Monday, May 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Small Readers: Snail-Snaily-Snails by Bonnie Bader

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tinyville Town by Brian Biggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinyville Town
ISBN: 9781419721335

I'm a veterinarian
ISBN: 9781419721359

I'm a librarian
ISBN: 9781419723223

I'm a firefighter
ISBN: 9781419721342

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This week at the library; or I need more sleep

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

Projects in progress and completed

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Verdict: An additional choice

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Small Readers: Carlos & Carmen Tio Time; The Wobby Wheels by Kirsten McDonald, illustrated by Erika Meza

Carlos and Carmen are twins and in this easy reader series they have a number of pleasant adventures and silly jokes.

In Tio Time the two are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their uncle, Alex. Together the three have an exciting morning of playing in the snow but the twins can't wait for the best part of the day - Tio Alex's mysterious, surprise Mexican recipe!

In The Wobbly Wheels Carmen and Carlos are ready to learn to ride their bikes - without training wheels! With Papa's encouragement and Mama standing by with the band-aids, they're soon speeding merrily down the sidewalk. But then Mama remembers there is someone else who needs to learn to ride a bike!

They are illustrated with cheerful digital illustrations showing a happy family with brown skin and rosy cheeks in a suburban neighborhood. The text is laid out in full paragraphs and includes dialogue and Spanish (there is a glossary at the end).

These are a higher reading level than most of the easy readers I buy - about 2nd grade or higher, with the bilingual aspect added as well. There are four titles so far in this series and they are expensive; $20 apiece in library bound editions (more titles are available in Spanish). The art is pleasant but not outstanding, the stories mildly humorous but not anything particularly earth-shaking. I will absolutely be purchasing these as soon as I have the budget. Why? Because they are the only easy readers I have found that feature a Hispanic family. Easy readers tend towards animals and inanimate objects anyways and Hispanic families are depressingly rare in children's books in general so when I find one that is cheerful and fun it goes on the list!

Verdict: You need this to fill out the diversity that's lacking in your easy reader section. They are great as fill-in easy readers - the titles kids need to plow through to get their comprehension and fluency levels up - and ABDO has great deals that will make it worth the extra money. Buy them.

Wobbly Wheels
ISBN: 9781624021442

Tio Time
ISBN: 9781624021435

Published 2016 by Magic Wagon/ABDO; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Before I review this I have to explain that this book was basically written for me. I collect bowls. They have to have the right kind of bowliness though. I love round things. This is a book about the beauty of roundness.

Sidman's simple, poetic text celebrates the beauty of circles in the natural world, "I love to see round things grow. Some start out a seed/or an egg, waiting to hatch."

Yoo's illustrations really make the book though, showing a small, curious child and her father exploring the world. He's never far away and always ready to listen to her discoveries, but she is allowed to delight in her sense of wonder and find things on her own. Rich greens, glowing yellows, warm oranges, and cool blues swirl across the pages in an explosion of color and delight.

This would be perfect for a storytime celebrating nature, round things, or exploring with parents. The book will spark discussion on observation, finding more round things in the world around us, or discovering the things pictured in the book like bubbles, rocks, and sunflowers. Use it to spark art and science projects, or just to curl up for a cozy story in the evening. Bonus points for the depiction of an Asian child and her father, a pairing not often seen in picture books.

Verdict: A strong addition to any picture book collection. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544387614; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: What will grow by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani

I put off reading this for a while because the cover put me off. I can't even really explain why - the muted greens and yellows remind me of 70s artwork? Anyways, I finally picked up a copy for my growing outreach storytime and once I had opened it I fell in love, both with the text and illustrations.

Rich, colorful illustrations with sharply defined lines and curving, delicate details set the tone for this guessing game about plants. The pages alternate between full spreads of question and answer and gatefolds hiding the plant.

Each page has a rhyming couplet describing seeds, "Soft, hairy./On the prairie." followed by the titular refrain, "What will grow?" and the opposite page shows the plant against its background. "Milkweed" shows fluffy, floating seeds, plants in various stages of bloom, and a ladybug and butterfly tasting the flowers. Pages with gatefolds follow the same theme, but the plant is hidden behind a full-page folding flap. There are four spreads with gatefolds.

The "clues" may be too difficult for children (and adults) but there are multiple clues in the illustrations making it easy for a toddler to guess "carrots" or "apples", even if they don't recognize the seeds. Back matter includes planting instructions for each of the seeds listed and an illustration of the progress from seed to plant, as seen in a sunflower.

Verdict: There are so many applications for this book for storytime or a lesson with young children about planting, growing, seeds, and more. Discussion points include how the seeds of each plant are scattered, their growing conditions (as seen in the pictures), the animals which use them, and more. A definite must for your collection and for storytime.

ISBN: 9781681190303; Published February 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my constorium

Sunday, May 7, 2017

RA RA Read: I survived...reading all the I Survived books

[Updated with new handout!]

