Saturday, April 30, 2016

This week at the library; or, One more busy week!

What's happening: in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Staff meeting, summer reading finalized, clearing off my desk. I am really glad this is the last week for the 3-D printer. The whining sound it makes is driving me insane! But people are crazy about it, so that's a positive, and it's not right next to my desk, fortunately.
  • Tuesday
    • Battle of the Books
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Elkhorn Youth Center
    • I arrived early to let in the volunteers - every year the district Battle of the Books is held at our library and it is an occasion! I am happy that we have the eggs here this year so the kids can see them incubating. Makes it more exciting. It's nice that they all pitch in to clean up and reset things afterwards, especially since we have classes every Tuesday afternoon now. Then I went out later in the afternoon and took pipe cleaners to the youth center for crafting, along with some new books. Lots of kids made themselves squiggly sort of crowns. Whatever floats their boat....I left extra pipe cleaners and my mixed beads for them to keep playing with. Then I went back to the library to prep for tomorrow.
  • Wednesday
    • 4K Outreach: Pete the Cat (2 sessions)
    • This is the third four year old kindergarten which visits me once a year. I tweaked the program a little this year and I think they all enjoyed it. I had more summer reading stuff to do and staff things and then I left early! To go pick up last minute items at Walmart for tomorrow. Oh well.
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • The library was closed for staff development. We had a staff meeting, brief training on dementia, discussed the strategic plan, and then visited the library system that is joining us this summer, Kenosha. Very cool new children's area!
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • I have finished the 600s! On to the 700s.
  • Summer reading materials all sent to the printer for an estimate.
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • Spirit animals (this section is getting really crowded)
  • sandstorms (I don't have anything)
  • fact books
  • horse books - need to get those new titles in soon

Friday, April 29, 2016

Small Readers: Happy Cat by Steve Henry

This is one of the few I Like to Read titles that I actually liked to read. It's not perfect - there are some better and definitely some worse - but it's perfectly acceptable.

Cat is shivering with cold in a snowy city. He drops in through a basement window and goes up through an apartment building, meeting new friends along the way. On each floor he sees a different apartment and a different animal and gets a present until he finally finds a cozy corner for himself and his new treasures.

The art is cheerful and cluttered, much like the different animals' apartments. Each animal's apartment is crammed with books, paintings, and other signs of their particular hobby.

My main concern about this title is that the minimal text is in a fairly light font and a different position on each page. With the busy art, it tends to disappear into the page and you have to search for the words to read. For a very beginning reader, this is not ideal.

Verdict: As I'm looking to purchase more beginning easy readers and more titles in this series, this is just fine for my needs. Otherwise, I'd say it was an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9780823426591; Published 2013 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hamster Princess: Of mice and magic by Ursula Vernon

Oh Harriet, I do love you so. So, after her original adventures, Harriet has successfully ended the curse on herself and the castle and things are back to normal.

Harriet is extremely bored.

She's also very annoyed that she can't go cliff-jumping anymore, now that she's no longer invincible. So, she sets out for adventure by offering to help out a kingdom that has a little problem with mysteriously dancing mice. The king turns out to be very strange, and things are much more complicated than some unsupervised evening dances, (not to mention the whole color-coding thing) but Harriet has a solution, even if things get a little.... iffy at times.

These are the best and I desperately want to start a summer program solely to read aloud to kids just so I can read these aloud.

" 'You can't go into another color room. If someone in blues goes into the pink room, they'd clash. The king would be very upset.' It occurred to Harriet that she was dealing with a very peculiar sort of mind."

"A Poncho of Invisibility is not quite as good as a Cloak of Invisibility, but they're cheaper and easier to sew."

"The paint was brilliant purple, the color of a radioactive grape."

Sigh. So completely satisfying. Harriet is unfailingly practical, has a sense of humor, and is determined to go about things her own way, never mind what anyone else thinks. While the story follows in a long line of fractured fairy tales, Vernon's unique style and wicked sense of snarky humor make it stand alone.

Verdict: It's awesome. Buy it now.

ISBN: 9780803739840; Published 2016 by Dial; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Silly Dilly Duckling by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Jane Chapman

This is a fun book for toddlers ready for a simple story in their board books.

Dilly is with her Mommy Duck and three siblings when one of her feathers blows away and she hurries off to catch it. Dilly meets several friends who try to help her get her feather, a hedgehog and a mouse. Finally she gives up and goes home to Mommy Duck, who explains that those are just her baby feathers - soon she will have grown-up feathers like her mother. Dilly happily swims off with her family, knowing she doesn't need those baby feathers anymore.

Chapman's soft, glowing illustrations will be familiar to fans of Karma Wilson's popular Bear books and they are a good fit for the sweet, cozy feel of the story. The book is a little wordy for a toddler audience, but for that small group of children who will sit still for a longer story it's an excellent choice.

The book is formatted with a padded cover, one of the things I irrationally hate. I don't know that they're actually less sturdy than ordinary books, but I hate the feel of them and feel that the hinges disintegrate more readily.

Verdict: If you purchase padded board books and need more on the longer side, this is a good additional choice.

ISBN: 9781589255784; Published 2004 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Abracadabra, it's spring! by Anne Sibley O'Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal

I've been wondering sadly when Susan Gal was going to do another book - I absolutely adored her Please take me for a walk and Night Lights (both sadly out of print) and so I was thrilled when I saw she was doing the illustrations for a new seasonal series by Anne Sibley O'Brien.

