Sunday, February 25, 2018

RA RA READ: Warriors Read-Alikes

Popular animal fantasy series have come and gone, but Warriors remains forever. The key elements of this fantasy series seems to be animals, a complicated story with endless characters and groupings, and lots of adventure and drama. There's not a lot of requests for read-alikes, since you can pretty much read the Warriors until the end of time, but occasionally a really voracious reader will actually manage to make it through all of them and want something else similar.

The Warriors
Erin Hunter is actually a group of several writers, which explains why they are able to turn out so many books. I love blowing kids' minds with this information. There are multiple series within the Warriors series and they generally have six books in each arc. The series include:
  • The Warriors
  • New Prophecy
  • Omen of the Stars
  • Power of Three
  • Dawn of the clans
  • Vision of shadows
There are also a number of stand-alone super editions, a slew of graphic novels (most of these are stand-alones or trilogies) and various companion volumes.

Additional animal series by Erin Hunter

  • Seekers (bears)
  • Survivors (dogs)
  • Bravelands (African animals)

The second big author who's really into the "epic quests with animals" is Kathryn Lasky. Being only one person, she's not as prolific as the six authors that comprise Erin Hunter. Her series start with Guardians of Ga'Hoole, which features owls. There are 15 books, a prequel, and a movie, which had really poor reviews and passed rapidly into obscurity. More popular than the Guardians series is her Wolves of the Beyond which is complete with six books. Her newest series is Horses of the Dawn.

For readers looking for more fantasy in their epic animal quests, Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire features a complex fantasy world where all the protagonists are dragons. This appeals to a wide range of kids, not just Warriors fans. The series has also branched out into a secondary series, Wings of Fire: Legends, and as of 2018 at least one graphic novel. Sutherland also has a more traditional fantasy series, The Menagerie, which features magical creatures although humans are the main protagonists. (as an interesting side note, Sutherland is one of the Erin Hunter writers)

Readers who are really voracious and can handle longer and heftier books will enjoy the classic animal adventure series Redwall by Brian Jacques. These are shelved in the teen area, due mainly to length not content. They are challenging reads because every animal has a different (British) accent or dialect and they are, to put it mildly, wordy. They feature a wide cast of different animals and their adventures all over their medieval-like fantasy world. They do make awesome audiobooks, for kids who can't handle that difficulty of reading level. They were originally written as radio broadcasts for a school for the blind, which is why they're so heavy on description.

Other titles that may appeal to Warriors fans:
  • Shark Wars series by E. J. Altbacker (I bill this as Warriors...but with BLOOD)
  • Poppy and Friends series by Avi (more cozy)
  • Tygrine Cat by Inbali Iserles (we only have the first title in this series. another interesting note is that Iserles is another Erin Hunter author)
  • Highway Cats by Janet Lisle
  • Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (features bats, but is longer and more YA and not really popular)
  • Varjak Paw by SF Said
  • Nurk by Ursula Vernon (more quirky and humorous)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

This week at the library; or,

New cage set-up - inside a giant aquarium
Happening this week
I had a small but very, very, energetic group for Mad Scientists Club. We split the program room and brought in a teen parents group, so those kids plus kids of teachers, plus attendees. There was paper everywhere and lots of adorable small children laboring up the ladder to launch their gliding animals (or pieces of paper). We rehomed the gerbils. This was very exciting.

I did a bunch of different outreach this week. On Wednesday I visited the county special education school. Awesome kids, very big group, and this time I had the sense to schedule in some off time - my throat gets very sore b/c it's so loud! Then I visited a kindergarten class I haven't seen for quite a while. Instant gratification, since a lot of them showed up at the library after school the same day! Thursday I visited the three kindergarten classes at a school I almost never visit - they're quite close, but it just... doesn't happen? Anyways, the classes had subs and the kids were thrilled to see me for the first time since 4K and I tried out Library on the Go with the third class and it went really well! I brought a tub of Library on the Go books and bookmarks explaining how it worked and each kid picked an easy reader and a bookmark, I wrote down the barcodes (last 4 numbers of them), and they put them in their cubbies. I still had time to read a couple books!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Heartwood Hotel: Better Together by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Mona Mouse has been through a lot in the first two titles of the Heartwood Hotel series. She's found a new home and friends, helped save the hotel from disaster, and solved exciting mysteries. But now she and the entire hotel are facing a brand-new challenge: Mr. Heartwood is taking a vacation! The staff are anxious to keep the hotel running smoothly in Mr. Heartwood's absence, but more and more obstacles keep falling in their path. Meanwhile, Mona is fighting her own battles as she starts to feel left out by her friend Tilly the squirrel, whose attention is all on her newly-found brother Henry. In fact, Mona starts to feel that everyone's attention is on Henry. Does anyone even need her anymore? She'll have to find all her courage, kindness, and heart when disaster strikes the hotel.

