Saturday, December 30, 2017

This week at the library; or, Holidays ha ha ha

Happening at the library
  • Monday - closed for holiday
  • Tuesday
    • Craft-o-rama
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Free Lego Build
  • Friday - closed for holiday
  • Saturday
Finishing collection development project, paperwork for grants, planning programs. Temperatures dropped dramatically, my heat at home went out, I should have just taken the week off. But I did really want to do a party for New Year's and when will I have the chance again? We're never open at the right time! And it was fun and a ton of people came. Coming up soon will be reviews of the year, statistics, awards - Cybils! and more...

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Princess in Black takes a vacation; The Princess in Black and the mysterious playdate by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

I fell in love with the first Princess in Black book, as did many others and now it's so nice to revisit the series and see that it's still going strong and just as good as ever!

In her fourth adventure, the Princess in Black has been battling monsters all night and she's exhausted! Just when she's about to take a well-deserved nap, the monster bell rings again and she's back in the field. But she's too tired to do more than a "SLEEPY SLAM!" and yawn at the monster! Fortunately, she's not alone - the mysterious Goat Avenger shows up, ready to help her save the day - and give her a much-needed break. A vacation is just what Princess Magnolia needs and soon she's relaxing on the beach with Princess Sneezewort. But then a sea monster shows up! Will she ever get some sleep and her vacation in the sun? Meanwhile, the Goat Avenger is having his own problems keeping things under control back in the kingdom. Will the monsters take over while the Princess in Black is on vacation?

Fortunately, it all ends well since in her next adventure, the Princess in Black is taking another day off - for a playdate with Princess Sneezewort! While the Goat Avenger keeps the monsters away from the goats back at home, Princess Magnolia and Frimplepants, her unicorn, set off for the neighboring city. She and Sneezewort are having a lovely time when a monster attacks! Where could it have come from? Luckily, the Princess in Black just happens to be there, but she's having no success in tracking down the sneaky monster. Maybe she needs some help? Well, there's a new superheroine on the scene - the Princess in Blankets! Princess Sneezewort has read all about the Princess in Black and is determined to help protect her kingdom - but first they need to find the monster before they can fight it. It turns out that the Princess in Blanket has her own special skills, which are just what's needed to track down one sneaky, kitty-menacing, fluffy orange monster!

Pham's bright illustrations are as adorable as ever. Plump Princess Magnolia is both snazzy and cute, even when she's falling asleep while trying to fight monsters! It's fun to see more of the darker-skinned Goat Avenger and Princess Sneezewort, whose cheerful personalities shine through the cute illustrations and keep the stories moving briskly. The monsters continue their fuzzy but naughty theme, with some very charming pictures of the sneaky orange monster in the second book turning himself into different things to hide.

Verdict: These are pitch-perfect beginning chapter books, always a hit with my early readers up through upper elementary who still love the humor and pictures. They appeal to both boys and girls and make great family reads as well - don't be surprised if you have lots of Goat Avengers and Princess in Blankets running around your house and library after these latest titles!

Princess in Black takes a vacation
ISBN: 9780763665128; Published 2016 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Princess in Black and the mysterious playdate
ISBN: 9780763688264; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Purchased for the library

Thursday, December 28, 2017

5 Worlds: The sand warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

Star Wars meets Avatar in this new graphic novel series introducing a sprawling world of magic, intrigue, and danger. The first title pours in a dizzying array of history, legends, political intrigues, and a whole fleet of characters, but the bright personalities and fast-paced action will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Oona Lee, a disgraced student at the Sand Dancer Academy, is the last person anyone expects to save the world. She has limited abilities and her older, more talented sister ran away when she was chosen for the yearly honor of attempting to light a beacon. But the five worlds are under threat and when the academy and its most sacred treasures are destroyed and stolen, Oona goes on the run. With the help of An Tzu, a boy from the slums with plenty of tricks, friends, and unfortunately a deadly disease up his sleeve, and the mysterious celebrity athlete Jax Amboy, Oona must decide whether she can trust her faulty power or if only her vanished sister can save the 5 worlds.

The art is colorful, with lots of pastels, pinks, greens, and blues. Unlike most action heroes in the comics, Oona Lee and An Tzu are both plump, stockily-built characters. All of the people show a wide variety of skin colors, from warm brown to turquoise, and there are plenty of humanoid creatures as well. There are plenty of hints of other fantasy worlds, from the arguing delegates of the 5 worlds to the mystical power of sand that flows through the summoning dances. But this is a wholly original story, packed full of thought-provoking instances of prejudice and environmental catastrophe as well as heart-pounding action.

Verdict: This is blurbed by Kibuishi and Amulet fans are just a few of the kids likely to grab this off the shelf. Recommend to fans of Amulet, Zita the Spacegirl, Avatar, and Cleopatra in Space as well as any readers who like epic graphic fantasies. Sure to find an audience in any library, I strongly recommend adding this series to your graphic novels.

ISBN: 9781101935880; Published 2017 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Small Readers: The good for nothing button by Charise Mericle Harper

I've been following the new Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series with interest. I had reservations about The Cookie Fiasco, but thoroughly approved of We are growing! Now Charise Mericle Harper joins the crowd of Elephant and Piggie-inspired readers.

A lot of people have hailed this as a sly nod to the fidget-spinner craze (now over, at least in my town). Yellow Bird has something cool. It is a button! A red button! What does it do? Nothing! Blue Bird presses the button and it does...nothing. Red Bird presses the button and it does...nothing. But does the button really do nothing? Blue Bird has some thoughts about that. Maybe the button really can do something - asides from give everyone a good laugh!

Harper's bright, cheerful colors and playful shapes are a good match for an easy reader. The vocabulary is simple and bold, white text against colored speech balloons. The art is simple but humorous and doesn't require too much combined effort from early readers to follow while they decode the words.

Verdict: While the fidget-spinner craze is over, the love for Elephant and Piggie continues and this is sure to be a popular addition to the new series.

ISBN: 9781484726464; Published 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Old tracks, new tricks by Jessica Petersen

Three tracks sit in the store, dreaming of the fun they could have if someone took them home. A few fancy tricks and they're going home in a little boy's pocket, ready for fun!

But when they join the other tracks (many of them well-worn) and three train cars, they discoverThe illusta that it's not as much fun as they expected. The trains insist that the track just lie down and let them run on them in the same old patterns.