Each gorgeously illustrated spread poses a question and a magic word "How could twigs turn into pillows? Presto chango!" then once you've lifted the full-page flap, you'll see the answer "Pussy willows!" Buds and leaves sprout, birds and other animals appear, and spring is in full bloom by the end of the book, when you toss away your winter boots and "Abracadabra! Now it's spring!" with a joyous group of multicultural children playing outside.

The one drawback is the "magic" words used. They include "mumbo jumbo" which has a racist history and is (thankfully) no longer used and some more obscure words that I'm reluctant to use without googling them first, like "alizebu". However, it's simple to just substitute abracadabra for the different words. Yes, I know that means it won't rhyme but I don't care much for rhyming words anyways - the kids will be much more excited about having a word they can shout each time you lift a page!

However, the real draw, for me, is Susan Gal's joyful explosion of color in her artwork. A swirl of yellow denotes the sun, an explosion of green and pink is a tree in bloom, a single red-breasted bird and a red kite against a blue sky with a drift of green. Turn the page and a flock of colorful birds explode across the page, all wide-beaked as they sing enthusiastically.

Verdict: Hopefully the issues with the "magic" words will be fixed in the next title in this series. Until then, I'll happily purchase it and change it myself and look forward to classes of enthusiastic children shouting "abracadabra" as we welcome the spring.

ISBN: 9781419718915; Published 2016 by Abrams/Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: My first guide to paper airplanes by Chris Harbo and Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

I had reservations about some of Jump's new imprint, Pogo, but they sent me a second round of books and I have quite different feelings about these! As soon as I saw this title and flipped through it, I knew it was exactly what I have been looking for - and the perfect companion to my new easy guide to paper airplanes!

Early Physics Fun uses simple language and bold photographs to explain the basic principles of aerodynamics and physics to young readers. Once you've learned about thrust, drag, lift and gravity and how it affects paper airplanes, you can apply these ideas to your design as you experiment with paper airplanes.

A glossary and index is included.

Of course, if you're going to thoroughly test your new knowledge of physics and aerodynamics, you need a good starting point for paper airplanes and there's nothing better than Chris Harbo's detailed instructions. He has a number of books for a wide range of abilities, but this is a very beginning title, perfect for kids who are just learning to make paper airplanes, or for those who want to concentrate more on the science and less on the design. The book explains basic folding symbols and materials, then has instructions for nine airplanes. Each plane takes up on spread, so the instructions are kept to a minimum, but are still clear and simple. There are also flying tips for launching the different planes.

Verdict: These books are the perfect pairing for a science program or lesson - kids will be able to easily absorb the clear explanations in Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes and then apply them in the hands-on projects in My First Guide to Paper Airplanes. This is a winning combination and one no library should be without!

Early Physics Fun: Paper Airplanes
ISBN: 9781620313176; Published 2016 by Pogo/Jump; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

My first guide to paper airplanes by Chris Harbo
ISBN: 9781491420478; Published 2015 by Capstone; Purchased for the library

Saturday, April 23, 2016

This week at the library; or, It's farm time!

What's happening in my head and at the library:
  • Monday
    • I had several meetings/discussions about the garden plans as well as a presentation for a potential donor. Then I worked on summer reading. Then I finished the last of the "to think about" books I had set aside and got to work on the 641s!
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • I came in late so I could help cover the desk in the evening, help with set-up for the big party tomorrow, and keep an eye on things so they didn't get dismantled before we closed. Are there any costume books that do not include racist ethnic costumes? Do parents/kids even make costumes anymore? I went home around 9, leaving the bunny in control of the library.
  • Wednesday
    • Down on the Farm
    • This is THE event of the year at our library. We had approximately 300 people in about an hour and a half. The bunny had a crisis of nerves and had to be relegated to a study room to calm down. The six-day-old calf was thrilled with the attention (and extra feeding). The chicks, who could tell? One of the most popular stations was the "feed bins" - Pattie had collected a bunch of corn and soybeans and we dumped them in pools for the kids to scoop and pour. We also had pool noodle horses to ride, mini tractor races, crafts, face paint, farm breakfast, and ice cream. Phew! It takes the combined input of Pattie, myself and Jess, and our three four year old kindergartens, not to mention additional community groups, to get this running each year.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lego Club
    • I am grateful to have an amazing associate. She helped out at the front desk so I could pull materials for a teacher, whip through a list of marketing and other things for summer, and then Lego Club. It was a little different, since it was the community meeting for our strategic plan. I only had about 25 people at Lego Club, but kept it open past 5:30 as childcare for the kids for the meeting. Which turned out to be one kid. He got bored with Legos after about 30 minutes, so he helped me clean up from Lego Club (I have to haul all the Legos across the hall and back to my office), we fixed a 3-D printer creation, took cardboard out to the recycling bin, etc. Somewhere around our second trip hauling stuff to the basement, he looked at me and said "Now I know that being a librarian is HARD WORK" so very, very true.
    • My feet hurt.
  • Friday
    • I took the day off (for a number of complicated reasons which basically coalesce to I'm working practically every Saturday in April, my PTO hours turn over soon, and I just wanted to). I had a huge to-do list. I took out the trash.
  • Saturday
    • Science Saturday
    • This was a program for all ages at our middle school. I brought along my aide and we set up tables and brought science to the world! It was a wonderful event, but exhausting. Phew! Yes, that makes 2 events with approx. 200 people in one week. It's like summer!
Projects in progress and completed
  • Collection development. Finished the last shelf of books I had put aside to look at, got through the 640s and am ready to tackle the 700s.
  • Working on summer plans
What the kids are reading: A selection
  • One of my voracious readers loved Simon Bloom - finished the first book over the weekend and was ready for the sequel! I also recommended Tunnels.
  • One more basket requested for high-level readers before school ends.
  • Vietnam war. We have...1 book. I'm not up to the 900s yet!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bea Garcia: My life in pictures by Deborah Zemke