I first heard about I Survived from the kids years ago when it was added to our school's Battle of the Books list. It's grown in popularity until it's now nearly as popular as Wimpy Kid and other perennial favorites, at least in my library. Thanks to some suggestions from Storytime Underground and my own mental files, I've compiled a list of titles to suggest when kids survive their initial bout of reading and clamor for more.

There are currently fourteen I Survived books, with more being published approximately every six months. Fans will also want to check out the accompanying I Survived: True Stories series. The third title was just published and they are the true stories behind the stories, if you know what I mean.
  1. Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
  2. Shark Attacks of 1916
  3. Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  4. Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
  5. San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
  6. Attacks of September 11th, 2001
  7. Battle of Gettysburg, 1866
  8. Japanese Tsunami, 2011
  9. Nazi Invasion, 1944
  10. Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79
  11. Great Chicago Fire, 1871
  12. Joplin Tornado, 2011
  13. Hindenburg Disaster, 1937
  14. Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
  15. American Revolution, 1776 (coming August 2017)
Top Secret Files series by Stephanie Bearce from Prufrock Press is a higher reading level, but will definitely attract kids who like the historical and short story aspect. Each book contains short anecdotes, historical facts, and other information. There are titles ranging from wars to the wild west and gangsters of the 1920s.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are awesome. That being said, you will have to do some booktalking as they're a different format than I Survived. They are graphic novels with dense text and illustrations, highlighting different historical moments. The series starts with One Dead Spy, but my personal favorite is Big Bad Ironclad. There are also more contemporary stories, like Treaties, Trenches, Blood and Muda powerful, but grim retelling of World War I. Get kids hooked, and they'll be fans but they'll need to be fairly strong readers.

Capstone has a great series that are not only good read-alikes for kids who are into Choose Your Own Adventures-style books, but also will grab the I Survived fan crowd. Can You Survive....? takes different historical events (like the Titanic) and general disasters (like being lost in the jungle or shipwrecked) and walks kids through choices to see if they can survive. They include nonfiction information as well. (Capstone also has some other series but I haven't included those because my library doesn't own any.)

Another series to try is DK Adventures. These are rather bland stories, but what makes them really popular with kids is the great variety in subjects and the inclusion of nonfiction elements. They range from underwater expeditions to exploding volcanoes to Star Wars. Kids who like real-life stories with nonfiction will enjoy these. Here's a sample, Horse Club.

Back to the straight-up adventures with historical aspects, Gordon Korman has several adventure series. There's one about the Titanic, Island, etc. What I love about these is that they're split into 3-4 volumes so kids don't feel intimidated by a huge book or by a lengthy series. Korman is a great writer and kids love his fast-paced adventures.

Finally, in the survival/adventure genre without historical aspects, I recommend
I have a printable bookmark with annotated selections from this list available. Thanks to my associate, Jess, who made my content spiffy!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

This week at the library; or, It is not the full moon so why is everything so crazy?

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Departmental staff meeting
    • Youth services aide interview
  • Tuesday
    • Nursery Rhyme Party
    • Bookaneers
    • First grade field trip
  • Wednesday
    • First grade field trip
  • Thursday
  • Friday
Ordered more Stick Dog books. Tom Watson is visiting at the end of May and the kids are eager! We have been  having a lot of after school issues and I spent a lot of time having conversations about behavior with teens, the schools, and parents. Not my favorite thing to do. Fortunately we seem to be over the hump and everybody is ready to behave again.

Projects in progress and completed
  • New youth services aides hired and scheduled - training will begin in June and again in August.
  • Monthly reports and bills
Professional Development
  • ALSC Webinar: Early Literacy Library Spaces
    • I was disappointed there was no mention of making spaces accessible and welcoming to kids with special needs and their families.
    • Building with pool noodles
  • Booklist Webinar: Stellar Series Nonfiction For Youth Spring 2017
    • Lerner, Mason Crest, Capstone, 12-Story Library
    • Lerner - Cloverleaf space adventures, Space discovery guides, Monster mania, Sports all-stars
    • Capstone - Little Astronauts (Smithsonian), You Choose haunted places & Ancient Greek myths
    • 12-Story - America at war
Favorite Book Club series
  • Whatever after series
  • Magic Tree House
  • Comics Land (I missed that Capstone had more of these! Must purchase immediately!)
  • Franny K. Stein
  • Boxcar children
  • Franklin School Friends
  • Dragon Masters

Friday, May 5, 2017

Heroes in Training: Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, illustrated by Craig Phillips

This is a long-running, one might even say endless, series that is extremely popular in my library. It's the perfect series for readers who really want to read Rick Riordan but can't handle the content or the reading level. I've never actually read one, but when I decided to use it in book club I had to make a hurried reading the night before!

Cronus and the Titans rule the world, Cronus having eaten anyone who could defy them. But one boy remains - ten year old Zeus. He has no idea of his destiny, just wishing that lightning would stop hitting him. When he gets kidnapped by hungry Titans, he decides maybe there are worse things than getting hit by lightning and is almost pleased when he grabs something for defense and it turns out to be a thunderbolt. He's not so pleased when he can't get rid of the thing! Along the way on his adventures he picks up some other ten year olds and together they set out on an adventure.

