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
    • http://centerforchildhoodcreativity.org/
    • https://www.curiositymachine.org/challenges/

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

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
  • General fiction
    • Absolutely Alfie and the furry, purry secret by Sally Warner
    • Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan
    • Beatrice Zinker, Upside down thinker by Shelley Johannes (reviewed, to post)
    • Class act by Kelly Lyons (checked out to read)
    • Cody and the rules of life by Tricia Springstubb
    • Curse of Einstein's pencil by Deborah Zemke
    • Daisy dreamer and the totally true imaginary friend by Anna Holly
    • Daisy dreamer and the world of make-believe by Anna Holly
    • Fix-it friends: Have no fear by Nicole Kear (N/A)
    • Infamous Ratsos are not afraid by Kara LaReau
    • Jake the fake keeps it real by Craig Robinson
    • Jasmine Toguchi, mochi queen by Debbi Florence
    • Lola Levine and the vacation dream by Monica Brown
    • My fantastica family by Jacqueline Jules
    • Octo-man and the headless monster by Jane Kelley
    • Overboard by Terry Lynn Johnson
    • Piper Green and the fairy tree by Ellen Potter
    • Piper Morgan to the rescue by Stephanie Faris (N/A)
    • Princess Pistachio and Maurice the magnificent by Marie-Louise Gay
    • Rock star by Kelly Lyons (reviewed, to post)
    • Shai and Emmie star in break an egg by Quvenzhane Wallis
    • Sprout Street Neighbors: Bon Voyage by Anna Alter
    • Ugly cat and Pablo by Isabel Quintero
    • Under-the-bed Fred by Linda Bailey (reviewed, to post)
    • Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors
    • Who gives a hoot? by Jacqueline Kelly
    • You're amazing Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
    • Yours sincerely, giraffe by Megumi Iwasa
  • Fantasy
  • Mystery
    • Ada Lace on the case by Emily Calandrelli
    • Ada Lace sees red by Emily Calandrelli
    • Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema (N/A)
    • Christmas in Cooperstown by David Kelly
    • Curious McCarthy's power of observation by Tory Christie
    • Dark shadows by Doreen Cronin
    • Inspector Flytrap in the goat who chewed too much by Tom Angleberger
    • Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The case of the poached egg by Robin Newman
  • TV tie-ins and other titles
    • Alvin and the superheroes by Lauren Forte
    • Being Bree: Bree and the nametag worries by Christine Laforet
    • Best videogame ever by Lauren Forte
    • Boss Baby junior novelization by Tracey West
    • Cars origin: Storm chasing by Dave Keane
    • Cars origin: Struck by lightning by Dave Keane
    • Elsie Jones and the book pirates by Sean McBride
    • Enchanted snow globe collection by Melissa Stoller
    • How to be a boss by Tina Gallo
    • Jaden Toussaint the greatest episode 4: attack of the swamp thing by Marti Dumas
    • Jeremy's emotions by Tolga Yazar
    • Mystery of the Min Min lights by Janelle Diller
    • Raccoon rescue by Christa Miller
    • Sienna the cowgirl fairy by Alayne Kay Christian
    • Very best Christmas tree ever by Mark Edgar Stephens

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hedy's Journey: The true story of a Hungarian girl fleeing the Holocaust by Michelle Bisson, illustrated by El primo Ramon

Hedy doesn't think she's brave - she only knows that she must escape. It's 1941 and Hedy's cousin, Marika, has just been deported from Hungary. They know she will most likely die. Even though they are Hungarian, not Polish, Hedy's family knows this is their last chance to get out, but they will have to split up. Hedy's mother and younger brother Robert travel together and her father makes his way alone. Hedy must travel across Europe on her own. When she finally makes it to Barcelona, she is reunited with her family, but their journey is not yet over. It will be many long weeks and frightening moments before they finally arrive in the United States and are once again free.