I had a rather meh year last year - just couldn't get excited about the books. But this year, oh, this year is different.

Bea Garcia, welcome to our library. Welcome to all our libraries. We have been waiting for you for so long!

Bea is an artist. She has a best friend named Yvonne. Together they had wonderful adventures. But then Yvonne moved away to Australia and now she's stuck with her little brother the Big Pest (otherwise known as Pablo), a monster next door named Bert, and even her dog Sophie is mad at her. Could things get any worse? Yep, they could. She has to go to the first day of school without Yvonne and with the monster and the Big Pest. Bert gets everyone to call her stupid bee names and he sits right behind her in school! It takes some misplaced artistic talent and a clever teacher to get Bea back on track.

Zemke's illustrated notebook novel hits all the right notes for 2nd and 3rd grade readers. Easy text, engaging pictures, a relatable character, smoothly integrated Spanish phrases, it's all here. Plus, Bea does NOT become best friends with Bert and recognize his stellar qualities in the end (but she does decide he's not quite as bad as he seemed at first).

Verdict: Funny, spot-on relatable, and featuring a clearly Hispanic main character. Buy it immediately. Buy extra copies. It's going to fly off your shelves, I guarantee it!

ISBN: 9780803741546; Published 2016 by Dial/Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Infestation by Timothy J. Bradley

How did I miss this?? This book is PURE AWESOME.

So, Andy is a foster kid. After his latest foster family turns out to be awful, he can't resist a little revenge and finds himself packed off to a very unusual reformatory "school" in the desert. If this sounds a bit like Holes....never fear, the GIANT ANTS ARE COMING.

Andy expects that things will be pretty miserable. What he doesn't expect is the very strange staff, the dilapidated building, or the bugs. Everywhere. It's not long before he's teamed up with a couple other boys to investigate the closed off parts of the building. They make a horrible discovery, which triggers off an even more horrific event. From here on out, it's survival and entomology all the way.

Although SPOILER most of the boys and adults die early on and this is a book about giant mutated ants, it's oddly not graphic. I think it's the scientific tone that focuses the book and keeps it from being a gorefest. Basically, it's a fast-paced science adventure that sucked me in from the beginning. There's a happy ending but also a hint at future adventures; unfortunately, since this came out several years ago it looks as though there will be no follow-up.

Verdict: This booktalks itself "It's Holes but with GIANT ANTS". A great summer read for kids who want a fast-paced mystery/adventure and enjoy science. I buy plenty of paperbacks and will happily add this to my collection. If the author felt like writing more *hint hint* I would buy those too.

ISBN: 9780545459044; Published 2013 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: A B See by Elizabeth Doyle

This isn't the type of board book I usually recommend, but it's unique and utterly delightful and I couldn't resist it, even if it's a little old for the board book audience.

Each letter is created out of a fascinating plethora of items beginning with the letter and accompanied by an alliterative sentence. For example, T is composed of a tiger, toad, teacup, tricycle, trombone, top hat, top, toucan, tie, thimble, telescope, tree, train, turtle and so much more. The accompanying line reads "Toucan and tiger toot a trombone." There is a final spread of all 26 letters, followed by six pages listing all the items in each letter.

The art has a Victorian feel, primarily composed of delicate pen and ink drawings, all brilliantly colored. There are more modern images included as well. Many of the images are raised so you can feel interesting textures on the individual pictures as well as the letter as a whole.

Verdict: Most babies and toddlers won't have the attention span or the development to find the tiny pictures, but this is a really lovely book nonetheless and worth purchasing for that small group of toddlers who will appreciate it and for parents looking for board books for older preschoolers who are still learning to care for books. Think of it as a novelty book rather than a board book and it will definitely find an audience.

ISBN: 9781481436991; Published 2015 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No Such Thing by Ella Bailey

Most Halloween picture books fall into two categories; the cutesy "it's not really scary" ones for younger children and the more sensitive, and the "oooooh monsters" for older/tougher readers. This, like many of Flying Eye's books, falls into no category except fun!

Skeptical and suspicious Georgia investigates the mysterious occurrences around her house. Could it be ghosts? Of course not! There's no such thing as ghosts - she points out the "real" culprits one by one, despite the plethora of little white figures hidden throughout the art. At the end, when Georgia leaves the room and closes the door, there's a surprise as all the hidden ghosts come out at once!