When the three tracks show the other tracks their tricks, they decide to do things a little differently. At first, the trains are skeptical, but then they realize they can all have more fun together if they improvise and try new things!

The story is told in bouncy rhyme and ends with several pages of suggestions for trying new things with train tracks and building. Tips include keeping a journal of your activities, trying again when things don't work as you expected, and a full gallery of all the train tricks included in the books, from making track art to jumping ramps.

The illustrations are photographs of the various train tricks and arrangements with eyes/faces photoshopped onto the pieces (as you can see on the cover).

Verdict: I can see so many uses for this book, not just in storytime for kids who like trains and building things, but also in programming, for sparking imagination, and in STEM programs. Strongly recommended.

ISBN: 9781943147236; Published 2017 by The Innovation Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, December 25, 2017

Big Book of How by James Buckley, Michael Centore, and Cari Jackson

A lot of "factoid" books have passed through my hands at the library. They never lose popularity with kids and I'm always buying updated copies or replacing worn and falling apart books. National Geographic is the main publisher, although Time Inc. has recently been putting out a lot of good efforts in that department.

This book is a little different though, enough to make me take a second look instead of just sticking it on the shelf for the 30 seconds before it gets grabbed off again. The book is divided into 11 sections: Animals, sports, buildings, science, transportation, home tech, technology, space, the human body, you and your world, and just for fun. Each of these includes a handful of questions and, what really stands out, one "how to" set of instructions on doing something that relates to the chapter.

So, in the section on sports you can learn the answer to questions about how sports equipment is made, how referees make calls, how athletes train, and then learn how to play pickup basketball. The chapter on space answers questions about the sun, astronauts, astronomy, the formation of stars, and ends with instructions on launching your own rocket.

The main complaint I hear from teachers and parents about these factoid type books is that the kids just read them and never do anything with the information (other than spout it back at adults at the most irritating moment possible). This book changes all that by including sections on how to actually do an activity or project, bringing the answer to the various questions to life. A kid who makes a rocket may be able to see themselves in space; a kid who grows some salad on their windowsill might think twice about how their body works and the food choices they make.

Verdict: A stand-out factoid book that is sure to fly off your shelves. Definitely worth buying an extra copy or two and keeping an eye out for future updates and revisions. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781683300106; Published 2017 by Time Inc.; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Easy Readers/Early Chapters Cybils Nominations

This is the full list of nominations for the category I'm a first-round panelist in, with reviews linked and notes to myself of what I have and haven't read. If there is no notation (or link) for a title, it's been reviewed on my shorter post blog, Flying off my bookshelf.

Easy Readers

Early Chapters

Saturday, December 23, 2017

This week at the library

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Department meeting
  • Tuesday
    • OPtions board meeting
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Book Explosion
  • Friday
    • Library closed
Monday was exhausting! Pattie heard from a friend who heard from a friend that a manufacturing/factory was closing and they had free stuff. We hauled off, literally, truckloads of batting, easter grass, confetti, spiderweb, and felt. The pictures are what was left after everybody, including the library, took stuff (it's not ALL of it - there are boxes and piles of felt you don't see). Then I sent out emails to all my library colleagues as well as some teachers to come with bags!

Tuesday was my birthday and I did NOT forget to attend the board meeting! Last book club. Crazy. Busy. Very busy.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Animal Inn: A Furry Fiasco by Paul Dubois Jacobs, illustrated by Jennifer Swender

Usually, if I really can't find a book in our consortium and borrow it from inter-library loan, it turns out that there's a reason it wasn't owned by any of our member libraries (we have over twenty with more joining next year). However, every once in a while I find an overlooked gem and that's what I've found today.

Leopold Augustus Gonzalo Tyler is the narrator of this series and also happens to be a scarlet macaw. He and Dash, the family's Tibetan Terrier, are the original members of the Tyler family but now there are twin boys, a little girl, an adopted chocolate lab, two gerbils, and sibling cats. Naturally, at some point in this accumulation they no longer fit in their city apartment so Mom and Dad Tyler moved the whole menagerie to an old house in the country which now functions as a pet boarding, school, and spa location. There are always interesting animals showing up and lots of excitement. Maybe a little too much!

Just a few weeks ago, there was a major furry fiasco! First, Cassie (the little girl of the Tyler family) is excited about a wizard coming to stay - and a real, live dragon! Leopold and the other animals start panicking. Well, not Coco the lab - she doesn't have a very long attention span and keeps getting distracted by food. But Shadow and Whiskers, the cats, are very, very scared and Leopold and Dash know it's up to them to protect the family, with the spying help of Fuzzy and Furry, who are skilled at escaping from their gerbiltorium.

There are quite a few tense moments until it turns out that there's no wizard - but there is a dragon! A komodo dragon to be precise! The animals remain wary but make friends and Miss KD manages to relax and have a good time until she's taken off to her new home at the zoo.

Humorous black and white pictures dot the book, although the drawing of Coco isn't a chocolate lab (the ears are too long and the wrong shape). The gerbils are delightful though and the animals' personalities shine through.

Verdict: There are plenty of animal stories about there; I just read another one about a boarding kennel recently. However, the mix of animals, animal protagonists, and sense of humor make this one stand out. If you're looking for new beginning chapter book series, especially featuring animals, I recommend this one. There are currently four titles available with a fifth coming in May 2018.

ISBN: 9781481462235; Published 2016 by Aladdin/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed via inter-library loan

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How to survive middle school by Donna Gephart

Full confession: I have been recommending this book for years as a funny read without ever having read it. However, having chosen it for my new book club, Book Explosion, and our inaugural genre of humor, I felt that I must read it. Whereupon, I made a discovery. I didn't think it was funny. I actually got a bit teary-eyed at one point.

David Greenberg has plans for the best summer before middle school ever. Hanging out with his best friend, making funny utube videos like his idol, Jon Stewart, and not thinking about how his mom left. But then his best friend has changed and not only is summer ruined, they have a big fight right before school. David manages to make a new friend, Sophie, and suddenly his videos are popular! But with his mom gone, bullies on his case, his old best friend being mean to him, and his sister trying to kill him, will David ever survive middle school?

