Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Is it warm enough for ice cream? by Violet Peto, illustrated by Victoria Palastanga

This mix of photographs and art is a nice introduction to the seasons for small children. Despite the obvious inaccuracy of the title (it's ALWAYS warm enough for ice cream, sometimes you just need more sweaters on beforehand) it presents lots of familiar signs of seasons in the midwest.

It starts in fall, showing tractors, apples, leaves changing colors, and cloudy weather. "Is it warm enough for ice cream?" nope, it's time for windy day activities. In winter it snows, animals hide, and it's far too cold for ice cream. It's time to play in the snow and drink hot chocolate. In spring the animals have babies, the flowers blossom, but it's still not ice cream time. It's time to play outdoors and enjoy the rain and garden. Finally, summer arrives. Everything is warming up, the insects and animals are out, and it's time for lots of summer treats like ice cream!

The book is a large, sturdy square with one spread showing different outdoor aspects of the season and the following spread showing how children interact with the season. A mixture of skin colors and races is shown. This is very definitely set in the midwest or a similar climate with four very clearly-defined seasons. This is perfect for my area, where tractors and apple picking are a recognized sign of fall and there's always snow at some point, even if (thanks to climate change) it shows up at weird times and unpredictable depths. The art is a little blah, but mixed with the photographs it is quite attractive.

Verdict: If you're in an area with four seasons and looking to add to your board books on this subject, this is a good choice.

ISBN: 9781465449867; Published 2018 by DK; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Many: The diversity of life on earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

I'm really torn about this book, but it's overdue at the library I borrowed it from, so I have to make up my mind!

With simple text but lyrical text, Davies explains the concept of biodiversity. The story begins with one cockroach, then adds a girl, then a bush, and then there are many things in the facing spread. Davies examines elephants and seashells, species identification and classification, food cycles and slight differences in species. This section of the story closes with a rich jungle scene, teaming with life.

The last five spreads strike sobering note in this exploration. Davies explains that biodiversity is shrinking, due to pollution, the destruction of habitats, and other human activities. We see the same jungle scene, this time with fallen trees and only a few living things left. There is a view of a museum exhibit of extinct animals and an opposing view of creatures that still exist, although many are endangered. The final spread shows a last scene with the same opening variety of animals faced by a page that shows only the girl. The text reads, "because we could not keep living on earth if we had to count down instead of up.../from MANY to one."

I like Davies' text, but I truly love Sutton's illustrations. Beginning with elaborate endpapers featuring a wide variety of green pen drawings of various flora and fauna, and moving into the increasingly involved art, Sutton shows the intrepid, red-haired explorer venturing beneath the sea, into the jungle, to hot springs and reefs, the Galapagos and deserts. Along the way we see a huge variety of animals, plants, microbes, bugs, and many other forms of life.

One thing, however, gives me pause. This picture book is directed at one children, but the ending felt very dark to me. I'm not particularly a fan of sugar-coating realities for kids, but I also believe in presenting them with some kind of hope and assurance. The problems shown are far too big for a child to even contemplate solving and that final sentence is frighteningly dark.

Verdict: Every child will react differently to this, but it's one I'd include as part of a unit, with an adult to discuss, not one I'd hand a child alone to read. I do really love the illustrations though.

ISBN: 9780763694838; Published November 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library

Monday, April 23, 2018

Talk, Talk, Squawk! by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

I use Nicola Davies' Animal Science series a lot in book clubs and as recommendations for school projects. They're good choices being small and not daunting to reluctant readers, with funny cartoons and small chunks of text.

This older title, from 2011, is still relevant and will intrigue readers who are interested in animal communication.

Davies compares animal communication to human communication; in "uniforms" and markings, sounds, smells and more. Each type of communication is illustrated with humorous cartoons and simple text. Readers will learn how bright colors signal poison, how fish stay in schools be reading each other's colors, and how birds sing to defend territories, attract mates, and maintain communications. There's also information about sea horses, dolphins, deer, and many, many more.

An index and glossary make up the back matter. While this isn't as complete and scientific an introduction to the subject as, for example, Castaldo's Beastly Brains, it's a great intro for beginners and casual readers. Kids who are studying nonfiction author styles will enjoy learning interesting tidbits and facts and those who like animal trivia will revel in this funny collection of animal facts.

Verdict: A great beginning for learning about animal communication, helping kids narrow down a research topic, or just enjoy a funny, informative book. Worth purchasing even though it's a few years old as the information is still fresh and relevant.

ISBN: 9780763650889; Published 2011 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This week at the library; or, Eric Carle week

My 5th grade homeschool volunteer face paints a
student from the special education school at the
Eric Carle party.
Happening at the library
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Eric Carle party
    • Worked 8:30-4:30
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Sewing Machine Maker Workshop (last of series)
    • Middle School Madness
    • Worked 12-6 (came in early to set up my new laptop, so I wasn't totally working and I wasn't supposed to anyways...)
  • Saturday
    • Worked 10-2
It snowed, rather heavily, over the weekend. I am saving my complaints for how hot it is in summer though! Then it snowed again on Wednesday, but I am truly grateful that the weather delayed until after the big Eric Carle party! We did have a smaller group - maybe 175-200 instead of 250-300, but that's actually closer to what our building can accommodate, so it's all good... You can see pictures from Eric Carle at the library's Facebook page

Professional development
  • WEBINAR: Using Movement for Optimal Development and Early Learning (Early Childhood Investigations - Gill Connell)
    • I really liked Connell's Smart Steps book. I think this could be useful in our early childhood programming, especially Winter Wigglers and other movement-based programs.
  • WEBINAR: Middle-grade reading, Spring 2017 (Booklist)
    • Yes, this is old. I am using these to prep for my pre-summer programs at this point.
  • UWM online course (Anna Palmer): Pop-up libraries
    • This is a two week course, started last week.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

Possibly because of my nonstandard schooling, I never got into the whole Magic School Bus thing. However, I see a lot of nostalgia for it from parents, requests for the original books by teachers, and younger kids who have rediscovered it. So I was definitely interested when Branches offered a tie-in series and it turned out to be quite popular.

Arnold is suffering through yet another day of winter when Ms. Frizzle suggests they take a field trip to somewhere else - like Hawaii! Wanda is disappointed, since she wants to visit the Arctic and save a rare fern, but changes her mind when she finds a cute little fish in the ocean. As Wanda tries to protect the fish, she and her classmates learn about how fish (and friends) can work together.

The black and white illustrations are rather bland - I would venture that only kids who grew up on the movies and original books will recognize each kid, who has a distinctive personality. Ms. Frizzle has apparently straightened her hair, which even I noticed, and the cast is carefully diverse, although, at least in this adventure, the white kids take the main roles. A glossary, dialogue with Ms. Frizzle with additional information, and discussion questions are included at the end of the book.

Honestly, I wasn't particularly impressed with this. I felt that the text was flat and bland, as was the art. The theme of the book wasn't well-defined, which left me wondering why Wanda was trying to "save" a random fish, without even researching its status. The kids are stereotyped and there's a little too much teasing of the characters for their various quirks for my taste.

However, none of this bothers the kids who recognize familiar characters, enjoy the touch of science, and like the nature-themed adventures.

Verdict: If you purchase all the Branches series, I wouldn't leave this one out, but if you can only get a few focus on other, more popular and better-written titles.

ISBN: 9781338194456; Published December 2017 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tyson Hesse's Diesel: Ignition

Diandra "Dee" Diesel lost her adopted father long ago, when the Birdmen kidnapped or killed him. Now she's just counting down the days until she can take over his ship as Captain. There are just a few problems. First, the traveling community ship of Peacetowne already has a captain (and a first mate) and Dee isn't exactly qualified to take over. Second, the birdmen are back. Third, she's lost with no friends or help except her old robot Rick. As Dee travels to the wastelands below the clouds and back up again to the glorious capital city, she will encounter prejudice and injustice, family that isn't as close as she always thought, and come face to face with her own choices.