To be honest, the text here felt superfluous; this would have made a perfectly wonderful wordless book and I felt the text was, in places, somewhat clunky and awkward. The art, however, more than makes up for the text and really carries the whole story. Georgia is the perfect antagonist, glaring, suspicious, and superior and kids will adore proving her wrong by finding the ghosts cleverly hidden in each picture. There's just a little frisson of fear, with the mysterious happenings and odd creatures, but their activities are clearly more or less benign or simply innocent mischief. The various scenes are full of intricate details, with a strong wash of pink, in Georgia's clothes, on the walls, as a background for the bright, vintage colors and designs.

Verdict: This needs close-up viewing, so is unlikely to make a good storytime choice, even if your community is universally comfortable with Halloween/ghost stories (mine isn't). However, it's a delightful selection for kids who love I Spy type books and parents who enjoy something with a little more depth. Caregivers and children alike will enjoy poring over this one and giggling together.

ISBN: 9781909263482; Published 2014 by Flying Eye Books/Nobrow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the backlist of holiday books to purchase

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Pet Projects: Designer Dog Projects by Isabel Thomas

This is the type of book that I, personally, wince at the cost and wonder what on earth you need it for - why not just use Pinterest? BUT it's the kind of thing kids grab off the shelves, especially in the summer and there are a couple points that make it stand out from the rest of the crafty crowd.

In addition to projects, the book contains tips on dog care, basic instructions for safe crafting, and gives time estimates for each project. Projects include decorative things like decoupage, dog-themed accessories, and other dog art project as well as craft items your dog can use like a tug toy, and edible dog treats.There's also tips on hosting a dog-themed party, teaching your dog tricks, and lots of safety tips for dog owners.

The book is heavily illustrated with pictures of craft ideas, dogs, and includes a simple index and link to further research and projects online.

This isn't a comprehensive look at dog care or learning specific crafting skills. It's just a fun browsing book, perfect for kids looking for something to pique their interest during the summer and pass some time. The series includes horse, hamster and cat project books as well.

Verdict: If, like me, you're trying to update your craft and making section don't forget a selection of these fun titles that allow kids to explore varied interests and try out different techniques and easy projects. It's definitely one I'm hoping to add to my library, especially the horse projects.

ISBN: 9781410980663; Published 2016 by Heinemann Raintree/Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This week at the library; or, Spring is here! Now I'm hot.

I found an anemone in my garden!
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Staff meeting. We had a lot to cover as we're gearing up for summer and several of us have been out or at conferences.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books
    • Rock 'n' Read
    • We had a good group for book club, but it was hot and everyone was a bit wiggly so we only went for about 30 minutes. The homeschool/charter school that meets at the library had a curriculum fair in the late afternoon/evening. I didn't get a chance to see how it went, but I think they had a good attendance.
  • Wednesday
    • Summer reading and collection development. I was going to clean out some of my backlog of webinars but ended up going on the children's desk instead, which was just as well since I finished the summer reading materials there.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Marble/Race Tracks
    • A small group for Mad Scientists, but this works better with a small group and they all had fun and were enthusiastic. We still have tubes left over!
  • Friday
    • I took the day off.
  • Saturday
    • It was pretty quiet - I cleared out a bunch of new stuff and many large stacks of books were checkout, which made me happy.
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • Working on summer reading materials
  • Working on backlog of materials before I start weeding again in the 600s. Almost done!
Professional Development
  • CPR training
Reader's Advisory, Requests, and Notes
  • My voracious reader is looking for read-alikes for Leslie Margolis' mysteries, Lauren Myracle, and Faith Erin Hicks
  • Chimpanzees
  • Nielsen - night divided. we don't have it
  • Civil War weaponry
  • Ungifted
  • snow leopards
  • another request for Nielsen

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lola Levine is not mean by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

This is the book I have been waiting for my whole life.

Lola Levine loves soccer, as does her younger brother. She loves writing - in her diario, notes to her parents, and letters. She also loves animals and she has a "strong personality. She worries sometimes when the other girls tease her for having a boy for a friend and being "weird" but mostly she's happy with herself and her life.

Then, while playing soccer at recess, she accidentally hurts Juan, another player. The principal says she is too competitive and can't play sports until she has "learned her lesson" and only her friend Josh will talk to her. The mean girls have gotten everyone to call her Mean Lola Levine and she's miserable. But after some time spent helping her little brother with a girl he likes, saving his class pet, and talking to her parents, she decides to handle her problems herself. She writes a letter both promising to be more careful and reminding her principal that accidents happen; Juan forgives her and Josh stands up for her to the mean girls, and her parents decide she has shown enough responsibility to finally have a pet!

Lola has a "strong personality" and is enthusiastic and competitive, but she's not obnoxious and is willing to learn and think things through. She's a great role model for girls who love sports and want to speak up for themselves at home and at school. She handles her mixed heritage - Peruvian/Jewish/Catholic matter-of-factly; it's not a non-issue and she's had uncomfortable experiences, but she accepts herself and enjoys the many different facets of her family.

Verdict: I am have been waiting SO LONG for a beginning chapter book with a strong female protagonist, who's into sports, and who is diverse. I can't wait to introduce Lola to my patrons!

ISBN: 9780316258364; Published 2015 by Little Brown and Company; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Magical Animal Adoption Agency: The Enchanted Egg by Kallie George, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Clover has returned in another sweet and gentle adventure at the Magical Animal Adoption Agency.