The back matter in the book includes a timeline of World War II that is matched with the experiences of Hedy's family. It also includes an author's note. Bisson tells the rest of Hedy's story - which includes her own. When Bisson was in sixth grade she learned about the Holocaust and, horrified, asked her mother if it was true. This is the story her mother told her, of her own flight from the Nazis. Bisson was raised to value justice and freedom for all and speaks about how her mother fought against racial injustice in the United States. She pays tribute to those who died, including her mother's cousin Marika. Photographs of her family, a glossary, and further reading is included.

This is a gentle introduction to younger readers of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Bisson speaks matter-of-factly about the death and persecution endured by the Jews and others, about those who died in concentration camps and on the dangerous journey. There are not graphic descriptions of atrocities and the soft pastel browns, pinks, and grays of the illustrations make the story feel realistic and yet not too frightening.

Verdict: For parents looking for a way to introduce their children to the Holocaust and to teach them about difficult subjects, this is a good choice. It emphasizes the people who helped, the good along with the bad, and while it is a true story and doesn't shy away from the facts it isn't all bleak, leaving space for Hedy and her friends to have brief happy moments and hope for the future. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781515769941; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 25, 2017

This week at the library; or, Holidays

What's happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Department head meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • closed
  • Friday
    • closed
  • Saturday
My associate ran Lego Club for me - only 12 people - so I could work on the calendar and schedule for next year. Of course I got a million interruptions, but I did get January done! I only worked 3 hours on Wednesday and spent most of it painting stuff and placing holds for school requests. My turn to work Saturday, it was busy.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Splash by Kallie George, illustrated by Genevieve Cote

It's been a while since I've reviewed or mentioned George's Tiny Tails series. Only three titles were written for the series and while they were very popular when I used them in book club I took a break before introducing them to a new group of readers. I last reviewed Flare in 2014 and didn't realize that I'd never reviewed - or even read - the last book, Splash! However, I think it's been long enough that I can use them in book club again so I decided to enjoy the last title.

Splash is a little sea serpent with a not-so-little problem; no matter how hard she tries, she just can't keep her tail from, well, splashing! Her wise old grandfather, Grampy, tries to teach her the ways of sea serpent swimming, from looking like a shadow to being still as a log, but no matter how hard Splash tries, her tail just won't cooperate. When a boat comes along and the sea serpents are in danger, will Splash's splash give them away?

This sweet little story teaches a lesson about self-control in a gentle way. When it really matters, Splash's practice in keeping still, even if it didn't work so well earlier, pays off and she is able to stay hidden. But her family is also lovingly supportive of her splashy ways and Grampy shows her a safe place where she can splash to her heart's content.

Cote's illustrations really make this series - this book is done in shades of green and blue, just right for a sweet little sea serpent. Splashy blue watercolors show the foam and droplets tossed up by Splash's eager little tail and she bunches and tumbles across the ocean and the page just like an eager little toddler.

We include these titles in our upper level easy readers; the text is bold and a larger font but more complex and includes more vocabulary than a typical easy reader. I would put these with other beginning chapter/easy reader blends like the Branches titles, Poppy the Pirate Dog, Bramble and Maggie, and King and Kayla.

Verdict: It's too bad George didn't write any more of these sweet tales - it's not often I find fantasy at this low a level and the cute pictures and sweet story are very appealing to many beginning readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781927018774; Published 2015 by Simply Read; Purchased for the library

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Adventurer's Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

I meant to read this earlier and use it as a fantasy pick for my Book Explosion meeting in October, but I didn't get around to it until November. So now it's an adventure pick for November! Which it fits perfectly.

In a medieval fantasy/post-apocalyptic world, Zed Kagari knows his only chance of a different life is to be chosen for a good guild. Being half-elven and with a mother in the servants guild, he's been overlooked and persecuted for most of his life. Even his best friend, Brock Dunderfel, who is assured of a good place in the Merchants Guild with his family, feels a need to constantly protect Zed. After a run-in with a noble's son, Micah, and an encounter with a mysterious fortune-teller, the big day arrives. Along with some shocks for all.