So, just so you know, the hamster dies. Seriously. David makes funny videos with the hamster, the last thing his mom got for him before she succumbed to her crippling agorophobia and ran away to live with a beet farmer. And the hamster dies. His best friend has a crush on a girl and ditches him for the whole summer and then hangs out with the school bully who has beat them both up in the past. Sophie was previously homeschooled and her mom is still taking out her own anxieties about being left by her husband on hovering over Sophie. David's dad writes an advice column. I'm is this funny?

And yet.... it kind of is, if you like the realistic, "my life sucks but I'm going to deal with it through humor" kind of thing. I've definitely had plenty of 5th and 6th graders tell me they thought this book was hilarious. So I think I'm going to chalk this one up to not being a good fit for me as a reader (I'm going to have trouble recommending it as a funny book now that I know the hamster dies though).

Verdict: A fun book to recommend for kids who want something about the angst, drama and general misery of middle school. The references to Jon Stewart are going to eventually date it though, if they haven't already, so this one has a shelf-life. I wouldn't purchase it new at this point, but I wouldn't weed it either.

ISBN: 9780385737937; Published 2010 by Delacorte; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Small Readers: Secrets of American History by Patricia Lakin and Laurie Calkhoven; illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

These three titles are part of a new series on American history for young readers. Each title explores some little-known aspects of history in simple language with some mild humor.

The Founding Fathers were spies! has four chapters focused on intelligence work during the American Revolution. The introductory chapter talks about George Washington's use of spies and how they helped in the American Revolution, ending with the story of spy Lydia Darragh. The second chapter talks about codes and secret messages, focusing on George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The third chapter tells a story about Hercules Mulligan and his friend, Alexander Hamilton and their use of secret ink. The fourth chapter is an overview of the Culper Spy Ring.

The book is illustrated with humorous cartoons, including one African-American (noted as "a man he trusted" whom Hercules Mulligan uses to pass a message). The people are pictured in trench coats and sunglasses, with mischievous smiles on their faces. Back matter includes a mask letter, used by the British, including an explanation of symmetry. There's also instructions for making invisible ink and a secret message to decode. The final page includes a quiz on the book.

The second title, Heroes who risked everything for freedom, focuses on the Civil War. Like the revolutionary war title, it focuses mainly on intelligence work. It includes a general chapter on spies, a chapter on Harriet Tubman, and a general chapter on "Secrets, disguises, and signals!" The final chapter covers an interesting event in history, which was new to me, about how slaves managed to commandeer a Confederate ship and took it to freedom in the North. Some named and unnamed people are included in the third chapter, with an explanation that not all names were recorded.

The cartoons have a more heroic mold, most of them featuring African-Americans, as most of the stories feature African-Americans fighting for their freedom. There is only one brief mention of Confederate spy methods. Unfortunately, there's a typo on page 23 "We don't alwhays know the full names..." which for me is a big problem in easy readers. Back matter includes stories of white women who fought in the Civil War for the Union and an explanation of the changes in the US flag through history and during the Civil War. There is also a secret message to decode and a quiz on the content.

The final title I looked at, Secret Agents! Sharks! Ghost Armies! presents secret stories of World War II. This title is prefaced by a note to parents, warning them that there may be some reference to "atrocities committed during that time period". The first chapter gives a general overview of World War II, briefly mentioning the persecution of Jewish people and the death of millions of people in the Holocaust. The first chapter talks about Julia Child's experiments in creating a shark repellent (which might or might not have worked). The second chapter discusses the activities of the "ghost army" which conducted secret warfare through disguise and delaying tactics. The third chapter tells about the life of Virginia Hall, who was one of the most wanted spies in World War II.

There are a few African-Americans and people with slightly darker skin color pictured. Virginia Hall is shown as a cute, young woman, whose wooden leg is hardly noticeable. There are several more contemporary pictures of kids playing a game with toy soldiers and tanks and a child talking to his grandfather about the war. Back matter includes an informative section on sharks and apex predators, a geometry problem for figuring out area, and brief biographies of celebrity spies Roald Dahl and Josephine Baker. There is also a final quiz.

It's pushing it a little to describe these as "easy readers." Simon Spotlight tends to have very high-level easy readers and these are no exception. The books include lengthy paragraphs of text with more complex vocabulary and, despite the cute cartoons, more complex concepts as well. They're definitely intermediate and would probably be in juvenile in my library, aimed at 3rd grade and up.

I have mixed feelings about the content. On the one hand, they've done a good job recognizing some of the lesser-known people, including women and minorities, involved in these historical events. On the other hand, I feel that the cartoons trivialize the experiences and real tragedies and struggles these people faced. I also find it very troubling that a note to parents is included in World War II but not in the Civil War title - as though slavery and the deaths of millions in the slave trade was less of an atrocity than the Holocaust. Still, it's not often that I find decent material for readers at an intermediate level which includes any diversity at all. The books are briskly written in a manner that will attract children's interest and the cartoons add humor to what might otherwise be a slow reading experience.

Verdict: Not perfect, but pretty good. I won't feel bad about adding these to my nonfiction collection and promoting them in book clubs. I will, however, skip the title with a typo until there's a new edition.

Revolutionary war: The founding fathers were spies!
ISBN: 9781481499705

Civil War: Heroes who risked everything for freedom
ISBN: 9781481499736

World War II: Secret agents! Sharks! Ghost armies!
ISBN: 9781481499491

Published 2017 by Simon Spotlight; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

Priscilla, an enthusiastic, biracial girl, is crazy about gorillas. She eats, sleeps, and dreams gorillas. She even wears her gorilla suit to school! After all, gorillas can do whatever they want - or can they?

As chaos erupts in Priscilla's class, her long-suffering teacher tries various methods to deal with Priscilla and her classmates and Priscilla's parents even make a few mild suggestions. Finally however, it's Priscilla herself who comes to realize she needs to adapt her behavior a little bit.

The illustrations are cute and fun, but what I most enjoyed was her teacher, Mr. Todd's reactions. He tries to get Priscilla to stop disrupting the class but doesn't discourage her enthusiasm and love of gorillas. He's got plenty on his plate with a full class of exuberant, quirky kids anyways. The additional humor of Priscilla's parents apparently having installed monkey bars and climbing rings in their house for her tickled my funny bone as well.