After her adventures with a witch, magical cat, and dragon in the first book, she feels ready to handle anything! Or....maybe not. Mr. Jams has to leave again, leaving Clover in charge of the mysterious and magical egg. Clover doesn't know what to write to her best friend who's away at camp and then things start going wrong. Giants show up, a floating pastry chef, and worst of all the egg hatches....but she can't find the baby!

Clover sticks it out, despite frustration and a few breakdowns and finally manages to solve the mystery of the hatched egg and realizes that, even without magic, she can still handle things in her own way, with care and kindness and determination.

Boiger's soft black and white illustrations and gently glowing cover will grab the attention of kids looking for a gentle fantasy read and those who have already been introduced to Clover's world and are eager to find out more. Although this series is usually labeled a "beginning chapter" I would call it more of an early middle grade. It does come in right around 100 pages, but the type is much smaller than a typical beginning chapter book and needs a more accomplished reader.

Verdict: Recommend this to readers who are ready to move on from the typical animal shelter beginning chapter book fare and can tackle a little more challenging read. Sweet and delightful to the last page.

ISBN: 9781423183839; Published November 2015 by Disney/Hyperion; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Fox on the Loose! by Matthew Porter

This is a very different board book and I was getting into it, but was jarred out of the story.

The fox creeps through the night, waking up a series of animals who give warning cheeps, honks, baas, etc. until they awaken the dog who chases away the fox. The story has a nice cumulative effect, although the rhyming text is a little awkward and bland. However, I felt that the line with the ox "And the baas of the sheep wake up the ox, Who bellows and farts at the nasty old fox." were weirdly jarring. Most toddlers don't get potty humor and the rather old-fashioned feel of the text and art doesn't fit with the crudity. There certainly are silly titles with bodily functions that both kids and parents enjoy - Patricelli's Toot for example, but it's clear from the art (and title) what you're getting in that book. A minor point perhaps, but one that weighed against the book's favor for me.

I did really like the art and if the text had been consistent with it would have been much more enthusiastic about the book. It's paintings on wood and has a primitive feel with interesting visual textures. The book itself is slightly larger than the average board book, about 8 inches tall and 5 inches wide. The pages are thick and sturdy and have a nice, glossy shine.

Verdict: While I loved the art, the text just didn't work for me and my library's audience. I'll pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781570619281; Published 2015 by Little Bigfoot; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Generally, when adult, young adult, or even middle grade authors move down to write picture books I...reserve judgment. It rarely ends well. But Jane Smiley hits all the right notes in her picture book debut and, paired with Lauren Castillo, one of my favorite illustrators, they have created a classic bedtime story.

Lucy, a sweetly plump biracial preschooler spends a wonderful day at the beach with her parents, playing in the sand and water. When they all begin yawning, it's time for bed! A glowing sunset illuminates the sky as Lucy prepares for bed and soon her mother is asleep...but Lucy is still wide awake! She gets up to go find her bear, Molasses, and tiptoes through the sleeping house. Eventually she finds all her stuffed friends and, with a yawn each, they head to bed. One by one, everyone, including the family in her pictures, gives one last yawn....and then Lucy falls asleep.

Careful counting will discover 20 yawns in the story and you're sure to find yourself yawning by the end, but it's the peaceful, gentle rhythms of a happy day at the beach, the routines of bedtime, and the final trek through the quiet house that really send you off to dreamland. Lauren Castillo's lovely art truly shines in this comforting family tale from the blazing sunset to Lucy's exuberant curls and softly blushing cheeks. I especially love the moonlight stretching across the house at night - it's mysterious but not at all frightening.

Verdict: This is a lovely, dreamy book that's perfect for a bedtime storytime, before bedtime read, or calming night fears. Cuddle up with your favorite bear and a cuddly baby and enjoy. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781477826355; Published 2016 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Hospital: Rescuing Urban Wildlife by Julia Coey

Anybody who likes adorable pictures of baby animals and those who want to help wildlife will want to read this book. So, basically, everybody.

This book walks readers through daily life in an animal rehabilitation center and talks about how animals are assessed, cared for and released. It also explains why a rehabilitation center is needed and includes practical ways kids and adults can get involved in helping animals from correct treatment of possibly injured animals to not damaging habitats or releasing animals into strange places.

The text is not too dense and includes many sections on the stories of different animals, dealing with common animal rescues like rabbits and baby birds, and how animals are housed and released.

Verdict: This is a great overview for urban and suburban wildlife and kids and adults will enjoy being introduced to the subject. Recommended.


ISBN: 9781770855724; Published 2015 by Firefly; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, April 10, 2016

RA RA Read: Wimpy Kids and Notebook Novels


Love them or hate them, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is still going strong. I recently had to haul all our extra copies out of storage because of a sudden, inexplicable demand. I am, personally, not a fan - as I tell kids, if Greg came into my library I'd probably kick him out. Now Big Nate is different - he's a good kid at heart and I'd give him another chance. Anyways.

Wimpy Kid and similar books are sometimes called "notebook novels". They are often written in diary or journal format and include comic panels and/or illustrations, usually in a style that looks hand-drawn. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is still being published and I regularly replace the titles, since the paper over board format does not stand up to the heavy usage. On the other hand, they're cheaper than a regular hardback so....