Black and white drawings add humor to this contemporary retelling of the Greek myths. This story is primarily for set-up of the series, so it introduces the characters, setting, and the general mythos. Adults and those familiar with Greek myths will immediately realize that Zeus is the missing Olympian and know pretty much where the story is going, but even if it's not a surprise it's still a well-written and humorous retelling.

Verdict: While I hate to recommend starting a series that is coming up on 14 volumes and shows no signs of stopping, you really do need this in your library - it's very popular and fits into a niche. Also, they're funny.

ISBN: 9781442457874; Hardcover edition published 2012 by Aladdin; Purchased for the library

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Glister issue 1 and 2 by Andi Watson

[Digging through the archives...]
Comics Worth Reading recommended this series so I thought I'd give it a try...they were completely delightful! A small and decidedly eccentric girl named Glister lives with her benignly neglectful father in rather tumbledown but completely magical home called Chilblain Hall. Messy black and white illustrations perfectly capture her odd adventures. Glister is rarely surprised, almost always cheerful, completely resourceful, and a darling!

In her first story, all she's trying to do is make tea...unfortunately, she's gotten a haunted teapot. Like most ghosts, the one inhabiting her unusual crockery has left something unfinished; his novel. At first, Glister thinks it will be fun to finish, but quickly discovers that being secretary to a ghost isn't as easy as she expected.

In her second story, Glister is proudly showing off the many unusual features of her beloved home to the head of the Bonny Village task force. Unfortunately, he's not as taken with its many unique...amenities and has some harsh words. Chilblain Hall, deeply hurt, promptly takes off, leaving Glister and her father to make do as best they can.

These are exactly the kind of graphic novels I like; funny, quirky, and magical. Will kids like them? The covers are not, in my opinion, particularly eye-catching. Reluctant and unsure readers who are used to straightforward panels in their comics might find the mixture of panels and speech bubbles difficult to follow. The sweet and quirky mixture of the plots won't attract kids who are used to the more mundane realistic graphic novels or fantasy-adventure. But strong readers who like the magical and intelligently humorous will enjoy these.

Verdict: I'm still deciding if there's an audience for these at my library, but I plan to buy the whole series for myself. Yum!

[Revisited: These were never released in the US. I bought the quartet with their British covers, which are cheerful pinks and blues and a little sparkly, for myself though. I'm revisiting this now because a complete volume is finally being released in the US. The cover is very similar to the cover shown above and I'm still doubtful about its kid-appeal but I do love them so I'm considering adding them.]

Glister 1
ISBN: 9781582408538; Published August 2007 by Walker; Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Glister 2
ISBN: 9781582408842; Published November 2007 by Walker; Borrowed from the library; Added to my personal wishlist

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: One, Two, Three, Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells

It's time for the Mother Goose rhymes to go the way of all historical oddities. Keep a few of the best-known ones, sure. Use them now and then in storytime, of course. But dedicate time and effort to teaching your toddler the intricacies of "From Wibbleton to Wobbleton"? I don't see the point.

This is yet another Opie/Wells collaboration. This one is meant to enforce numbers through Mother Goose rhymes. It includes "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe", a rhyme about postal deliveries, "Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe" (good luck explaining to a toddler what a cobbler and half a crown are), "Sing a song of sixpence", a rhyme about counting chickens, "Hot cross buns" (again, how many toddlers know what a poker, tongs, fire shovel, or hot cross buns are?), and so on. Some are perfectly decent rhymes - "Baa baa black sheep" but more are obscure or weird and certainly not suited to toddlers. The art varies as well. Dedicated Rosemary Wells fans won't agree with me, but it felt tired and poorly laid out, especially in the smaller details.

Verdict: I've never been a huge fan of Mother Goose rhymes and this collection is unsuited to the audience and rehashes a lot of tired old rhymes and reworked art. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780763687663; This edition published 2016 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A perfect day by Lane Smith

I admit that I'm not part of the Lane Smith fan club. I find his books generally too complex for children - I generally think they're aimed more at adults - and I don't care for his angular, minimal art style. But I keep picking them up because he does elicit interesting responses from people and I keep looking at them to see if something springs up that catches my interest.

In this book, something sprung. It's a perfect day for Cat, who is enjoying the flower bed. It's a perfect day for Dog, enjoying the pool. It's a perfect day for Chickadee on the bird feeder and for Squirrel, who has her own cob of corn.

Then Bear shows up and the day isn't so perfect anymore - except for Bear!

Smith's artwork, which I've often found bland in the past, mixes pastel colors and thick brushstrokes to create an adorably fluffy cat, a colorful flower bed, and all the other creatures who populate the story. The mixture of collage and paint capture the eye and expand the simple text into a simply delightful clash of colors and textures for readers to enjoy.

This deceptively simple story will catch readers on a number of levels. The repeated phrases, building up to a climax and then rolling back down to the humorous conclusion, make this a great story for toddler or preschool storytime. Older readers will enjoy the subtle change in perspective and the humor of the unexpected conclusion.