Verdict: There are plenty of books about kids misbehaving in school, but this has a light touch and a lesson that comes from the kids themselves, not from an adult perspective, that I think will resonate with listeners.

ISBN: 9781481458979; Published 2017 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 18, 2017

Penguin day by Nic Bishop

Nic Bishop's stunning photographs, matched with simple, bold text tell an engaging story about a family of rockhopper penguins.

Exuberant photos show the rockhopper's dangerous journey through rocks, across sand, and finally reaching the ocean in their quest for food. But the excitement isn't over yet. They must avoid predators while hunting for food. Meanwhile, the fuzzy baby is hungry too and wanders off, looking for food. The baby penguin has some close calls, especially with a hungry skua, but the papa penguin protects the baby until mama penguin returns with her crop full of tasty fish.

The author's note goes beyond the simple narrative to explain the habits and behavior of the rockhoppers along with some further photographs. A note from Bishop explains about his process of photography and links to his website with additional photos.

Verdict: Penguins are always a popular topic and this is an excellent introduction for young children or beginning readers to explore the world of these tough little critters. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545206365; Published 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This week at the library; or, Recovery time

What's happening at the library
And then we all got sick. I am still working on our tub books (updated blog post coming sometime) and dvds. It's a lot of tracking down missing/long overdue items and making lists of replacements.

I finished January/February of an early literacy STEM calendar for distribution in our schools. You can see it here (and feel free to borrow it! If you want the original publisher document so you can customize it for your library, just let me know.)

I forgot a community committee meeting on Wednesday, discovered that glitter, sugar, and teen drama do not mix on Thursday, and went in late on Friday. I have not fully recovered from last week. On the bright side, my car is no longer ticking and we are expecting delivery of a really insane amount of confetti and related donations next week.

Professional Development
  • Booklist webinar: Spring picture books
    • A couple things I'd missed, I'm especially looking for good toddler storytime books
  • ALSC webinar: Early literacy and STEAM
    • I've been frustrated by trying to do some of these things, like flexibility, unstructured playtime, and encouraging failure and trying again in my after school clubs. It seems so often that adults don't want kids to do these things - they want a list of instructions and a finished product to produce. However, I will try, try again this winter/spring before giving up on the after school clubs.
    • Story Stars - storytime with a live animal

Friday, December 15, 2017

Jada Jones Rock Star and Class Act by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Jada Jones is a new beginning chapter book character, full of verve and interest in the world around her. In Rock Star, her first story, we meet Jada with a serious case of the blues. Her best friend has moved away and now she's alone. Who will go rock collecting with her now? Even when she finds out that their new unit at school is going to be all about rocks she can't get out of her funk. But she decides to make the best of it and starts working on making friends with her new seatmate, Lena. But Lena's best friend, Simone, is being mean to Jada for no reason! After some wise advice from her family and some thinking things over, Jada confronts Simone and realizes that she's worried about losing her best friend to Jada. After apologies all around, the girls realize that not only can they be a threesome, it's ok to try new things. Lena and Simone will try rock collecting and Jada will learn to jump rope at recess with them.

In her second story, Jada is excited to be nominated for class representative, along with her friend Miles. But pretty soon things are getting out of hand. Jada's friends, Lena and Simone, are fighting with Miles' friends, especially RJ. And Jada is really worried about having to give a speech in front of the entire fourth grade! When it seems like Miles has done something mean and broken the rules, how will Jada react?

The books are themed in purple and gray, and the majority of the characters, including all the main characters, are African-American. Which I really appreciate, since all too often "diverse" characters are relegated to sidekicks and "friends" of the main character. While the books are a little heavy on the moralistic side, the kids are realistic and their daily trials and tribulations are relatable.

Verdict: If you're looking to add more diversity to your beginning chapter books, or if you want more character-building beginning chapters to recommend for use in classrooms, this new series is a good choice.

Jada Jones rock star
ISBN: 9780448487526; Published 2017 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher

Jada Jones class act
ISBN: 9781451534279; Published 2017 by Penguin Workshop; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Survivor Diaries: Overboard! by Terry Lynn Johnson

I've spent the last few years basically buying anything that mentions "survival" in its title and trying to keep enough copies on the shelf to satisfy the voracious reading habits of my library audience. There are two general categories of these stories, one is historical fiction like the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis and the other is natural disasters with a more contemporary feeling. This falls in the latter category.

The premise of this series is a reporter interviewing kids who have survived real-life experiences. He's interviewing eleven-year-old Travis, who was washed overboard by a giant wave in the dangerously cold waters off the coast of Washington. Accompanied only by Marina, the boat captain's daughter, the two must overcome panic, injury, and their own fears and worries. Marina, at first the strong, competent one, slowly succumbs to her injuries and the cold, leaving Travis to try to stay calm and use what she's told him to help them survive. Ultimately, he must overcome his previous fears from a bad accident in gymnastics to get help.

The story ends with an author's note and real-life survival tips from the Coast Guard. There were a couple things that confused me - the tips say not to swim but the kids swim for shore and the picture of the HELP position doesn't match the description. But these are pretty minor in the scheme of things. The burden of the adventure is shared equally by Marina and Travis - Marina is the one who has the knowledge to survive, but her injuries eventually force Travis to take over and face his fears. Travis' weight is mentioned several times, first at the beginning when his brothers tease him, and again by the reporter at the end, when he explains that he's rejoined the gymnastics team and lost weight. Marina reveals that her dad is a single parent, since her mom left them when she was young. Although there's not much suspense involved (the reader knows right away that they survived) the action is brisk and interesting and the real-life situation will thrill readers who like this type of adventure.

Verdict: Hand this one to fans of survival stories and those who like to imagine themselves stranded in the wilderness or who like to be prepared. At just over 100 pages, this is a a popular series for a variety of readers which is sure to fly off your shelves.

ISBN: 9780544970106; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Small Readers: Tooth Fairy's Night by Candice Ransom, illustrated Monique Dong

This sweet story was a surprise love for me, and one I can't wait to introduce to my emergent readers.

In brisk, simple rhyme, the Tooth Fairy wakes up as the sun is going down, gets ready to go, and visits several houses. She collects three teeth from a sleeping white girl with blonde hair, a first tooth from a white boy (accompanied by an adorable first-tooth dance) and after a tea break makes her way to her next appointment. A dark-skinned, curly-headed girl is fast asleep but there's a surprise lurking under her blankets - a kitty! The Tooth Fairy's last appointment is with a little girl whose light brown skin and soft brown hair match the tooth fairy's own. Finally, it's time to go home and maker her own preparations for bed as the sun rises.