The most popular read-alikes for Wimpy Kid at my library are:

  • Dork Diaries by Renee Russell
    • The main character is a girl, but both girls and boys read this series avidly
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
    • Includes both comic strip collections and notebook novels. Parents who dislike the attitudes in Wimpy Kid will usually prefer Big Nate.

Notebook novel series (middle grade)
  • Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • Kate the Great by Suzy Becker
  • Clueless McGee by Jeff Mack
  • Middle School by James Patterson
  • Classroom by Robin Mellom
  • Doodlebug by Karen Young
  • Qwikpick papers by Tom Angleberger
  • Timmy Failure by Stephen Pastis
Notebook novel series (younger middle grade)
  • Stick Dog by Tom Watson
  • Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler
  • Ellie McDoodle by Ruth Barshaw
  • Bea Garcia by Deborah Zemke
Graphic novels
  • Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley
  • Middle School is worse than meatloaf by Jennifer Holm
  • Smile (and sequels) by Raina Telgemeier
  • Babymouse by Jennifer Holm
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Novels with a wimpy sense of humor and minimal or no illustrations

  • Max Quigley, technically not a bully by James Roy
  • I am an evil genius and I want to be your class president by Josh Lieb
  • Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
  • Nerd Camp (and sequel) by Elissa Weissman
  • Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton
  • Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader
  • Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper
  • Pickle by Kimberley Baker
  • Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance

Saturday, April 9, 2016

This week at the library; or, I have returned

Finished a set of mini quilts
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • I went out to Milwaukee for a meeting to present my Reading Explorer program (this sounds very fancy, but it wasn't really) and then met with Pattie to finalize the summer calendar. And then I did many things. And then the furnace died. Typical. Juuuuust typical. Yep, I'm back.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Bookaneers
    • Redid all the circ numbers - nearly had a heart attack when I saw them yesterday, but turned out it was the wrong ones! Phew! Only 4 kids for book club.
  • Wednesday
    • Worked at the children's desk. No programs!
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Lego Club
    • Tap to Play
    • I came in at noon because of our last Tap to Play (not that we expect anyone). It's our month for the 3-D printer and the sound is driving me INSANE. I am not a fan. I was going to say today was really slow - Lego Club was so empty that I left Jess in charge and went back to have a scheduling meeting with my aides. Then everything went insane. 50 people came to Lego Club and when everything (finally) calmed down one of the kids lost their glasses. Oy. Nobody came to Tap to Play - this is the last one.
  • Friday
    • Opened and worked 2 hours on the information desk. Finished my monthly report, sent orders, and answered innumerable phone calls.
  • Saturday
    • Went with Sara the Librarian and Jess to the Wisconsin After School Association conference. It was interesting to see things from a different perspective and we got some good ideas. Also, bacon.
Projects in Progress and Completed
  • Collection development
  • Put together summer calendars and some of the summer reading materials to present at the staff meeting on Monday
  • Monthly reports and other paperwork
Reader's advisory, requests, and notes
  • Spirit Animals
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks new movie (gag)
  • R2D2 folding and doodling
  • Civil War books
  • Palace pets chapter books
  • beginning reader questions (complicated)
  • boxcar children
  • there was an old lady who swallowed.... different books
  • My sonic fan asked again - really need to get more for him
  • wimpy kid
  • bedtime books
  • Gidwitz - tale dark and grimm
  • lift the flaps - found some board books with movable parts

Friday, April 8, 2016

Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy

I don't usually review sequels, but after the first Digby O'Day was more popular than I anticipated, I thought I'd take a look at the next in the series.

Digby and Percy are taking off for a vacation at a fancy hotel. Unfortunately, they get off to a bad start with a big car nearly running them off the road, rude hotel staff, and a flurry over a famous actress. However, after they save a man from drowning the vacation looks up and they get into some exciting adventures. They have fun but Digby thinks he'll try somewhere less exciting for their next vacation!

The illustrations are as adorable and full of fun as in the first book. Black and white, set off by touches of red and pink, catch the eye and keep the heavily illustrated story moving right along. The interviews at the beginning with Digby and Percy and at the end with the authors were adorable.

Verdict: If you purchased the first title, you'll definitely want to buy this. The audience for this has turned out to be primarily read-alouds to younger children - they like the copious illustrations and mild action and mystery. This one features a diamond robbery, so extra exciting!

ISBN: 9780763674458; Published 2015 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I'm going to admit, up front, that I'm not a huge fan of Jonathan Stroud. I couldn't get into the Bartimaeus trilogy at all, no matter how much my friends raved about it. The description of this sounded like something I'd like, but it sat on my to read list for....a long time. However, at the end of 2015 I was determined to clean out my list and finally sat down to read this one. I was immediately hooked.

In an England infested by dangerous ghosts, spirits, and all manner of strange things, only children have the power to see - and fight - these terrifying and dangerous creatures. After a tragic betrayal, Lucy Carlyle flees her home, her family, and travels to London, hoping to find a new place in a ghost-hunting corporation. Unfortunately, nobody wants an inexperienced girl with a murky background. When she finds the eccentric Lockwood & Co. they're both desperate. Anthony is trying to run his own agency - the only one in London not supervised by adults - and Lucy needs a job and a home. Along with their somewhat nasty colleague George they team up to take on ghosts, snooty corporations, and whatever else comes their way.