Verdict: This will make a great addition to storytime and your library picture book collection. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781626725362; Published 2017 by Roaring Brook Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Who eats what? Freshwater food chains by Rebecca Pettiford; Amazing body systems: Nervous Systems by Karen Lathana Kenney

Pogo, an imprint of Jump!, has titles aimed at intermediate readers. Each title includes a message to teachers and parents, encouraging interactive reading and often includes an activity at the end as well. Standard back matter includes a glossary, index, and brief list of further reading.

Who eats what is a series of food chains in different biomes and habitats. I looked at Freshwater Food Chains and found it difficult to follow. It talks about the different steps on the food chains, the different fauna and flora that fit into it, but then cycles back and forth explaining how different creatures can fit into different places. If you need a wide variety of titles on this subject for school projects it would make a good supplemental text, but it doesn't stand alone in my opinion.

Amazing Body Systems tackles a pretty common subject; the human body. I looked at Nervous System and while it was clear and simple, it didn't bring anything new in layout or subject. It explains the function of the nervous system, physiological details and processes, and how it transmits messages to the brain. There is one rather disturbing picture of what is supposed to be a burn from an iron on the palm of a hand. I mean, it's obviously paint but it's creepy. This would also make a supplemental text if you need a wide number of materials on a specific subject, so this is more suite to a school library, large system, or for curriculum support.

Verdict: These series are fine, but they don't stand out from the bulk of series nonfiction. Unless you need more materials in this specific area, I'd pass on these.

Freshwater food chains
ISBN: 9781620315750; Published 2016 by Jump! Review copy provided by publisher

ISBN: 9781620315606; Published 2016 by Jump! Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, April 29, 2017

This week at the library; or, All the work behind the scenes

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Everything planned for today was cancelled due to storms and strep (not my own)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Lego Club
  • Friday
    • Closed for staff development
      • I was really, really excited to get a couple teachers over from the school district for an autism presentation. They were kind enough to take a walk through the children's area with me afterwards and give some feedback on ways we could improve and update. We also visited a couple libraries in a nearby county which will hopefully be joining our consortium soon. I took many pictures of the newest building's amazing family bathroom. These are the important things folks!
Projects in progress and completed
  • Interviews for youth services aide positions continue
  • Selected, requested, and processed more collections for the schools - fantasy series, countries, and various small requests this week.
  • Working on putting together new audiobook packs
  • Finished summer reading logs
  • Struggling with the summer staff schedule

Friday, April 28, 2017

Franny K. Stein Mad Scientist: Lunch Walks Among Us by Jim Benton

I know this is an older series, but it still circulates vigorously. I decided to throw it in as a choice for my book club readers but then realized I had never actually read any of the titles...

Franny is a little...different. She likes to dress in lab coats, has a room full of bats, and is fond of....experimenting. Her parents have tried to make her more ordinary, but with no success. When she moves to a new town, she is upset that the kids are scared of her and she has no friends, so she starts a science experiment to fit in and be normal. It works - a little too well! Now her family is worried about her, she has friends but does she really want them? And when the lunch goes critical who will save the day?

Benton's funny illustrations show a menacing little girl, wacky monsters, and ridiculously "normal" classroom. This is a funny story that will make kids snort with laughter - and possibly thing a little about fitting in and being yourself.

Verdict: If I didn't already have this series in the library I wouldn't start from scratch, but I will definitely keep replacing it as needed since it continues to be popular. It's also a higher lexile level, which is useful.

ISBN: 9780689862953; Published 2004 by Simon & Schuster; Purchased for the library (replaced several times)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beastly Brains: Exploring how animals think, talk, and feel by Nancy F. Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo presents another excellent middle grade nonfiction title, this time exploring the emotions and intellect of animals.

There is so much information packed into this book it's hard to know where to start, but Castaldo kicks off the discussion by delving into the workings of brains, both human and animals and then taking the reader on an exploration of the exciting science of animal intelligence. Do animals communicate? How? Do they feel? Do they think? Castaldo explores current and historical science, interviews scientists, adds in quotes, experiments, results, failures, and more.

Readers will learn how bees communicate, how dolphins talk, how dogs feel, and more. They'll also be able to explore the exciting and growing body of science around animal communication. Along the way Castaldo asks poignant questions about animal welfare, rights, and how they intersect with science. The book ends on a humorous note and then jumps into many suggestions for further research. There are suggestions and guidelines for kids to do their own experiments with their pets and other animals, resources for advocating for animals, fiction and nonfiction to read for more information, and online resources. There is also a glossary, notes, bibliography, and index.

For readers who are interested in communicating with their dog or those who want to delve into the science more deeply, this is a perfect book to get them started. It's well-written and, while the author's own feelings on animal cognition are clear she presents a balanced view of the science and research. There are also some side discussions on how women in science, like Jane Goodall, affected the way animal intelligence is researched. I feel that the perfect science books not only convey information but get the reader excited about exploring the subject further and this book definitely accomplishes that goal.