I really loved the pictures - they're softly colorful with many adorable details. The Tooth Fairy's pet mouse is a humorous nod to the cultures where a mouse acts as the tooth fairy and her house is full of little fairy details like a sink made from a shell and a cute button stool and thimble vase. The tooth fairy is perky and sweet, but strong and resourceful. She sprinkles sleep dust on an overly-friendly dog, zips out of the way of a cat, and is strong enough to dig teeth out of a welter of stuffed animals and dolls.

The bold, brief text is focused mostly at the top of pages, with a few words dropping to the bottom. It's a good beginning level, what I'd mark as a red dot (beginning level) in my library, although not low enough for a true emergent reader.

Verdict: This is one of those sweet, comforting reads that may not win awards but will be a staple in library collections and remembered fondly by children when they look back at their childhood.

ISBN: 9780399553646; Published 2017 by Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Fog by Kyo Maclear

I'm still trying to decide if this is a complex metaphor or just a dreamy, imaginative story.

On a far-away island lives a small, yellow warbler. He loves to watch and keep track of the many different humans he sees. But one day fog settles on the island and he can no longer see anything. Everyone deals with the fog differently; some pretend it isn't there, some just ignore it, and many leave.

But one day Warble sees a human. They slowly begin to communicate, although they can't speak to each other, and decide to work together to see if other creatures can see the fog. The more creatures admit to seeing the fog, the more it lifts, until the world is slowly bright and sunny again.

See, I'm not really sure about the point of this story. But Kenard Pak's lovely, drifting illustrations are perfect for a story of fog, whether it's a metaphor or not. The pictures of the different humans that Warble documents are also quite funny.

I don't really see this as a storytime title; it's too slow-paced and needs close attention to appreciate the art. However, I think that one on one readers will appreciate it and it's a beautiful piece of art.

Verdict: An additional purchase, especially if you have kids interested in birdwatching or lots of foggy days.

ISBN: 9781770494923; Published 2017 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher through LT Early Reviewers

Monday, December 11, 2017

Wolf pups join the pack by American Museum of Natural History (Neil Duncan)

So, this book is about as good as any group project - which is to say, a bit bland. But, it is a decent example of a purely expository text and has a good layout.

The text starts with the pups a few weeks old, once they have fur and are ready to start venturing out of the den. The book follows the pups as they nurse, explore their family, and are fed by their parents. Various family groups are shown and there are lots of cute wolf pups playing, feeding, and tussling in the grass. Adult behavior is shown through their interaction with the pups and the behavior the pups are learning like howling and running with the pack.

Each page is a mix of blocks of text with pastel backgrounds and pictures of wolves demonstrating the behavior or attribute discussed in the text. The book ends with the pups as young wolves, not yet ready to go out on their own and still sticking together. Over the course of the book, the scenes move from spring to winter, as the pups mature. The only back matter is a "meet the expert" note from Neil Duncan, who presumably supervised the book.

So, this isn't necessarily the type of book one would hold up as an example of the genre. There are no sources, there isn't even a single author. The writing is rather clunky and dry. BUT it's still not a bad book! It's got lots of great pictures of wolves, the text and photographs have an excellent layout that matches up the behavior with what is described in the text, and for kids who prefer expository nonfiction (and like wolves) this is a perfect choice.

Verdict: While I wouldn't recommend this for storytime, it's a good book for school projects or for kids who want to learn more about wolves.

ISBN: 9781454922377; Published 2017 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction Cybils Nominations

This is the full list of nominations for the category of which I am chair, elementary and middle grade nonfiction. I try to make sure I've read as many titles as possible, so as to be able to approve titles and moderate discussions. If there is no link or notation after the title, I've read it and reviewed it on Flying off my bookshelf, my short post blog.

Elementary Nonfiction
  • Biography
    • Adrift at sea by Marsha Skrypuch
    • Balderdash: John Newbery by Michelle Markel
    • Big machines by Sherri Rinker
    • Caroline's comets by Emily McCully
    • Chef Roy Choi and the street food remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
    • Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade
    • Danza!: Amalia Hern├índez by Duncan Tonatiuh
    • Frida Kahlo and her animalitos by Monica Brown
    • Girl who ran by Kristina Yee
    • Girl who thought in pictures by Julia Mosca
    • Grace Hopper, queen of computer code by Laurie Wallmark
    • Here come the Harlem Globetrotters by Larry Dobrow
    • I am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer
    • Imagine that by Judy Sierra
    • John Ronald's Dragons by Caroline McAlister
    • Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford
    • Lighter than air by Matthew Clark Smith
    • Listen: How Pete Seeger got America singing by Leda Schubert
    • Long may she wave: the true story of Caroline Pickersgill by Kristen Fulton
    • Manjhi moves a mountain by Nancy Churnin
    • Margaret and the moon by Dean Robbins
    • Martin's dream day by Kitty Kelley
    • Martina and Chrissie by Phil Bildner (did not read)
    • Maya Lin by Jeanne Walker Harvey
    • Muddy by Michael Mahin
    • Noah Webster's fighting words by Tracey Maurer (did not read)
    • Pocket full of colors by Amy Guglielmo
    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter
    • Schomburg by Carole Boston Weatherford
    • Shark lady by Jess Keating
    • Stand up and sing: Pete Seeger, folk music and the path to justice by Susanna Reich
    • Take a picture of me, James Van Der Zee by Andrea J. Loney
    • Time to act by Shana Corey
    • World is not a rectangle by Jeanette Winter
  • History
    • Dazzle ships by Chris Barton
    • Founding fathers were spies by Patricia Lakin (reviewed to post)
    • Great wall of China by Nancy Ohlin
    • Revolutionary rogues by Selene Castrovilla (reviewed to post)
    • Secret agents! Sharks! Ghost armies! by Laurie Calkhoven (reviewed to post)
    • Secret project by Jonah Winter
  • Science and Nature
    • Animals by the numbers by Steve Jenkins
    • Animals Illustrated: Walrus by Herve Paniaq
    • Bear's life by Ian McAllister
    • Book of bridges by Cheryl Keely
    • Can an aardvark bark? by Melissa Stewart
    • Crazy about cats by Owen Davey
    • Droughts by Melissa Stewart (reviewed to post)
    • Fantastic flowers by Susan Stockdale
    • Feathers and hair, what animals wear by Jennifer Ward
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
    • Hatching chicks in room 6 by Caroline Arnold
    • Hidden dangers by Lola Schaefer
    • Hidden wildlife by Jim Arnosky
    • How to survive as a firefly by Kristen Foote
    • I've got feet by Julie Murphy (N/A)
    • If you were the moon by Laura Purdie Salas
    • Insects by Sneed B. Collard
    • Journey: The amazing story of OR-7 by Becky Elgin (N/A)
    • Money Math by David Adler
    • Moto and me by Suzi Ezsterhas
    • Night creepers by Linda Stanek
    • Once upon a jungle by Laura Knowles (N/A)
    • Over and under the pond by Kate Messner (reviewed to post)
    • Penguin day by Nic Bishop (reviewed to post)
    • Poop sleuth by Gina Shaw
    • Robins, how they grow up by Eileen Christelow (reviewed to post)
    • Secret life of the red fox by Laurence Pringle
    • Shake a leg, egg by Kurt Cyrus
    • What makes a monster? by Jess Keating (reviewed to post)
    • When planet earth was new by James Gladstone
    • Wolf island by Ian McAllister (reviewed to post)
    • Series by Ana Maria Rodriguez (N/A)
      • Secret of the bird's smart brains
      • Secret of the deceiving striped lizard
      • Secret of the green squiggly bombers
      • Secret of the scorpion-eating meerkat
      • Secret of the scuba-diving spider
      • Shocking secret of the electric eel
  • Social Sciences
    • Her right foot by Dave Eggers
    • Nantucket sea monster by Darcy Pattinson (N/A)
    • Pedal power by Allan Drummond
    • Storyworlds: A moment in time by Thomas Hegbrook
    • This is how we do it by Matt Lamothe
    • Tony and his elephants: best friends forever by Cathleen Burnham
    • Youngest marcher by Cynthia Levinson
    • What is hip-hop? by Eric Morse
Middle Grade Nonfiction