Graegin's art is as cozy and adorable as ever, with delicate drawings of anxious robin parents and their egg, arguing frog and raccoon bands, and the squabbling fireflies and bees. Mona is still her own sweet self, but her bad case of the grumps, brought on by her worries over her place in Heartwood Hotel, are shown in her anxious face and miserable arguments with Tilly.

There aren't many of this type of cozy story anymore, but I have a ready audience for them at my library. There are no flashy magic spells, exciting acts of courage, or sudden revelations, but Mona's quiet little world is very appealing to readers who like cozy, comforting stories. Her daily trials and tribulations as she struggles to fit into her small world, as well as the adorable miniature art pieces that fill the book, are relatable to many of my small patrons. They are a little challenging for beginning chapter readers who aren't yet fluent, but dearly loved by younger readers with a high degree of fluency and vocabulary who aren't yet ready for more mature middle grade titles.

Verdict: I have several readers eagerly awaiting the latest in this series and I strongly recommend it as an addition to any library collection that is trying to meet the needs of this community of readers.

ISBN: 9781484746400; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The epic crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

I read a teen book! Yes! Me! It was pretty awesome.

Genie has a lot of anger inside. She's angry about her unambitious father and his failing business, about her parents' separation, about her mother's pressure to succeed, about how she's going to make it into a decent college and get out of town. But nothing makes her angrier than seeing another kid getting beat up by a bunch of grown men and the next thing she knows the most annoying, weird teen ever is following her around.

The last thing Genie expected is for Quentin to claim to be Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from Chinese mythology. She also didn't expect him to claim her as his ancient and powerful weapon. Now Genie's REALLY angry. Fortunately, there's a whole horde of demons in her way and she's got friends to defend - and Harvard admissions committees to impress.

Genie made me think immediately of Buffy, but, in my opinion at least, she's a whole lot better. No angsty mooning over boys or uncertainty with how to deal with annoying goddesses and mythical heroes hitting on her - Genie's got a solution for that and it involves her fists and some heavenly beat-downs. She does have a softer side, and her worry and confusion over being just a weapon and not a human being are beautifully written without detracting from the adventure and action of the story. Genie's snarky personality hides some inner vulnerability and her musings on her Chinese-American culture, both the parts she loves and the parts she hates, and her struggles to find a way to protect her friends and family and fulfill her "destiny" while still finding her own independence will immediately appeal to readers who have the same dilemma, but on a less world-ending scale!

Verdict: This is sure to appeal to any Buffy fans amongst your teenage readers, but I personally haven't met any in years. I'd hand this to middle school students who love Harry Potter, especially Hermione fans. There's some romance and mild language, but nothing too graphic for younger readers. It's empowering wish-fulfillment at its best and one of the most enjoyable fantasies I've read in quite a while.

ISBN: 9781419725487; Published August 2017 by Amulet/ABRAMS; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light

Light steps away from his familiar, intricate style to produce a bold new board book. A sharply defined black bird stands against bold backgrounds of splashy color; a yellow sun, purple grapes, green grass, and pink flowers. Each background is sponge-painted, with thick, luscious texture. Hidden in each spread is a little orange worm, accompany Black Bird as she discovers the many colors that can be seen throughout the day, from the blazing yellow of the newly risen sun to the quiet blue of the moon against a darker blue sky.

The bold, brief text names the bird and the color in each page and nothing more, but the pictures open up older readers to speculation on a possible story. Why is the bird accompanied by the worm? Is she not hungry? Are they friends? Babies can also appreciate the bold contrasting colors and practice pointing and turning pages as they view each new color and shape.