Verdict: Animal communication is a perennially popular subject and this book is a great addition to that field. Pair it with some of the more specific Scientists in the Field titles (Dolphins of Shark Bay or Crow Smarts) for a great class project, book club session, or just to recommend to readers who are interested in animals and science. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544633353; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Whose shoes? A shoe for every job by Stephen R. Swinburne

I have mixed feelings about this quirky board book. It features a number of photographs of people wearing shoes, and then specific shoes, asking kids to guess who wears them.

The shoe questions include pointe shoes for a ballerina, rubber boots for a farmer, boots and protective clothing for a fire fighter, boots and fatigues for an Army National Guard, cleats for a soccer player, work boots for a construction worker, sturdy black shoes for a postal worker, black slip-ons for a chef, and pink, oversize shoes for a clown.

There are a couple darker-skinned legs in the mixed pictures. The ballerina and postal worker are white females, the farmer, construction worker, and chef are white males. The soccer player is a black male. The soldier and fire fighter are, I think females but it's hard to tell. They're both white. The clown is also white, but I can't tell the gender. A final picture at the end of the book shows kids dressed up in their parents (presumably) shoes. A white kid in a cowboy hat, Latino boy in construction gear, white girl with heels and a briefcase, and Asian boy in a medical uniform.

So, I feel like an effort was made at diversity but it was not wholly successful. Some of the pictures are confusing - what about plain black shoes says "chef" as opposed to postal worker? Many of them are identified by their pants or the equipment they're standing on or with, rather than the shoes.

Verdict: A nice idea, but fell short in the execution.

ISBN: 9781629796918; Published September 2016 by Boyds Mills; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I am the mountain mouse: Four Furry Tales, One Crazy Mouse by Gianna Marino

No book of Marino's is ever the same; each offers a new experience, quirky, subversive, and funny. Her latest is a delightful foray into the complexities of friendship, boasting, and a little warning about listening to others.

The book is divided into four stories, each a few pages long. In each, the bigger, white mouse (Mountain Mouse) takes charge - with disastrous results. In "The food story" she takes charge of a piece of cheese, since she's bigger and can climb harder. Unfortunately, the "mountain" she's climbing isn't what she expected! In "The pool story" she leads her friends on an exciting adventure, diving into a pool. Unfortunately, the pool wasn't for them.... For the second time, the Mountain Mouse makes a perfect landing (on her friends). In "The bed story" she finds the perfect bed - but it's already occupied! In "The coconut story" her long-suffering friends, decked out in chic bathing suits and trepidatious expressions, are having a vacation at the beach. "I don't want to see glum faces." says the Mountain Mouse. They're just about to jump in when they see something in the water... Finally, she seems to have learned her lesson and they settle in for a relaxing vacation. Or has she?

There isn't really a moral to this story - it will certainly offer talking points about choosing who you follow, thinking before acting, and not taking unnecessary risk - but it's also just a hilarious story of all the things that can go wrong when you are the Mountain Mouse. The illustrations, created in large panels with speech bubbles, are a good introduction to kids of graphic storytelling and will also offer more scope for examining sequences of action.

Verdict: There's plenty of tie-ins for education in this story, but mostly it's just fun! Recommended.

ISBN: 9780451469557; Published 2016 by Viking; Borrowed from another library in my consortiumI am the mountain mouse: Four Furry Tales, One Crazy Mouse by Gianna Marino

Monday, April 24, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne

This stand-alone nonfiction title not only offers a window into a piece of history but has relevance to today's current issues.

The story opens with sepia snapshots and a poem, written by one of the youngest travelers on the kindertransport. Readers are plunged directly into the narrative as the train travels across Europe, loaded with frightened children. After this dramatic introduction, Berne explains the context and history of the Nazi's persecution of Jews, beginning with discrimination and ending with arrests, attacks, and death. Then the stories of six children are told; Kurt Fuchel, Harry Ebert, Irene Schmied, Hans Schneider, Ursula Rosenfeld, and Jack Hellman. Each of them has a story of fear, desperation, and hope to tell, each of them remembers the traumatic parting from their families and familiar surroundings, as they were transported to Britain and a better chance at survival.

The narrative ends with a chapter talking about the children's lives as adults. Some were reunited with their families, but many lost most or all of their relatives in the Holocaust. They and their parents, if they survived, often continued to face discrimination and suspicion, but they never ceased to be grateful to the people who saved their lives as children. A section focuses on the organizers of the Kindertransport and the children they saved from the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, acknowledgments and sources, questions for critical thinking, bibliography, and index.

The obstacles faced by the Kindertransport, especially of governments refusing to accept refugees and setting multiple strictures on immigration and how and when children could be rescued, will draw immediate parallels to current controversies over refugees today. While it will take a mature reader to reflect and consider the many complex issues as well as the emotional impact of the Kindertransport - it was considered a temporary measure, most people assuming that the children would return to their parents after the war - this would be a powerful text to discuss in the classroom or at a book discussion as well as recommend to students interested in learning more about World War II, the Holocaust, and the human impact of world conflicts, prejudice, and genocide.

Verdict: A strong addition to resources on World War II and the Holocaust, this gripping narrative will make an excellent introduction for readers interested in exploring history as well as current events.

ISBN: 9781515745457; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, April 22, 2017

This week at the library; or, The Big Program

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • department staff meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
  • Wednesday
    • Community party
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Mad Scientists Club: Candy Science
  • Friday
    • youth services aide interviews
  • Saturday
    • information desk
This week's big program was our community party. It's a collaboration between multiple community partners, the school, and the library. About 250 people came, which was manageable. I'm working on updating my program instructions on my other blog, hence the lack of links. This week was exhausting and went on forever, but the weather was nice.

Projects in progress and completed
  • Summer planning, marketing, prizes, and scheduling, etc.
  • Interviewing for new aides
Professional Development
  • SLJ Webinar: New spring nonfiction for the library and classroom
    • Creative Company, Mason Crest, Scholastic

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wellie Wishers: The riddle of the robin by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Thai Thu

Willa and her friends make up the Wellie Wishers. Together they play in Willa's Aunt Miranda's backyard and learn about nature and friendship. I picked one title from the series to try out and I have mixed feelings about it.

So, Willa and her friends are looking for signs of spring. They see a crocus and then a robin. They learn about what robins eat but when "their" robin disappears they go on a hunt to find it and get lost! Fortunately, they solve their problem and return to the playhouse, only to run into another problem when the robin is not happy to see them! Fortunately, they figure out that the robin has a special surprise. Back matter includes simply activities for parents to do with their daughters like making bird feeders and observing birds.

The illustrations are charming and colorful and young readers who are ready for longer chapter books but still want pictures will love these. They showcase strong female friendships and creative problem-solving as well as emphasize playing outside.

So, what's not to like? Well, first of all, and this really annoyed me, but they are looking for signs of spring, right? The first thing they find is a crocus and then a robin. Now, I'm looking out my window and I have crocuses and robins. What I DON'T have is summer flowers and green everywhere. It's also 30 degrees and nobody is wearing summer frocks. Even a mild winter, which would have the robins nesting in March, is not going to have the riot of color shown. This may seem very persnickety, but the book is supposed to be teaching kids about nature and the outdoors and it was very odd. Secondly, the "backyard" is more like a forest. They literally get lost in it and it's HUGE. While it's not wholly unbelievable, the average kid is not going to have access to a yard that appears to encompass at least an acre and includes a pond, playhouse, garden, free-ranging rabbit, theater, woods, and more. Thirdly, and this is a perennial complaint of mine, this features the typical representation of this type of story - one girl of each, white, black, Asian, and brown, but of course the white girl is the one whose aunt has the house, is in charge of the group, and while the stories don't seem to run in sequence this one has a "first" feeling.

Verdict: These will be popular. They do feature a diverse group of girls, they're attractive and interesting and the pictures are sweet. While they bother me in some minor aspects, I will probably overlook those and purchase these to add to my American Girl collection.

ISBN: 9781609587918; Published 2016 by American Girl; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson

The fifth volume of Hilda's adventures revisits both her magical, mysterious adventures as well as her relationships with her mother.

The story begins with a wild chase, as Hilda and her pet, Twig, pursue a runaway bit of land that's taken off with a mini house aboard! When Hilda accidentally ventures outside the wall around town and encounters trolls, her mother has had enough. Desperately worried about Hilda's adventures, which seem to draw her farther and farther away from her mother, home, and safety, she lays down the law and confines Hilda to her room. But Hilda's spirit can't be contained and she tries to make a break for it with the help of their house spirit, Tontu. Hilda and her mother are dragged into a strange world, full of frightening creatures and without light or food. Will they be able to work together to survive and come to an understanding?

Unlike the other Hilda stories, this one ends with a startling cliffhanger, hinting at further adventures with the trolls to come. Pearson's art continues to grow and mature, not only showing a wide range of strange and fantastical creatures, but investing each of them with a personality all its own. Even the roughly-hewn stone trolls show distinct personalities and differences, although they are not anthropomorphic, clearly being alien to human emotions and concerns, they nevertheless have their own thoughts and feelings.

Verdict: Hilda may not have the wide appeal of Bone or Amulet, but it nevertheless has a charm, mystery, and delight all its own. Once you've introduced this to children who like beautiful art and complex stories, they will be eager for the next installment.

ISBN: 9781909263741; Published 2016 by Flying Eye Books; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Small Readers: Urgency Emergency: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Dosh Archer

I looked at a few of these titles before; they've been nominated for Cybils and they pop up periodically. Opinion seems to be divided - some don't care for the blocky, awkward illustrations with their odd perspectives, and they're definitely higher reading levels for easy readers. Others find their nursery rhyme-based humor charming and the quirky hospital adventures silly and delightful.

My book club kids fall into the latter group. I had to do a bit of digging (i.e. ask our inter-library loan librarian to request multiple copies) but the younger and lower-level readers quite happily picked out their favorites of the titles, going either by cover or ones they'd read before.

While the first title, Big Bad Wolf is hilarious, I think this one is my favorite (and apparently other libraries agree as it was the one I was able to get the most copies of). In this story, Doctor Glenda and Nurse Percy handle another emergency; poor Itsy Bitsy spider has hurt her head! The two professionals handle not only Itsy Bitsy's physical hurt, but talk Miss Muppet into overcoming her fears and making a new friend.

Verdict: If you are looking for humorous titles for intermediate readers, especially if you have a large homeschool population or other group likely to be familiar with traditional English nursery rhymes, these will definitely have an audience. A more urban or diverse population is less likely to click with them, but it wouldn't hurt to try one or two and see what the kids think. The female doctor is a nice touch of diversity as well.

ISBN: 9780807583586; Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The magic word by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Elise Parsley

Some days you just want a good, solid, subversive picture book. Of course, the first name that springs to mind in this case is Mac Barnett and his latest book is no exception.

"On Friday night at 8:45, Paxton C. Heymeyer of 23 Larch Street asked for a cookie." Thus the tale of hilarity begins. His babysitter, looking exhausted in a sea of mess and destruction, asks "What's the magic word?" and instead of the culturally-acceptable "please" Paxton says "Alakazoomba". A magic word indeed! Soon, all his wishes come true from cookies and milk to walruses chasing everyone he doesn't like to the North Pole. When his friend Rosie is skeptical of his choices, Paxton chases her off with a walrus too - but then has second thoughts. Apologies all around....except maybe to that mean babysitter!

Parsley's quirky illustrations are just the right match for this silly story. Paxton is mischievous, delighted, and purely naughty by turns while his family and friends' expressions shift from shock to, well, more shock (especially when those galumphing walruses show up).

Verdict: This won't teach kids any lessons and will probably annoy grown-ups no end, especially when kids start shouting "Alakazoomba!" instead of please, but it's so funny you just can't ignore it!

ISBN: 9780062354846; Published 2016 by Balzer + Bray; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Animal Classification: Birds by Erica Donner; My first pet: Chinchillas by Vanessa Black

 My nonfiction selections today are an addition to a series offered by Bullfrog books and a new series.

Birds is part of a new, six-volume series covering animal classification. It covers basic aspects of the animal - for birds it's feathers, flight or non-flight, eggs, and beaks. Back matter includes a diagram of a bird, picture glossary, and a brief index and bibliography.

Chinchillas is an addition to the My First Pet series. It previously included more traditional pets like cats, dogs, gerbils and birds but is now expanding with snakes, lizards, guinea pigs, horses, hermit crabs and chinchillas! They are very furry. Just look at the furriness! This book pictures several kids, including one in a wheelchair, holding and caring for their chinchilla pets. It also lists some basic facts about the animal and their care. It includes a page of chinchilla basic needs, picture glossary, and an index and bibliography.

Both titles have short, simple text. It works well for beginning readers as well as reading aloud to kids with short attention spans who like nonfiction. The animal classification series is superfluous; The About series by the Sills is better quality text and art and less expensive. I would recommend purchasing additional copies if more simple animal classification titles are needed.

However, the My First Pet series is a stand-out. While it doesn't offer enough information to actually teach a small child how to care for a pet (and I would hope that nobody is getting young kids a chinchilla anyways) it does meet kids' need for and interest in different kinds of pets and gets them started on researching different kinds of domestic animals. There aren't a lot of pet care titles, especially ones at this low reading level and this fills a much-needed gap. Plus, you know, furry.

Verdict: Skip Animal Classification, but My First Pet is a good addition to any section, easy reader or picture book, in your library.

ISBN: 9781620315378; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

ISBN: 9781620315491; Published 2016 by Bullfrog; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This week at the library; or, Why am I so tired? I don't know.

dot painting
What's happening
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Wednesday
    • Outreach Storytimes: Let's Grow (5 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Dot painting
It's difficult to fully explain the chaos and drama going on. The kids are all super antsy from a combination of spring and our varying level of lockdowns due to an investigation in the next county over. We are all feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We forgot about Easter. I only realized on Monday night that I'd planned a totally different program instead of our traditional egg-painting for Messy Art Club and my associate remembered that we hadn't put any Easter books on display!

  • Facebook posts - finished the beginning chapter and neighborhood series (they will post through December) and new book Wednesdays (through May).
Professional Development
  • Booklist Webinar: Series nonfiction must-haves for the school library
Real Kids Read Books
  • Book club kids loved Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz. We talked about being average and being "special".
  • Several kids also really loved Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhai Lai. We talked about refugees (they were completely clueless about any refugees other than the Jews in WWII. Or any global conflicts. One kid says "there's a war?" I talked about Hmong refugees, of whom there is a large population in our state and Sudan. We also talked about what it would be like to move to another country and how they treat kids in their classes who don't speak English or are different from them.)
  • We talked about Roller Girl. One reader saw another's copy of Hamster Princess and wanted it next.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel by Charise Mericle Harper

June is a quirky, happy-go-lucky girl who has one big plan - make a new friend who is Fun, Friendly, and will go on Fun Adventures. And believe that she can talk to her dog Sammy. When Mae moves in next door, June has high hopes of a new best friend, especially when June's grandmother sends her the Wonder Wheel with lots of fun activities and suggestions for making friends.

But things don't go quite the way June had expected, especially when it looks like Mae is going to be friends with mean girl April at school. Will the Wonder Wheel come through for June?

Spires' perky illustrations show two exuberant, imaginative girls and their family, friends, and enemies having fun in every day adventures.

This was cute and quirky and will easily join a long line of other female friendship books for this age group. I did have one quibble though - why is the girl with darker skin the friend? Why not the protagonist? While I am seeing more and more kids of color in children's books, it frustrates me that they are always relegated to sidekick status. Hopefully future titles in this series will bring Mae to the forefront - her name comes first after all - and let us hear from her directly, rather than have her feelings and thoughts interpreted to the reader through the lens of her white friend.

Verdict: A cross between Ivy + Bean and Dory Fantasmagory, this is sure to find happy readers in any library looking for more intermediate chapter books.

ISBN: 9780544630635; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon

Sometimes I just need to sit down with a big stack of Ursula Vernon books and forget about the world and the latest Hamster Princess is just what I want.

Harriet has barely arrived home from saving the dancing mouse princesses when she (thankfully) gets a call for help from her friend Prince Wilbur. His dear friend Heady, a hydra, has had her egg stolen! Harriet and Wilbur set out in pursuit and track a wicked witch down to a secret castle where they discover a rat princess with a very, very, very long tale.

Like Vernon's previous titles, this snarky spoof of fairy tales channels Patricia C. Wrede with a verve that's all Vernon's own, unique style. Delightful illustrations, humor and wisdom on every page, and a strong central character who's not afraid to admit when she needs a little help, even if it comes from a ridiculously soppy rat princess!

Verdict: I just love these. They make me laugh and they're just so fun and well-written! If you don't already have fans for this series, and I find it hard to believe you don't, recommend them to fans of Hale's Princess in Black or E. D. Baker.

ISBN: 9780803739857; Published 2016 by Dial; Purchased for my personal library; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Small Readers: You Should Meet Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by (respectively) Monique Dong and Elizabet Vukovic

I have a couple book club attendees who are very interested in biographies. I've noticed that it's only the high-level readers who are interested in this genre; lower-level readers and reluctant readers are much less likely to pick up biographies at this age.

This series features both well-known and minority people who made an impact on history. I chose two titles for our book club in March; Mae Jemison and Jesse Owens.

The biography of Mae Jemison talks about her early life, her determination to succeed and try out different things, and her eventual success in multiple careers. It's upbeat and inspirational with lots of short narrative stories that my readers can relate to.

Jesse Owens' biography touches briefly on his disadvantaged early life, where he battled poverty and prejudice, and his eventual triumph at the Olympics in Berlin. However, this did not last long as Owens continued to battle prejudice and poverty for the rest of his life. I felt that this story lacked enough context for younger readers to understand what was going on, although it's an ok introduction to Jesse Owens.

Verdict: My preference is for the National Geographic easy reader biographies - I feel they have more context of the history surrounding the people they profile. However, the You Should Meet... series does a better job of choosing minorities and women to feature. So you should get both series! These are a higher reading level, so they're probably only going to appeal to higher-level readers, but then they are the ones most likely to appreciate biographies anyways.

Mae Jemison
ISBN: 9781481476508; Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Jesse Owens
ISBN: 9781481480963; Published 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fox and the jumping contest by Corey R. Tabor

I liked Tabor's illustrations in previous books and I like this debut picture book even more.

It's the day of the big jumping contest and Fox is getting ready. Naturally, being a fox, he has a scheme! One by one, the animals make their best jump. Finally, it is Fox's turn. Will he win the coveted trophy? Or will his cheating get him in trouble?

The best part of this book is the illustrations. I love the bright, cheerful colors and lines, the humor shown in the animals' expressions and activities, and the general color scheme. The blacked out scene after Fox blasts off, Fox's face when he realizes he forgot his parachute, all are just perfect.

The plot is a little thin in places, but the humor and illustrations outweigh any drawbacks. There's even a mix of genders in the pronouns used for the animals. This is bound to be a favorite for kids and adults alike.

Verdict: I always like a good book just for fun. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062398741; Published 2016 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Who is Sonia Sotomayor? by Megan Stine, illustrated by Dede Putra

Have I ever actually read one of these? Hmm, I think I did skim through one, once upon a time. However, since I got this one sent to me for review and the they are super popular, I thought I'd take a look.

This latest title features Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It covers her early life in the Bronx, her struggles to overcome prejudice due to her race and sex, her personal life, and the many other obstacles she overcame to be named the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

Simple line drawings add interest and a light touch of humor to this informative, upbeat biography. These titles focus on the positive aspects of the various personalities and generally gloss over controversy or negative aspects of their character (although Sotomayor is pretty controversy-free!)

These biographies have endless appeal to kids, usually 3rd to 5th grade, who will devour them in large stacks. While they do include a lot of traditional biographical subjects (i.e. dead white males) they also include more diverse characters as well.

Verdict: These are a must-have for any library and this latest title is a strong addition to the series. I generally purchase them in paperback and our long-suffering processing staff vistafoils them.

ISBN: 9780451533654; Published 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library