Saturday, December 9, 2017

This week at the library; or, Candyland

Photo op with King Candy
Happening this week

  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday

This week was all about Candy Land (and working on some other projects).

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ivy by Katherine Coville, illustrated by Celia Kaspar

Ivy and her grandmother live in a cottage at the edge of the village of Broomsweep. Unlike the rest of the village, their cottage is untidy, their porch step is not swept twice a day (or sometimes at all!), and their garden is a wilderness. But Ivy and her grandmother are happy there, helping animals (and sometimes people), making potions from the weeds and herbs in the garden, and sometimes even seeing a magical animal or two.

But when the new queen announces a competition for the best village, the other inhabitants of Broomsweep (especially the persnickety mayor's wife, Mistress Peevish) think that their village would be just perfect - if Ivy and her grandmother cleaned up their cottage, weeded the garden, and got rid of all those dirty animals. Especially the magical ones! When a crash-landing griffin and a dragon with a cold show up, exiled from their own villages, things go from bad to worse. Will the villages send Ivy and all her friends away? Or will the magical creatures manage to save the day?

Black and white pictures show a cute, round-cheeked girl, her plump grandmother, and the creatures that take refuge at their home. This is a little past a beginning chapter book, coming in at 134 pages, but it will still appeal to that demographic. It's an intermediate reading level and has a sweet and humorous tone.

The griffin (and his protective declarations about Poof, the little white dog), and the good-natured but sinus-challenged dragon are delightful characters with humor and charm. Ivy is a sweet child, although I found her grandmother's cheerful indifference to the gathering annoyance and anger of the villages to be a little alarming.

Verdict: There are other magical animal titles that I would recommend first - the Magical Animal Adoption Agency by Kallie George and Zoe and Sassafras by Asia Citro - but if you have lots of fans of this type of story it's a fun addition to the genre.

ISBN: 9780553539752; Published March 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

I've been recommending Svetlana Chmakova's new middle grade graphic novels as strong read-alikes for Raina Telgemeier for a while, but I hadn't actually read one myself until I chose her newest book, Brave for my debut book club meeting for 5th grade and up. The genre was funny and on the surface this may seem to be an odd book to pick for that theme, since it's really all about bullying.

Jensen is a hero - in his own mind. In the real world, aka middle school, he's failing math, bullies are making his life miserable, and he can't seem to fit in anywhere. Art club was his one safe place, even if everyone else seems more knowledgeable than he is and are big manga fans, while he's mostly into superheroes. But he loses that when he has to start attending tutoring for math - and to his horror, one of the bullies is there too! Then he finds a safe hiding place in the newspaper office - and meets a couple girls who are out to set the world on fire with a social experiment about bullying. Jensen feels like he's losing his grip fast - there's just too much going on and changing for him to figure out what to do. Will he ever figure out middle school - and himself?

Chmakova's art style is more manga than comic, but she strikes a nice middle road in this series with characters that have the edges and feel of manga without the more obvious style that will turn off some readers. Her colors are pastels - pinks, blues, and browns, and she includes a diverse range of students although their racial diversity is never mentioned. She also includes physical diversity - the math tutor has arm crutches and Jensen gets picked on for his weight - which was a nice addition.

One of the turning points in this book, and the reason why I selected it, was when Jensen finally gets around to looking at the newspaper club's social experiment on bullying. He knows the two boys who are tormenting him are bullies, he's just not brave enough to stand up to them. But what about the kids who claim to be his "friends" but makes jokes about his weight and tease him? He's never asked them to stop and they're his friends - that's what friends do, right? Or is it?

As the story develops, adding a plot about the dress code, thoughts on freedom of speech, and culminating in Jensen figuring out who his friends really are and getting the courage to stand up to the bullies, the book encourages readers to think about their words and actions and how they affect others. The story doesn't have a happily-ever-after resolution; when Jensen sticks up to the physical bullies they break his glasses and attack him, but a teacher gets involved and the bullying ends - for now at least. Speaking his mind to his "friends" is more difficult and doesn't necessarily end well, but Jensen is becoming more comfortable in his own skin, more aware of who he is and who he wants to be, and he realizes that he's brave in his own way, as shown in a final spread when he reaches out to a former bully.