Now Zed, Brock, Liza (Micah's noble sister) and Jett (Zed's friend and a dwarf) are apprentices in the most notorious and potentially deadly guild in the city. They'll be venturing outside the walls, going up against the monstrous Dangers, and working for the strange and crude guild leader, Frond. But first they'll have to survive their initiation and a deadly conspiracy that could destroy not only the Adventurers Guild and the small group of friends, but the whole city.

This is definitely the first book in a series as it ends on a major cliffhanger; after Zed and his friends defeat a horrible and traitorous enemy, they're clearly not going to have much time before they're plunged into the next conflict. The world building is fast and furious, slapping together a picture of a medieval, feudalistic society with horrendous monsters and a lot of class and race prejudice that's based both on history as well as culture. The viewpoint jumps back and forth from Zed and Brock, although Brock is more clearly fleshed out, along with some input from Liza. Zed is clumsy, shy, and a little naive. He desperately wants to be accepted and safe, to have meaning in his life and do something important. Ultimately, he wants a family to accept him. Brock is a more complex character. He's accepted his privilege while recognizing that not everyone has the same life he does. He's often patronizing in his care of Zed and torn between his need to take care of Zed and his other friends and the demands made on him by his family and the Merchants Guild. Brock has a lot of pride and uses his words like a weapon - it's hard for him to accept that his guild might be lying to him and that he may have made the wrong choices.

Liza is a fascinating, although somewhat stereotyped character and I hope she will be given a more central role in later books. Unlike the others, she chose to join the Adventurers Guild, looking for a life outside her stifled existence as a noble's daughter and knowing the knights guild refuses to let women fight. She's a natural leader and, even more important, is able to be flexible and examine her own motives and beliefs, recognizing when she's made a mistake or is prejudiced against others.

The plot moves at a rapid pace, leaving readers little time to get acquainted with the more subtle emotions and characters in the book and frankly that's why I like middle grade rather than young adult literature! While the book could have dwelt on Jett's injury and the feelings and impact of various tragedies, there isn't time - there's another crisis, another monster, another conspiracy awaiting readers. In some ways, it reminded me of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series with the main characters having to deal with their lives not going the way they expect and discovering secrets and political intrigue as well as magic. It's a darker story, certainly, with some terrifying monsters (Dangers) and no promise of a happy ending any time soon, but readers who want an absorbing fantasy are sure to fall for this one.

Verdict: Readers who like fast-paced adventure and fantasy will gobble this story up; the only drawback is the major cliff-hanger at the end of the story and how long they'll have to wait for a sequel. I also hope to see more attention given to the female characters like Liza and Frond.  Recommended.

ISBN: 9781484798546; Published October 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Small Readers: I see a cat by Paul Meisel

An exuberant dog sees lots of exciting things out the window. A cat. A bird. A fly. The dog cannot go outside. It waits patiently. Mostly. Squirrels have to be barked at no matter what.

When the dog's owner, a stocky, dark-skinned little boy returns home, the dog is overjoyed and soon it is outside. Now it can chase the squirrel!

Meisel's humorous art is a nice match for the simple, level A text. Emergent readers will enjoy the humor as they practice their reading skills and may even recognize some familiar dog behavior.

Verdict: Meisel does an excellent emergent reader and this is a good addition to his series of dog-themed easy readers. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780823436804; Published 2017 by Holiday House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Peep and Egg: I'm NOT taking a bath by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joyce Wan

Sisters Peep and Egg are back and Egg is just as determined to stay away from new experiences as Peep is to make her enjoy them!

In their latest adventure, Egg has been playing with the pigs - with the result that she needs a bath! At least, that's what Peep thinks. Egg absolutely does not agree. Too wet, too bubbly, too splashy, there's something wrong with everything Peep suggests! Finally Peep gives up and takes off with her friends. But what are they up to? Maybe, just maybe, Egg will take a bath after all!

Joyce Wan is the queen of adorable and this latest book is no exception. The two plump little chicks, worried Egg and sweet Peep coming up with suggestions for Egg's bath are just adorable. Reluctant bathers and siblings will giggle at the silly story and parents will sigh over the cute toys and cuddly animals.