The book itself is a medium-sized square, about 7x7 inches. It's a thinner cardboard than some board books, but without any additional moving parts should be sturdy enough for many small hands (and mouths) to enjoy it.

Verdict: This departure from Light's usual artistic style will be a welcome addition to board book collections, especially for the youngest of listeners. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763690670; Published March 2018 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lola Dutch by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

An exuberant and imaginative character springs to life in this debut picture book from a husband and wife team. Lola Dutch is, as her animal friends often say, “a little bit much.” She begins the day sliding down the banister of her Parisian-style apartment house, then creating a magnificent (and messy) breakfast. The next project for the day is a trip to the library, resulting in towers of books about inventors and artists which, of course, leads to some great art. After all this fun, Lola still has ideas but Bear is firm. It’s time for bed! But first there have to be bubble baths, bedtime stories, and a majestic bed fort. But maybe sometimes simpler is better? Finally, Lola is tucked into her own gilt bed, in her pink room, with Bear to tuck her in and say goodnight.

The story is illustrated in soft pastels and watercolors with many homages to famous artists and authors. In her imagination Lola travels through a papercut landscape of Matisse, crosses a bridge over a Monet lily pond, and she and her friends create magnificent portraits in the style of Klimt, van Gogh, and Picasso, among others. The book itself is a creative adventure, with a dollhouse printed on the back of the jacket and paper dolls to cut out and play with.

This was fun and exuberant. Fancy Nancy fans are sure to enjoy it, as well as Eloise aficionados. The things is, it’s awfully similar to Eloise. Lola lives in a mansion, accompanied only by Bear, Gator, Crane, and Pig. They are too subservient to her whims to be family, and Bear especially seems to act much like a combined butler and nanny. All of the books they see at the library are older classics, scientists, and artists, nearly all male. Some of the names include Da Vinci, Bell, Edison, Morse, Dickens, Bronte, and Austen, and the main artists are Matisse and Monet.

It’s a cute book. But do we really need another book about a privileged white girl who gets to explore her dreams and artistic interests with no curbs or barriers? I’d argue that we don’t. Fancy Nancy is, I think, popular precisely because it features an everyday little girl making the most of what she has - Fancy Nancy can make even a motel visit into something special. Crafty Chloe makes things with her own two hands - she doesn’t need an artists’ studio, professional tools, and a mansion setting to let her creativity free.

Verdict: Is this cute? Yes. The pictures are adorable, the additional activities fun, and the cheerful text attractive. Will kids check it out? Sure. Will it be memorable? I doubt it. It’s time we saw more girls of different races exploring their creativity - and took it out of the city mansion setting. An additional purchase at most.

ISBN: 9781681195513; Published 2018 by Bloomsbury; Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker

Walker sets the scene for this horrific maritime disaster by walking readers through the history of transport - and steamboats - on the Mississippi river. From this more industrial history, she moves to an overview of the Civil War, focuses on several soldiers who will be involved in the disaster. These and thousands of other soldiers, released from prison camps in the South, prepare to head home on the doomed steamboat. Walker builds the suspense - and also the evidence - adding quotes, evidence, and introducing more key players. Finally, in the seventh chapter, it all comes to a head with the Sultana’s explosion - and the deaths of thousands of men, as well as other passengers. The aftermath is shown through survivor’s accounts, the experiences of rescuers, and what little is known of the investigation at the time. Finally, the verdict is reached - and no one is held responsible for the disaster, clearly due to a combination of bribery, greed, incompetence, and sheer bad luck.

Walker lists the prevailing theories of the time, later evidence, and the fates of those few who left accounts and whose names were known. A final author’s note discusses Walker’s investigation the story and the societies which keep the tale of the Sultana alive. There is also a glossary, bibliography, and index. The advance review copy I saw did not include all the art, but the final edition includes multiple maps, drawings, and photographs.

This account steps outside the usual fare of battles and major players to illuminate bribery and corruption - and the tragic results for everyday soldiers and their families. Walker also talks about the rescue efforts and humanity of local families who helped the survivors, many of whom had recently been their enemies.