Verdict: This is flying off the shelf not only for its strong portrayal of middle school drama and challenges but also (I hope) for the plot points that get kids thinking about what they think and do everyday. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780316363174; Published 2017 by Yen Press; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Small Readers: Ballet Cat: What's your favorite favorite? by Bob Shea

I'm going to voice an unpopular opinion - I'm not really a fan of Ballet Cat. I often like Bob Shea and Ballet Cat is hailed as a successor to Elephant and Piggie, but I just can't get into them myself and I don't care for this title in particular.

Ballet Cat and Goat are putting together shows for Grandma. Naturally, Ballet Cat is planning a ballet show, but Goat is going to do a magic show and he says that magic is Grandma's favorite favorite! Even Ballet Cat has to admit she really wants to see The Great Goatini's magic act. But then Goat checks out Ballet Cat's ballet show and.... it looks pretty good too! Which will be Grandma's favorite favorite? When they present their shows to Grandma, a tiny and rather overwhelmed dog, Grandma falls asleep during their frenetic antics. When they press her to declare her "favorite favorite" she quickly comes up with the answer of "mint chocolate chip" and they end the day with ice cream.

Shea's art is just too... busy for an easy reader, in my opinion. There are a lot of sketchy lines, leaping across the page, bright backgrounds of orange, pink, and turquoise, see-through sketched in items, and rapid shifts in perspective and size. While kids do find them amusing and enjoy them, they're really not ideal for an easy reader. There's too much going on and the vocabulary and combination of the art are too challenging for the audience they're aimed at. I also find them annoying, but that's more a personal thing. I'd prefer a more straight-forward story and the weird, illogical nonsense just doesn't click with me.

Verdict: I do purchase these and use them in book clubs occasionally. Some kids really like them, but they're not as popular as Elephant and Piggie, Duck, Duck, Porcupine, or Jan Thomas' new series The Giggle Gang.

ISBN: 9781484778098; Published 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

All ears, all eyes by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

I have a strong feeling that I would love this book even more if I had better glasses...

Poetic text flows through the book, describing the creatures of the woods and asking questions about who is there. The text is incorporated into the art, with small, second notes like "deer here" and "flying squirrels...could be boys could be girls" in soft fonts, barely seen against the layered art.

The pictures shift from the soft purple of evening, the orange glow of the sunset, and the last shafts of yellow light to the deep, dark blues and greens of night in the forest, lit only by the stars, fireflies, and the moon. Images drift across the page - shadows, clouds, or hidden animals?

This probably wouldn't work too well as a storytime book; it's one that needs to be closely examined for hidden pictures and to fully appreciate the changes in color and the detail of the art. The text is also difficult to see clearly sometimes, which makes it hard for the reader.

However, it would be a lovely central piece for an art storytime (why have I never done a We Explore Favorite Artists featuring Tillotson? Must remedy that) great for one-on-one sharing, or a wonderful addition to a classroom library or unit on animals in the forest.

Verdict: A lovely title to add to your collection of books about forests and the night. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781481415712; Published 2015 by Atheneum; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, December 4, 2017

Curious Pearl, science girl: Curious Pearl identifies the reason for seasons by Eric Braun, illustrated by Stephanie Dehennim

This series features Pearl, a young Asian girl with a diverse cast of friends, who enjoys exploring science. It's part of Capstone's 4D augmented reality science experience titles. Pages with a star icon can be scanned with an app and add additional resources and information to the reading experience. There are also online resources. I do have a few families who like these additional resources, and I've purchased some of Capstone's origami 4D titles as I think the linked videos will be helpful, but I don't personally have the technology to review this aspect of the book.

The narrative starts with Pearl and her friend Sal hanging out and observing the sunset. They segue into a discussion of the seasons and, with the help of friends and family and her science notebook, Pearl learns about the seasons. Rotation of the earth, changes in the sun, and even some brief mentions of climate change are referenced as Pearl learns all about how seasons are created. Additional questions and science activities are included at the end.

This is one that I think is best-suited for use in a classroom or teaching situation, especially with the added tech. The text is fairly lengthy and doesn't really work well as a story. I felt that it was pushing it a bit to make it narrative nonfiction and it would have done better as expository. However, some kids will click more with a story and I'm guessing the addition of videos and the other additional resources will clarify some of the scientific explanations that get a bit bogged down.

Verdict: I'll suggest this to my local charter school which enjoys resources like this for use with younger classes and also to some of my teachers and see if they find it useful.

ISBN: 9781515813439; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This week at the library; or, I'm waiting for something to happen

Happening this week
  • Monday
    • Sensory Playgroup
    • Tiny Tots
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Mad Scientists Club: Turtle science
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
  • Friday
    • Field trip (special needs school)
Professional development
  • ALSC webinar: Early literacy outside the library walls
    • Nothing really new here, but a good overview. It did inspire me to go back and follow up on a bunch of my outreach contacts that had fallen by the wayside!
  • IFLS webinar: Promoting your collection - merchandizing and more
    • Nothing new here; the ideas aren't bad, they're just nothing we've not tried already or that isn't in my department or that I don't have plans to do already in the future as time/budget allows.
  • Booklist webinar: New youth nonfiction for winter and beyond
    • Listening Library; Simon & Schuster; DK; Holiday House; IPG
This week was busy and yet I feel like I didn't get much done! Really, I'm just catching up on small things, dealing with various crises, settling last-minute projects, and waiting for the big events to rev up next week. Also planning the updates of the basement - the cleaning and mold removal was completed this week and we starting taking stuff back down there.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ada Lace on the case; Ada Lace sees read by Emily Calandrelli, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

Ada Lace is bored. Her family has moved across the country, from West Virginia to San Francisco. It wouldn't be so bad if she could explore outside, but she's got a broken leg! With nothing to do, she teams up with the quirky girl down the street, Nina, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a local dog. Ada has plenty of opportunity to watch out her window, plus her tech skills help her set up surveillance. But when things start getting confusing, she may have started something bigger than she can handle alone!