Verdict: Adorable fun for a bath-themed storytime and just the thing for a "never want to take a bath" toddler!

ISBN: 9780374303273; Published 2017 by Farrar Straus Giroux; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, November 20, 2017

Where the Buffalo Roam: Bison in America by Kate Waters

I don't usually purchase level 4 readers and when I do they go into juvenile, not into easy readers. However, I was interested to see this title on the history of buffalo and sometimes these titles, especially nonfiction, find an audience in my intermediate readers.

Brisk paragraphs, not full-page, but several sentences each, are alternated with photographs and primary source pictures like cave paintings. The book explains the habitat and behavior of bison, their predators and food, their family units and interesting behaviors like wallowing. There is a chapter devoted to the bison's role in history, including their use by Native American tribes. These are not delineated specifically, just referenced as "American Indians". Brief mention is made of the white settler's and US governments destruction of the bison herds in order to take the Native American tribe's lands. The final chapter addresses how conservation groups restored the bison and mentions that some American Indian Nation tribes manage bison herds on their land. A glossary is included but no sources are listed. The reading information at the front includes comprehension questions useful in a classroom or learning situation.

Verdict: This is a nice, basic resource for fluent, intermediate readers to learn both about the bison as an animal and a little basic US history. A good additional resource if you are expanding this area of your collection.

ISBN: 9780515159004; Published 2017 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This week at the library; or, Meetings and more meetings

What's happening
Another crazy week! Our last visit from Pearl - she takes the winter off, so we'll see her sweet fluffiness back in the spring. Our big holiday craft extravaganza was a huge hit - but there were some unexpected snags. Some we couldn't do anything about (mix-ups with the room booking, staff getting sick) and others I plan to alleviate next year - better marketing and signage, more staff, especially for the transition. Everything was covered in glitter. I spent most of Wednesday working on stuff for life-size candyland. My Thursday book club readers are a small but enthusiastic group. 5 is actually a perfect number, as they all fit around the table. They want to help make an unboxing video and I have promised we will do so as soon as I get new books next year. I interviewed some potential interns (for working with the teens) and attended a community meeting set up by the adult services staff to discuss our plans for a new service/program venture, a sort of social/activities group for older teens and adults in group homes and with developmental disabilities. I think it's going to be a pretty cool thing.

Book Explosion Picks (adventure)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

This book features a corgi and a guinea pig. It was clearly written FOR ME. Pause for dying over the cuteness.

So. The book is told in two voices. The first is Gizmo, the evil-genius guinea pig whose loyal human servant, Elliot, has abandoned him to a terrifying creature - the human girl Jasmine! Who dresses him up and carries him in her pocket! The second narrator is Wedgie, superhero corgi and all-around nice guy whose most exciting thing to do is find things to eat, go on walks, and play with his humans. Wedgie is thrilled that there are new humans to play with! Gizmo is Not Pleased. Neither is Elliot, who wanted it to stay just him, his dad, and Gizmo. Instead, he's gotten a new little sister and brother, a stepmother, annoying dog, lost his pet guinea pig (Jasmine is taking care of Gizmo while they get him a new cage) and Jasmine's Abuela is from Peru - will she, possibly, EAT GIZMO??!!

Gizmo's humorous and villainous voice is matched by Wedgie's raucous enthusiasm and both are interspersed with dialogue between the family members. By the end of the story, readers will have laughed themselves silly and also gotten to grow alongside Jasmine and Elliot who both learn to compromise a little as they blend their families. Not Gizmo though. Gizmo never compromises! Well, maybe for a few new Loyal Human Servants, as long as The Elderly One is not planning to cook him!

The glimpses of the family, seen both in humorous black and white art and through the eyes of their pets, show a mixed-race family with a variety of skin tones as well as their own unique personalities. The parents are loving but a little distracted and kids will thoroughly enjoy being the ones "in the know" as they follow along with the silly story.