Unfortunately, they get into trouble almost immediately. Lockwood isn't exactly the ideal supervisor, and they're all hiding secrets that could get them into serious trouble. When they get a commission to clean out the most ghost-ridden house in England, it seems like it could solve all their problems...if they manage to survive the experience.

After reading this, I realized that there were some inconsistencies that didn't make sense, but I didn't care when reading the book, I was having so much fun. I originally thought the story was set in a sort of alternate of Dickens' London, because of the description of street children and the general feel of the story. Then I realized there were automobiles. Then I decided I didn't care. The writing is so much....fun. Well, fun is perhaps not the right word as it's quasi-horror, but I loved Lucy's character - she's not the typical "spunky" female character, she's a distinct person on her own, tough but with vulnerable aspects. Lockwood is very much a Sherlock Holmes type, but, like Lucy, has his secrets and more vulnerable side. The ghosts were horrible but not so terrifying that I felt it was a gore fest.

Verdict: I loved this and I wish I'd bought it when it came back. I'm going to rectify that now. As to who I'm going to give it to...that's a little trickier. I think it will appeal to kids who like adventure, mild horror, and well-written fantasies. However, it does fall in that gray area right between middle grade and teen and it's thick enough to be challenging. The new covers will appeal much more to the kids than the originals (my kids are very NOT into anything that looks remotely steampunk) and I will promote this to my high-level readers.

ISBN: 9781423164913; Published 2013 by Disney-Hyperion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: The Big Book of Silly, The Big Book of Happy by Natalie Marshall

 These two, over-sized board books are a little different but definitely intriguing.

The Big Book of Happy uses a large format to parallel the activities of animals and children. A red-haired girl and dark-haired boy take turns mimicking the activities of animals "Owls are happy when they are hooting./I am happy when I am singing." The art is bold and colorful with small details of animals, colors, and shapes to point out.

The companion book, The Big Book of Silly feels like it was aimed at a slightly older audience. It features animals in increasingly silly situations and invites the reader to compare their own silly behavior: "I just want to be silly...like a rhinoceros wearing red polka dot pajamas and eating three hundred jelly beans before bed!" While this title had equally vibrant illustrations, it did not have a cohesive structure and just seemed to meander through the various scenarios.

The books are about 12 x 9 inches and I'm a little doubtful about how they will hold up to a lot of use as the cardboard feels thin and bendy. Each book has 8 pages.

Verdict: I really only liked Happy, personally. However, the large size of the books makes them a great choice for storytime, especially with the activities listed in Happy. I strongly recommend purchasing The Big Book of Happy and, if it's very popular and holds up, you might want to add The Big Book of Silly for fans.

The Big Book of Happy
ISBN: 9781499800906; Published 2015 by Little Bee Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

The Big Book of Silly
ISBN: 9781499800913; Published 2015 by Little Bee Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na

I have long been fascinated by Il Sung Na's unique illustration style and charmingly odd perspectives and I was excited to explore this new picture book, where he branches out into a new art style.

The book opens with a dreamy blue-gray sky, dotted with tiny stars. We follow a keeper into...The Opposite Zoo. The zoo is closed, but there's a monkey loose and ready to explore. The reader follows the monkey on a journey of discovery as we compare very different animals to each other. An owl is awake, a panda is asleep. A chameleon is shy, a peacock is bold. Seals are black, swans are white. Each pair of opposites is shown with a single word for each contrasting trait. Finally, the sun rises, the monkey returns to its cage, and The Opposite Zoo is open and ready for visitors!

Il Sung Na's style in his previous books has been very specific - he uses what looks almost like collages with lots of background patterns. I love it and it's colorful and amazing, but I'm excited to see he's using a new technique in this latest book. His new art style retains the wonderful colors but has a much more sketchy and loose feel. The vibrant colors pop off the page - an orange an yellow line with a swirly mane, blue and green hippo, rainbow tortoise with watercolor swirls on its shell, and small, spiky hedgehog with reds and purples under its black spines.

From a purely professional standpoint, I am quite pleased that Il Sung Na has added another style to his repertoire, since I can now feature him in one of my We Explore Favorite Artists programs this summer - with both collage and watercolors. I also love the details that are still include although he's branched out into a less-stylized medium.

Verdict: Great for teaching kids about opposites, featuring in programs on art, and just reading for fun. Don't miss this latest book from Il Sung Na. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780553511277; Published 2016 by Alfred A Knopf; Galley provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, April 4, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Planet: Ocean Animals and Polar Animals

If you don't purchase nonfiction in paperback, read no further. However, I am a bit of an oddball (apparently) in that I do, frequently, purchase nonfiction paperbacks. I do not do this randomly - I have a somewhat complex internal set of metrics for deciding whether or not to purchase titles in paperback or budget-destroying library binding. One of those rules is that I never purchase animal books in paperback. In fact, I've spent the last few months carefully withdrawing all the nonfiction paperbacks I've found hiding in the 590s.

So why did I immediately add all of the, undeniably paperback, Animal Bites series to my order cart?