In her second adventure, Ada is now close friends with Nina, even though they're very different. She's started at her new school and is spending every spare minute on her robot, George, with the help of the friendly tinkerer across the way, Mr. Peebles. But Ada has more on her mind than getting George ready for a competition and the annoying behavior of the mean boy next door. Her dad is now the art teacher at school and Ada just can't seem to get her art assignments right. She gets more and more frustrated, especially as Nina seems to get much more praise and interest from her dad.

Ada is an enthusiastic tech and science fan, but also a realistic one. She doesn't necessarily figure things out right away, needs help from grown-ups, and can get frustrated and neglect her other work and friends. The flipped stereotypes - Nina is Asian but not into math or science, Ada's parents are both artists and don't understand her love of technology - are a nice touch. Various scientific principles are referenced in the text and expanded in the "Behind the science" sections in the back which explain drones, the Turing test, Arduino boards, and more. The plots and characters are a little uneven in places, and there's definitely some wish-fulfillment involved, but overall they're fun, interesting stories with a touch of mystery that will attract kids who are into science as well as those who aren't. Ada turning out to be color blind was a unique touch and who doesn't enjoy seeing the mean boy next door get his comeuppance?

Verdict: These are much better than I expected from a celebrity-driven book and I think I will find an easy audience for them in my library since we have clubs of robotics, coding, and more which the girls are heavily involved in. The mystery and friendship drama was a good touch that will draw in kids who aren't interested in the scientific aspects.

Ada Lace on the case
ISBN: 9781481485999

Ada Lace sees red
ISBN: 9781481486026

Published 2017 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

Two stories run parallel in this debut graphic novel about making choices and being yourself. Sisters Katia and Victoria are attending boarding school after being homeschooled. Victoria is trying to fit in, hiding her love of sewing and working hard to be part of the activities while ignoring the bullying and snobbishness of the other kids. Her younger sister Katie, while musically talented is a wild child and refuses to go along with Victoria's plans, leading to a big fight between the sisters.

Meanwhile, a friendly ghost boy in the nearby cemetery is worried about his friend Modie. Neither dead nor alive, Modie is kept trapped in between by his father's dark magics, which require the periodic taking of another child's life every thirteen years. Now the most recent thirteen years are up - and Katia is in danger. It will take the combined efforts of the friendly Little Ghost, Victoria, Katia, and even Modie to keep Katia from becoming a victim of the dark wizard and his ghosts.

Terry has a brisk, colorful style that fits in well with what most of my kids like. A strong linear storyline, good coloring, and definite, sure lines. Parallels between Telgemeier and Jameison will of course be drawn, but Terry's creepy ghosts and creatures add a frisson of scary that's all her own. The story is a little overdrawn - it's hard to believe that so many of the other students are nasty and the teachers oblivious, not to mention the lack of interest in the periodic disappearance of children, but it's a fast-paced and action-packed story that will resonate both with devourers of graphic novels and those who feel on the outside of school cliques.

A theme of music runs through the book, which emphasizes the other theme of making choices. Katia has chosen to be who she is and not worry about fitting in or not. Friendly Little Ghost has chosen to retain some of his humanity, separating him from the other ghosts, since he keeps ties to the mortal world. Modie chooses to stop his father and accept his death, rather than continue stealing other children's lives to continue his existence. Victoria makes a choice between trying to pressure her sister to conform or support her for who she is.

Verdict: A good effort for a debut title. The parallel storylines are a little cramped and there are some threads left hanging at the end, but this is a good choice for kids who aren't old enough for Anya's Ghost and need some reassurance in embracing themselves - or for kids who like an action-packed graphic story.

ISBN: 9780545889551; Published October 10, 2017 by Scholastic Graphix; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Small Readers: That's my book and other stories by Salina Yoon

I've reviewed the first Duck, Duck, Porcupine book and the second, My Kite is Stuck, and they just keep getting better. But I feel like they don't get enough recognition!

In this latest collection of stories, clever but silent Little Duck has to put up with the hijinks of Porcupine and Big Duck. In the first story, Big Duck and Porcupine ask to share Little Duck's stash of books when they get bored - but they just don't understand how books work! But maybe they just need Little Duck to show them what's inside the books? In the second chapter, Big Duck decides to have a talent show. Big Duck has lots of talents. Porcupine doesn't have any - or does he? In their third adventure, Big Duck gets worried when Little Duck loses his quack. She is sure he's sick because all he can say is "ARR" but little does she know Little Duck is playing a game...

Yoon's bright, primary colors stand out against a bold green and sky blue background, surrounded by sharp, black borders. The hints of scratchy black showing against the white and yellow spots add a nice touch to the art. Text is solely in dialogue balloons, bold black against white. While the text is not extremely challenging and will work well for a beginning reader, the book does require a higher degree of fluency, since a lot of the humor is shown through the interaction between the dialogue and the subtle changes in the art.

Verdict: My book club kids love these and I hope they become more widespread and popular as more people hear about them. I hate to keep comparing things to Elephant and Piggie, but really they are worthy successors, at least in humor. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781619638914; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Curious Cares of Bears by Douglas Florian, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

I liked the first collaboration between Florian and Sanchez. I was eager to see if they could repeat their poetic, humorous, and sweet collaboration with one of my favorite animals - bears - and they did.

A series of colorful, plump bears fill the pages as they frolic through the spring, summer, and autumn days. It's not all fun and games though - there's climbing trees for honey, collecting bugs and berries for family feasts, biking across the mountains, and exploring the forests. This silly story mixes fact and fiction equally, showing bears diving for salmon in one picture and biking vigorously across rocky hills in the next. The rhyming text will take a little rehearsal to read smoothly as Florian likes to mix up the rhythm. I really like Sanchez' sketchy illustrations, full of humorous expressions, dancing bears, and splashes of color.

Usually I prefer more fact-based books when I'm looking for stories about animals, especially hibernation and bears. I think this would work well in a hibernation or fall storytime though, just because it will get even little kids thinking about how to figure out which things are true and which aren't in a story. Obviously bears don't ride bicycles, but do they eat bugs and berries? How do we know which are things bears can and can't do? This would also mix nicely with a storytime on family get-togethers, since many scenes feature the bears celebrating together as a family.

Verdict: Match this with Sayre's Eat like a bear and Arnosky's Every autumn comes the bear for a great fall storytime.

ISBN: 9781499804621; Published 2017 by little bee; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library