Verdict: Be prepared for kids to threaten each other with "the dreaded Biju Ting Ting Scalp Massager", laugh hilariously at the "pool of a thousand pees" and name all future guinea pigs furry potatoes. Also, beware the sequel when Gizmo returns with a new, villainous plan!

ISBN: 9780062447630; Published 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pickle: The (formerly) anonymous prank club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker

I read this for my new book club, Book Explosion. I'd never read it and only booktalked it rarely, but it popped up on my radar when I was looking for funny books and my teen aides said they'd seen a lot of kids reading it back in grade school and middle school. So, I thought I'd try it out!

Ben thinks it's amazing when he acquires a whole room's worth of ballpit balls. His parents aren't so pleased and he has to get rid of them - fast. In a sudden burst of inspiration, he fills his homeroom with them and The League of Pickle Makers is born. He teams up with some other kids to have some fun and play pranks (and make pickles, since they do need a good cover). But of course things just can't be that easy. Sometimes it feels like aggressive Bean and new girl Sienna are trying to take over his club. He feels guilty for leaving out his former best friend Hector, but Hector tattled to his grandmother, the principal, one too many times - and about something Ben didn't even do! Then there all the hours Ben's parents are making him put in at their restaurant and you just know something is going to go wrong.

And it does, at the worst possible moment. Ben has just successfully gotten the principal to pass his club's dish of escabeche as authentic pioneer fare (and a pickling entry) pointing out that even though all the textbooks and history books only show white people, people like him and a lot of his classmates were there too. Then Sienna, angry that her father has fallen through on his promise to come visit, ruins everything with a mean prank that backfires spectacularly. Next thing they know, Ben throws up on their fair entry, the principal has canceled ALL extracurricular activities, including sports, and everyone is angry at, well, everyone. Can Ben fix things? Is The League of Pickle Makers gone forever? And can he ever trust Hector again?

I have to admit I'm really not a fan of pranks in general. This comes from growing up cleaning things - while the students are laughing about a ketchup battle, I'm thinking about how long it's going to take me to scrub all the ketchup off the dining hall floor and tables and refill the bottles. However, this book wasn't so bad. While it's never blatantly in your face about it, there are several pointed remarks about how much work the club's hijinks make for the janitor and Ben is constantly anxious that all the pranks be funny, not mean or hurt anyone. Diversity is also a theme that runs through the book, pitting the out-of-touch principal against her more diverse students who don't see a reflection of themselves in the school's beloved Pioneer Fair. And it was quite funny.

Verdict: I can see why this has been a popular book for many years in our library; I recently weeded it due to condition and definitely will be replacing it with a new copy. I didn't get any of my book club kids to check it out, but they weren't quite the right audience for it - it definitely has kid appeal and some talking points too that make it a good choice.

ISBN: 9781596437654; Published 2012 by Roaring Brook Press; Purchased (a long time ago) for the library; Replacement copy to be ordered

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Small Readers: What is chasing duck? and There's a pest in the garden by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas' silly picture books have been staples of storytime and recommendations for beginning readers for a long time; now she's branching out to write specific easy readers in a new series called "The Giggle Gang." I approve. My readers approve.

The hapless duck reappears in There's a pest in the gardenSomething is eating everything in the garden! There go the beans, what will he eat next? Corn! Poor sheep. The pest has eaten all the corn, her favorite! What will he eat next? Peas! Luckily, donkey does not like peas. What's this? Duck has an idea? But why is duck diving into the ground and what is his plan? Uh-oh. Maybe there's more than one pest in this garden!

Duck is up for more adventures in What is chasing duck? All Duck can say is "quack!" but his friends know it means something big, hairy, and with giant teeth is after them! Will they all run or will Dog convince them to stand and face up to what's after them? Phew, luckily it's just a squirrel - and he's brought a turnip that Duck dropped! Uh-oh. Squirrel has dropped her acorn. Now, what's chasing squirrel??

The text is bold and simple, but would fit for a beginning, rather than emergent, reader as they will need to decode various punctuation and some more complex words. However, all ages can enjoy this ridiculous stories that are good for lots of giggles. Thomas' trademark illustrations offer plenty of humor to accompany the deadpan text and fans are sure to snap these off the shelf along with Elephant and Piggie and Salina Yoon's Duck, Duck, Porcupine.