This is a new series from Animal Planet and I received two titles for review. Ocean Animals and Polar Animals. Each book begins with a guide to use - the book is arranged by colored tabs, jumping back and forth between the different sections. One spread may explore an animal's habitat, like creatures that live in volcanic vents and is marked with the "where they live" tab while another focuses on a specific animal, such as the Siberian husky. There are colorful spreads comparing different types of penguins, and stunning photos of animals in their habitats in the "vista" section. Most spreads include a few sentences in large, bold type with additional facts, information, and fun extras in smaller type. Each book also contains some simple activities, resources (including places to visit, websites, and other Animal Planet books), glossary, index, and photo credits.

The books cost roughly $8 with my library jobber discount and have a sewn paperback binding and thick, glossy pages.

So, why break my rules for these books? First, because unlike many paperbacks they have a thicker spine, so they won't get lost on the shelf. The spine is wide enough to hold the title and is in an eye-catching green. Secondly, because I have realized that my animal section (well, ALL my nonfiction to be brutally honest) is sadly outdated and I simply don't have the funds to replace it all. I'm going to have to compromise a little to get those empty shelves filled and those tattered and dirty books from the 80s withdrawn. Thirdly, because these are exactly the type of books kids love to pore over, especially in the summer. They're full of photos and facts, easy to read, perfect for browsing. In short, these are gateway books to further reading and exploring the world!

Verdict: Break the rules and give these books a chance. Even if they only last one summer, it will be money well-spent. In addition to the two titles here, Wild Animals and Farm Animals are coming out this June.

Polar Animals
ISBN: 9781618931610

Ocean Animals
ISBN: 9781618931627


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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

This week I'm not at the library!

To my surprise, my indoor
morning glories bloomed!
Vacation Tally
We were closed on Friday and I took the whole week off for Spring Break. Naturally, I had a lengthy to-do list. To be entirely honest, there was much more sleeping in, reading of trashy romances, listening to audiobooks, watching cartoons, and other unrecorded amusements than work. I was tired.
I still have one more day left before I return to work - I intend to eat Chinese food and discuss collection development and finish the stack of reviews for No Flying No Tights that are sitting on my desk - I have 5 in progress to be turned in before nightfall!

Outings
  • Breakfast and collection development with Sara the Librarian! Then we visited the library to make die-cuts and finish some stuff from Thursday night...
  • I went to the grocery store. Hey, it counts.
  • More breakfast and collection development with Sara the Librarian! Then we went to Home Depot and bought pots. We lead exciting lives. That evening I went to the library to do some paperwork and hang out with the knitting ladies (even though I was technically quilting).
  • Went to Ikea with Sara the Librarian and a friend from work. Living the high life here. It snowed ferociously, with high winds, then melted, then snowed, then the sun shone, you get the idea...
Writing:
  • 15 total reviews for Jean Little Library written and stored for future scheduling. I now have 4 beginning chapter, 2 middle grade, 6 nonfiction, 5 picture book, 5 board book, and 1 easy reader review stored.
  • 54 short reactions posted on Flying Off My Bookshelf
  • 11 movies watched/skimmed and reviewed on It's Animation, not Cartoons (spoiler - I didn't care for the Peanuts movie)
  • Edits, publisher contacts, and other fun paperwork that has been backing up was taken care of.
Cleaning, Cooking, and Gardening
  • On a sudden whim I cleaned my bedroom window. First time for everything, right? It's a complicated process b/c of the sliding double windows and badly worn woodwork around the edges. So naturally I had to clean out the bedroom garden and vacuum and wash sheets and then move paperbacks and movies (partly so they're all mixed now...)
  • Clearing out the garden.
  • Made new garden plans to take into account requests for parsley, tomatoes, and the new pots I got.
Other Projects

Friday, April 1, 2016

Small Readers: What am I? Where am I? by Ted Lewin

This is part of Holiday House's I Like to Read series, which, as I'm sure you know, I am generally not a fan of. However, some of the titles are decent and, more importantly, the kids really like them. They've been specifically requested by an early literacy/beginning reader class that meets at the library and my colleague who works with them. So, I've been read as many as I can borrow to find some that will meet both my aesthetic standards and the needs of my patrons.

I had high hopes of this book, as it's a guessing game and my patrons absolutely love those - Edward Gibbs' I Spy titles are some of their favorites. However, there were several issues with this book, primarily with the art, that made it a disappointment to me.

The book is set up as a series of questions. The first page asks "What am I?" and shows a small thumbnail of an animal against a white background. The next spread shows a full picture of the animal, identifies it, and asks "Where am I?" with the next page showing the animal in its habitat. The animals pictured are a lion, reindeer, camel, sea otter, and tiger. The last pages shows a boy standing in front of a picture of the earth and says "What am I? I am a boy. I am on the beautiful earth."

I am not personally a fan of Lewin's watercolors - I find them washed out and static. However, they can be lovely in certain settings when they fit the text well. However, I felt this was a bad choice for this text. Only the lion and possibly the tiger are identifiable. The reindeer is represented with some gray horns which could be pretty much any type of horned animal. The camel is a mess of fur - absolutely no kid I ever met is going to think of camel. The sea otter is a blur of white and gray and only when you turn the page do you realize it's meant to be a section of its whiskers. For a title that is supposed to be assisting kids in learning to read, the illustrations should be simple and to the point, not distract attention from the text or confuse the reader.

Verdict: Not recommended. Try Edward Gibbs or Laura Hulbert instead for guessing books.

ISBN: 9780823428564; Published 2013 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium