents, especially a couple big families with adopted children who want books that their kids can read to spark off discussions of their birth cultures.

    And, we've already got suggestions!

    • Enchanted Sisters by Elisa Allen (only drawback is there's only 4)

    Saturday, November 28, 2015

    This week at the library; or, Vacation!

    I only worked Monday this week. We had a staff meeting, a programming/departmental meeting, and I worked the information desk in the evening while Ms. Pattie did Tiny Tots. I hopefully got enough stuff settled that the rest of the week (the few days we're open) will run nicely without me.

    Vacation plans: Laundry, planting more bulbs, cleaning out craft supplies, dishes, writing reviews, walking, breakfast with a friend, more cleaning, more writing, and catching up on reading. Also, lots of audiobooks.

    Friday, November 27, 2015

    Lulu and the hamster in the night by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

    Lulu just gets better and better. My favorite used to be Lulu and the cat in the bag but I think this is my new favorite.

    Lulu, who loves pets and is allowed to have as many as she wants as long as she takes care of them, acquires a hamster from a classmate who has been treating it with indifference and is planning to abandon it. Under her care, Ratty begins to be more friendly and settle down in his new home. But then Lulu and her cousin and best friend Mellie are invited to spend the night at Nan's house. This would be great news, but Nan does NOT like pets in general and most definitely not rodents. Lulu and Mellie decide to take Ratty along anyways, but things quickly go wrong and there's a big disturbance in the night. What will Lulu and Mellie do and how will Nan react?

    I love Lulu. In each book she seems to be maturing a little, but she maintains her enthusiastic love of animals. McKay's turns of phrase are charming as well "They followed after Lulu in a prowly golden parade." was one of my favorite images. I laughed myself silly over Mellie and Lulu's exchanges about the penguin show.

    Verdict: Sweet, comforting, and full of animals, not to mention a diverse set of protagonists. This is perfect for fans of Critter Club who are ready to move on to something a little more challenging.

    ISBN: 9780807548240; Published 2015 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

    Lulu and the duck in the park by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

    I reviewed two of the Lulu books for Cybils, but never read the first book. As I was selecting titles for my book club and was looking for books that would meet the kids' interests and feature more diverse characters and this popped into my head immediately.

    In Lulu's first story, we learn that she is known all around town for her love of animals. But her animals get her into trouble because her teacher most definitely does not like animals. When Lulu tries to show her how amazing animals are, she almost loses her class their treasured guinea pig! Now her cousin and best friend AND the whole class is mad at her! But there's no time to think about that, because the class is going on their weekly walk through the park and there are ducks to see...but then tragedy strikes. Lulu manages to rescue an egg, but what will happen when it's not an egg anymore? Will her teacher really take their guinea pig away if she discovers it?

    Lamont's sweet black and white illustrations show Lulu and her cousin Mellie and their class, noisy, exuberant, and interested in everything around them. There are plenty of cute, fuzzy animals pictured as well. The text is a step up from a very beginning chapter, but still comes in just over 100 pages and at a level the average 2nd grader could easily read.

    Lulu isn't quite as idealistic in this first book as she is in the later ones I read; she gets into trouble and has little spats with her cousin. Overall though, this is a feel-good book for any reader who will enjoy Lulu's love of animals and the funny trouble she gets into.

    Verdict: This series has been quite popular and I'm sure my book club members who like animal stories will enjoy this, if they haven't already read it. Highly recommended.

    ISBN: 9780807548080; Published 2012 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

    Wednesday, November 25, 2015

    Small Readers: Ling and Ting, Twice as Silly by Grace Lin

    I enjoyed the previous Ling & Ting book, but then somehow forgot about the series. Cybils brought it back to my attention and I remembered how fun it was.

    As the title says, this is all about being silly. Ling and Ting get up to all sorts of silly tricks and jokes from planting cupcakes to a silly plan to get an apple or even writing a silly story. Lin's art is simple but sweet. The slightly bumpy lines give it a homemade feeling that's very attractive.

    These follow a classic easy reader format. Simple, short sentences with a surprise at the end of each brief story. The text is a level 2 or 3, depending on what system/publisher you're looking at and I'd say is just right for an intermediate easy reader.

    What I really like about these books, besides the humor and general fun, is how the girls' culture is seamlessly part of the story. The clothing and backgrounds make me think the story is set in an older time period, maybe 1950s or 1960s, and it's like someone went back in history and wrote a book about the kids that were always there but nobody noticed. Their culture as Chinese-Americans is included in little things, like painting toys red for luck, but they don't celebrate specific holidays to show their ethnicity (a tired device as far as I'm concerned). The focus of the story is on the humor and how the girls are the same and different as twins.

    Verdict: While I mostly focus on purchasing easy readers for younger readers at the very beginning of learning to read, I do have a smaller number of classic and carefully selected easy readers for those who are more at an intermediate stage. Ling & Ting is a series that fits in well and I definitely recommend them.

    ISBN: 9780316184021; Published 2014 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    Lulu's Party by Kit Chase

    I am so pleased to see that another Playtime with Friends book has come out. I'm usually not much of a "cute" person, but I really liked Oliver's Tree and was excited to see what happens to the next featured friend.

    Lulu is feeling a little dismal and lonely on a rainy day and decides to invite her friends over for a party and a special surprise. But the treat gets ruined! Is her party ruined too? Fortunately, Lulu has some good friends who can think of a special treat that they can all share together.

    Kit Chase's art has a sweet, British feel to it. It reminds me of Ernest Shepard, handmade stuffed animals, and cozy tea parties.

    This isn't a ground-shaking book and it's unlikely to win awards. It's just a simple, sweet story that families will enjoy reading again and again and is likely to become a small child's favorite story. The gentle, hopeful story will resonate with kids who understand about small disappointments looming large and the happy denouement as her friends come up with a solution and they all head outside for a circus party will have them begging for another reading.

    Verdict: This would make a lovely addition to a book list on resiliency, if your school district focuses on that. Otherwise, it's the perfect story to cuddle up with on a rainy day.

    ISBN: 9780399257018; Published 2015 by G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    Nonfiction Monday: What's up in the Amazon Rainforest by Ginjer Clarke

    I really wanted to like this book - I'm in the market for more chapter-book-like nonfiction and Ginjer Clarke has done some very serviceable nonfiction series before. However, there were some layout decisions and other elements that made me take this off the list, for my library at least.

    The rainforest and general terms and concepts are covered in the introduction, then the book is divided into sections covering the Amazon river and the different levels of the rainforest. There are chapters on the native peoples of the Amazon, different products and medicines we get from the rainforest, and how readers can participate in conserving the rainforest. Back matter includes a brief bibliography, lengthy index, and fold-out map.

    The book is a small paperback size, 140 pages. I like the glossary included directly into the pages and the many photographs and additional information breaking up the text. However, there were a couple things that annoyed me. First, the book is formatted like a journal, complete with water stains, highlighting, and areas on maps and photographs are circled by what looks like red marker. I don't know about other libraries, but this type of book in my library inspires an endless stream of kids to the desk "Ms. Jennifer, someone WROTE in this book!" and those who don't join that stream are busily scribbling on the book themselves, since "someone wrote on it already."

    I found several typos; one on page 27 "One night, a water lily blooms a giant white flower that smells like pineapple." and some turns of phrase that I just didn't appreciate, like the anaconda's "fangs" on page 32. Now, it's true that all snakes have teeth of some kind, but I think it would have been better to explain how the anaconda's fangs are used, rather than inadvertently joining in with the "all snakes are venomous and will attack you" sensationalist view. Again on page 40, when talking about piranhas, it labels them "deadly" and mentions that the native people tell stories about them attacking humans, but it's my understanding that piranhas do not attack large prey and only eat humans and other large mammals if they are dead or dying. I'm skeptical about the claim of poison dart frogs having the "strongest poison in the world!" on page 93. Maybe, maybe not, but there's no source to prove it either way.

    Verdict: So, basically, I liked the idea of the book and the chapter book size, but the journalistic details bothered me and I found myself reading skeptically the information included. It would probably be fine as an introduction for kids who just want to read about the rainforest, but I can't quite bring myself to recommend it.

    ISBN: 9780448481036; Published 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher

    Saturday, November 21, 2015

    This week at the library; or, I am thankful for vacation

    What's going on; in my head and at the library
    • This was a crazy week. Not as crazy as some, but I am definitely ready for the weekend and some time off over the holiday. I thought last week was crazy.....
    • Practically the first thing that happened on Monday was I accidentally deleted my master calendar for the entire year. Yes. I did this. I can't believe it either.
    • Then I tried to put books on hold for our next Bookaneers meeting and was frustrated that no other libraries seem to purchase the books I want. Why aren't they buying National Geographic pre-readers in bulk??
    • I made it through 5 storytimes on Tuesday, although I lost my voice near the end and got a miserable headache.
    • If only I had the money someone previously expended on library-bound biographies of celebrities from the 90s....
    • I did a very abbreviated form of Winter Wigglers on Wednesday, then, my car being unavailable, prevailed upon my associate to drive us over to discuss a new remote collection for a group of middle school and high school students (I guess they're remedial or something? Not really sure, but I'm friends with the teacher and many of the kids and they don't have any books!)
    • Embossing went really well on Thursday. Got my aides started on shifting the juvenile shelves and may owe one in particular chocolate, as apparently some of the shelves don't fit when moved and I had sort of forgotten that...
    • Friday happened and then it snowed.
    Programs
    Some projects completed/in progress this week
    • Finished weeding and making replacement carts for oversize titles (one of them SMELLED. *shudder*)
    • Started fiddling around with weeding 000-300s. I'm going to update Bible stories next year and there are a lot of things in that section that didn't get updated/weeded when I did neighborhoods - I only did the 398s and 623s really thoroughly (book by book I mean).
    • I made an agenda for our meeting next week. Things are getting real.
    • Emailed a high school teacher with an idea for a new circulating collection, then popped over to talk to her about it. I think it's going to happen!
    • Turned in the paperwork for my mini grant. I won't be able to actually circulate the materials until later - many of them need books or containers and I have to wait until late in December/early January to have the budget to finish them.
    What the kids are reading; A Selection
    • Bone (really need to move the poster closer to the books)
    • TIM defender of earth and Enormous Egg recommended for a patron I know checking out Raising Rufus
    • Sports bios (this will be updated with new books soon! except I can't find anything recent on Michael Jordan )-:)
    • The most reluctant reader I have ever met has become hooked on Jake Maddox. SCORE!
    • lexiles for a 5th grader, reading suggestions for a reluctant 3rd grader. looks like i'll be getting some more book club attendees!
    • more lexiles. apparently everyone needs points to turn in now.
    • Helped a patron find pictures and information about the state of Virginia. I think for a homework project? I should get the rest of that Arcadia series.
    • Wimpy kid
    • I survived
    • Dear dumb diaries
    • Treasure hunters
    • easy readers like easy DK readers
    • non-princess books for grandpa to read to his little princess-lover (-:)
    • easy books about trees
    • and a personal recommendation of Georgette Heyer

    Friday, November 20, 2015

    Jake Maddox: Gymnastics jitters by Margaret Gurevich, illustrated by Katie Wood

    At my first book club for 1st - 3rd grade, I asked all the kids what they were interested in. One of the reasons I did that was my plan to introduce them to more books that were centered around their interests. One mentioned gymnastics, so I found a Jake Maddox sports story and took it home to read first so I could booktalk it.

    "Jake Maddox" is a pen name that includes a number of different authors writing sports stories. Rather like Carolyn Keene or Franklin Dixon. The Jake Maddox sports series feature a wide variety of sports at an easy reading level, featuring both boys and girls and with a quite decent rate of diverse characters as well.

    This particular title features gymnastics team captain Dana and her teammates in a lesson on good sportsmanship. They have just one a trophy and are nervous about their next opponents, the Superiors. Supposedly, they play dirty and will do anything to win. They have some little spats but after a talk with their coach the Raiders, led by Dana, take the high road. After a practice where everything goes wrong, their coach gives them the day off. When they come back and compete in the meet, things go great, the Superiors are nowhere to be seen (some of them sabotaged the equipment) and their team wins the gold.

    The black and white line drawings show a diverse cast of girls, although all have similar body types and sparkle. No, I don't know how they got a black and white picture to convey glitter, but they did. Back matter includes a brief glossary, discussion questions, writing prompts, and some gymnastics facts.

    This 65-page beginning chapter book is not great literature. The story is a little choppy and the girls are interchangeable, the ending is rather trite and predictable. But that doesn't matter. When I'm selecting beginning chapters, I look for a readable text, engaging storyline, subjects that interest kids, and, if I can find it, at least some diversity. This book may not be as beautifully written or illustrated as some beginning chapter books, but kids at this age need a wide selection to pique their reading interest and this adds to that variety.

    Verdict: This isn't what most people would think of as a typical book club book, but I'm focusing on letting the kids pick books that interest them. This meets the needs of both my book club readers and my library patrons as well. I'd still love to see better-written beginning chapter books featuring diverse kids, both girls and boys, playing sports, but until then I'm perfectly happy handing this out. I recommend that every library have at least some of the Jake Maddox titles.

    ISBN: 9781434239082; Published 2012 by Capstone; Purchased for the library