Verdict: As I continue to update the 900s, I look not only for broad overviews but for titles that show new perspectives and different views of past conflicts. This is a good example of that, showing the effects of war on ordinary soldiers and families, as well as discussing the causes and aftermath of a preventable disaster. A well-written and interesting look not only at a little-known disaster but also at the history of steamboats and the mid-south area.

ISBN: 9780763677558; Published October 10 by Candlewick; Galley provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Putting my money where my mouth is: Other Awards


There are other awards, which are not Cybils or ALA. Hard to believe I know, but they do exist! I have a sort of random selection of awards that I've found work well in our library. I had a beautiful, comprehensive list of them.... which I lost. So I had to recreate it. There are a lot more, especially in the teen realm, but I don't really use those much.

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf.

Edgar Award (juvenile nominations)

  • Audacity Jones steals the show by Kirby Larson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Vanished by James Ponti (P)
  • Assassin's curse by Kevin Sands
    • Available in the consortium
  • First class murder by Robin Stevens
  • Newsprints by Xu Ru (P) (R)
CLEL Bell Awards
  • Library book by Tom Chapin (R)
    • Available in the consortium
  • Little plane learns to write by Stephen Savage (P)
  • Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet (P)
  • Motor Goose by Rebecca Colby (P) (R)
  • Things to do with dad by Sam Zuppardi
Gryphon Award
  • Hidden life of a toad by Doug Wechsler (P)
  • Honor Books
    • Dog on a frog by Kes Gray (P) (R)
    • King Flashypants and the evil emperor by Andy Riley
      • Available in the consortium
    • Sam the man and the rutabaga plan by Frances O'Roark Dowell
      • Available in the consortium
Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award
  • Deadly flowers by Sarah L. Thomson (P)
Jane Addams Children's Book Award
  • Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Sachiko by Caren Stelson (P)
  • Honor Books
    • First step by Susan Goodman (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • I Dissent by Debbie Levy (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • We will not be silent by Russell Freedman (P)
    • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
      • Available in the consortium
Scott O'Dell Award
  • Beyond the bright sea by Lauren Wolk
    • Received as part of a publisher prize. Added to the library
Charlotte Zolotow Award
  • Different pond by Bao Phi (P) (R)
Ezra Jack Keats Book Award
  • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
    • Available in the consortium
  • Muddy: The story of Blues legend Muddy Waters (illustrator Evan Turk) (R)
    • Available in the consortium

Putting my money where my mouth is: ALA awards 2017


I don't follow awards slavishly; I feel that winning an award and appealing to kids in general and my specific audience in particular are two (three?) different things. Still, it's good to be aware of what's out there and I do get school assignments for award-winning books. We are having a big awards display in March, and since the ALA awards are a large portion of children's awards, it makes sense to focus a post on them. (Note that I have left out most, if not all, of the teen fiction titles - I don't purchase in that area)

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf.

Newbery Medal Winner
  • Hello universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (P)
    • Honors
    • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
      • Available in the consortium
    • Long way down by Jason Reynolds (P)
    • Piecing me together by Renee Watson
      • Available in the consortium
Caldecott Medal Winner
  • Wolf in the snow by Matthew Cordell
    • Honors
    • Big cat, little cat by Elisha Cooper (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • Crown: an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes
      • Available in the consortium
    • Different pond by Bao Phi (P) (R)
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (P)
Sibert Award
  • Twelve days in May by Larry Dane Brimmer (P)
    • Honors
    • Chef Roi Choi and the street food remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (R)
      • Available in the consortium
    • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (P)
    • Not so different by Shane Burcaw (P)
    • Sea otter heroes by Patricia Newman (P)
Geisel Award
Pura Belpre Awards
  • La princesa and the pea by Susan Middleton Elya (P)
  • All around us by Xelena Gonzalez
    • Available in the consortium
  • Frida Kahlo and her animalitos by Monica Brown (R)
    • Available in the consortium
  • Lucky broken girl by Ruth Behar (P)
    • Publisher prize
  • Honors
  • Epic fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (P)
    • Publisher prize
  • First rule of punk by Celia Perez (P)
    • Publisher prize
Schneider Family Book Awards
  • Silent days, silent dreams by Allen Say
    • Available in the consortium
  • Macy McMillan and the rainbow goddess by Shari Green (P)

Putting my money where my mouth is: Cybils Awards 2017

The Awards Hibiscus

I have been involved with Cybils since 2009, specifically in the nonfiction divisions, but also in picture books, graphic novels, and easy readers/early chapters. Cybils is unique in that it is a grassroots award; nominations are public, judges are chosen from a varied group of parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, and educators. The twin criteria are child appeal and literary quality and we also look at diversity. Shortlists are announced on New Year's Day and winners on Valentine's Day.

Books reviewed on my main blog are linked to their review. (P) indicates they were purchased for the library. (R) means it was read and listed on my shorter review blog, Flying Off My Bookshelf. Winners in each category are highlighted. (Final note - as I do not purchase ya fiction, I have not included that category).

Board Books
Early Chapters
Easy Readers
  • What makes a monster by Jess Keating (P)
  • Shark lady by Jess Keating (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Once upon a jungle by Laura Knowles (P) (R)
  • Danza by Duncan Toniatuah (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Hatching chicks in room 6 by Caroline Arnold (P) (R)
  • Adrift at sea by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (R)
    • Available in our consortium
  • Dazzle ships by Chris Barton (R)
    • Available in our consortium
Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
  • Miss Ellicott's School for the magically minded by Sage Blackwood
    • Available in the consortium
  • Countdown conspiracy by Katie Slivensky (P)
  • Dragon with a chocolate heart by Stephanie Burgis (P)
  • Last day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
    • Available in the consortium
  • Face like glass by Frances Hardinge
    • Available in the consortium
  • Spirit hunters by Ellen Oh (P)
  • Properly unhaunted place by William Alexander (P)
Fiction Picture Books
  • After the fall by Dan Santat (P) (R)
  • Book of mistakes by Corinna Luyken (R)
    • Received from a publisher as a prize. Added to the library.
  • Big cat, little cat by Elisha Cooper (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • Escargot by Dashka Slater (R)
  • Creepy pair of underwear by Aaron Reynolds (P) (R)
  • Baabwaa and Wooliam by David Elliott (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon
    • Available in my consortium
Junior High Nonfiction
  • Whydah by Martin Sandler (P)
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team by Steve Sheinkin (P)
  • Motor girls by Sue Macy (P)
  • Poison by Sarah Albee (P)
  • Bound by Ice by Sandra Neil Wallace (P)
  • Isaac the alchemist by Mary Losure
    • Available in the consortium
  • Locked up for freedom by Heather Schwartz
    • Available in the consortium
    • Will purchase later - direct from publisher
Middle Grade Fiction
  • Amina's voice by Hena Khan (P)
  • Armstrong and Charlie by Steven Frank
    • Available in the consortium
  • Insignificant events in the life of a cactus by Dusti Bowling
    • Available in the consortium
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz (P)
  • Epic fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
    • Received from a publisher as a prize. Added to the library.
  • Restart by Gordon Korman (P)
  • Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel
    • Available in my consortium
Middle Grade Nonfiction
Poetry
  • Out of wonder by Kwame Alexander
    • Available in my consortium
  • One last word by Nikki Grimes
    • Available in my consortium
  • Bull by David Elliott
    • Available in my consortium
  • Fresh-picked poetry by Michelle Schaub (R)
    • Available in my consortium
  • I'm just no good at rhyming by Chris Harris (P)
  • Miguel's brave knight by Margarita Engle
    • Available in my consortium
  • Keep a pocket in your poem by J. Patrick Lewis (R)
    • Available in my consortium
Senior High Nonfiction
  • Uprooted: The Japanese American experience in World War II by Albert Marrin (P)
  • Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
    • Available in my consortium
  • Dog in the cave by Kay Frydenborg (P)
  • Alice Paul and the fight for women's rights by Deborah Kops (P)
  • How dare the sun rise: Memoirs of a war child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana (P)
  • Queer, there, and everywhere by Sarah Prager (P)
  • March against fear by Ann Bausum (P)
Young Adult Graphic Novels
  • Spinning by Tillie Walden (P)
  • Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
    • Available in my consortium
  • Soupy leaves home by Cecil Castellucci
    • Available in my consortium
  • New Super-Man Vol. 1: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang (P)
  • Buddha: An enlightened life by Kieron Moore
    • Available in my consortium
  • Tyson Hesse's Diesel: Ignition (P)