Verdict: I'm buying these as fast as they come out and they're flying off the shelves. A great addition to the popular toon genre for easy readers and sure to delight young fans of Jan Thomas.

What is chasing duck?
ISBN: 9780544939073

There's a pest in the garden!
ISBN: 9780544941656

Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pick a pine tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis

I rarely review holiday books - they circulate only once a year and for Christmas books especially I have a superfluity. However, I will make an exception for an illustrator I really like - like Jarvis!

The cover has splashes of pine tree green against the white snow, and a sparkling red ribbon making the book look like a gift. The end papers are decorated with sparkling white snowflakes against a blue background. Simple, brisk rhymes tell the story of a biracial family choosing and decorating a pine tree. After a joyful meeting of friends and family and an explosion of decor, the tree shines forth in all its glory as a Christmas tree.

Jarvis' bright splashes of color really make this festive book. One page shows the glowing yellow light of an open door and lights against the cold blue of a winter night. Purple and silver tinsel sparks against the warm yellow walls, glowing against many different skin colors as the children and their friends happily deck the tree. A final spread is flipped vertically to make room for the glory of the decorated tree and the admiring decorates, including a dog and cat, sitting around it.

Verdict: The text is short and brisk enough to appeal to small children and Jarvis' bright, cheerful illustrations will make this a cozy book for the whole family to enjoy while preparing for decorating a Christmas tree. Sure to be a hit in my Christmas-themed town!

ISBN: 9780763695712; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the the library


Monday, November 13, 2017

Girls who code: Learn to code and change the world by Reshma Saujani, Sarah Hutt, and Jeff Stern; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Coding is a big buzzword in library circles right now. Week of code, coding programs for kids, etc. I've not much interest in the subject personally - I enjoyed logic courses long ago in my own high school studies and I'm willing to fiddle around with software until it does what it wants, but my general attitude towards technology is that I ignore it until I actually need something. Which is why I have a very, very old-style phone and two e-readers. Priorities!

I have a similar attitude towards my library programming. I've never been in favor of simply doing programs because they're the "in" thing. I look at our community, what's already offered by the schools, what resources people have and what they lack, and what the kids are interested in. In this case, I don't do much with coding or technology, especially not anything "educational." Our schools have extensive technology and maker lab equipment, far superior to anything I can put together, and with more qualified educators. Our middle school and high school also have robotics clubs, coding clubs, and there are nearby Girls Who Code clubs as well. A large number of members of the clubs, especially in middle school, are girls. So, I don't feel a need to recreate what another group is already doing well. What I DO want to do, is support the schools and their students in their interests. Which is why I bought this book!

Saujani beings by some of her own story, about how she got interested in coding, and some statistics about the barriers faced by girls going into coding. She explains why she wanted to found Girls Who Code and some of the cool things members have done. Then the book moves into the actual coding. The interesting thing is that this is not, per say, a "how to" book, although it does include activities and projects. It's more an explanation of how coding works, the logic and reasoning behind it, and how to get your mind into the right mindset to not be scared or unwilling to try coding. Saujani also talks a lot about working through problems and figuring out how to deal with bugs and roadblocks when coding as well as working with friends and choosing projects.

The book includes lots of interviews with real-life girls talking about the projects they've coded and brief biographies of famous women involved with coding and computers. There are also comic sections sprinkled throughout the book. Back matter includes a glossary and index. The book itself includes extensive references to websites and resources for young students to explore.

Verdict: This is a great introduction to coding as well as an encouragement to girls who feel daunted or scared of trying something new. It's explanations are simple and the narrative aspect of it will attract readers who think they "don't like math" or science. I've purchased one copy and it's checked out quite regularly, both to my girls who already code and those interested in starting, and I strongly recommend that all libraries have a copy for reference, whether or not you offer coding programs.

ISBN: 9780425287538; Published 2017 by Viking; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library