The art shows a complex and vibrant world, from the beautiful cloud cities to the dark wastelands below. Every protagonist has a different design, although Dee, the Captain, and most of the other women are comic-book skinny. There are bull-like creatures with horns and large, black eyes, a variety of humanoids, and the terrifying bird men, shown as giant, hawk-like creatures with broken English.

Dee is, frankly, not a likable character. She refuses to make any effort to learn or contribute, but wants to take over and run things because it's her adopted father's legacy. But there are a lot of secrets hidden in her father's past - and she resolutely refuses to listen to any suggestions that he might not be the hero she always thought him. She's oblivious to the prejudice and injustice experienced by members of her own adopted family, until she's bludgeoned over the head with it. But readers will gradually see a change as she starts taking responsibility for her own actions, listening to her friends and family, and using her abilities to make a difference. Ultimately, it's refreshing to see a central character, especially a women, who's allowed to be less than perfect, who makes stupid mistakes, and doesn't change overnight to the perfect role model.

Verdict: There isn't a good age range given for this, but I would say it's appropriate for readers who enjoy other fast-paced, action fantasy comics like 5 Worlds or Amulet.

ISBN: 9781608867; Published 2016 by Boom! Studios; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Go Baby! Go Dog! by Anne Vittur Kennedy

This silly board book will make parents smile and babies giggle.

Using the titular words, the baby chases the dog. The baby go, go, goes after the dog, who wakes up and go, go, goes away from the baby. They chase each other for a while until the dog successfully escapes the baby and goes back to her nap... whereupon the baby cries. The dog just can't take a sad baby, and the two end up curling up together for a nap.

Kennedy's cheerful blue and yellow background show up a crawling baby with a head of tousled red hair and a dog who just wants a little rest!

While some adults may be a little worried about babies chasing down a dog and sleeping on her, which is not at all safe dog behavior, most can enjoy the silly flavor of the story and the familiar negotiation between a pet who wants to be left alone and a baby who wants to play!

Verdict: A funny and light-hearted addition to your board book collection. Babies will enjoy finding the dog and baby in each picture while parents can appreciate the humor of the light plot.

ISBN: 9780807529713; Published March 2018 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from another library in our consortium

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Life in the library

Middle schooler: "Why are you always so serious?"
Me, straight face: "Dealing with you has deadened my soul."
Middle schooler: "You came to our school and you were smiling! You looked all excited and happy!"
Me: "That was fake."

Sarcasm is an important communication genre. Also, this middle schooler had been playing weird sound apps on their phone all week.

I am a cat by Galia Bernstein

This clever picture book combines animal classification with a not-so-subtle message about inclusion, all wrapped up in hilariously adorable illustrations.

A plump, small gray cat named Simon happily introduces himself to the other cats. "I am a cat. Just like you!" This elicits some wide-eyed disbelief from the panther, lion, tiger, and other big cats. A cat like them? Ridiculous! The lion has a fearsome roar and a mane; the cheetah is the fastest animal; the tiger is the biggest and strongest of all the cats! Simon points out that they're not alike either, so how can they be cats? The condescending big cats explain that they all have "small, perky ears and flat noses" as well as other things in common. Things that.... wait for it.... Simon has too!

It turns out Simon IS a cat - just a little smaller! So there's no reason they can't play together after all, doing all the things cats love to do.

Clever Simon's lesson to the big cats on looking for similarities, not differences, will hopefully not be lost on young children. It's also a nice lesson on how animals are defined and budding young biologists should be able to apply this to other animal families as well.

The illustrations are wonderful, with sleek, gray, stripy Simon the epitome of self-confidence, even in the face of the big cats' patronizing attitudes and amused golden eyes. The clean lines of the cats, set aside white backgrounds (except the eyes, glowing on black), remove any distraction from the simple storyline.

Verdict: A charming and informative book, perfect for storytime with a wide range of ages. Encourage kids to create their own families of animals with differences and similarities, or even of people, if they're old enough to translate the concept. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781419726439 ; Published February 2018 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, April 16, 2018

Welcome to the museum: Dinosaurium by Chris Wormell and Lily Murray

I've looked at several titles from the Welcome to the Museum series with longing; they're presented as museum exhibits and are masterpieces of information and art, with a "curator" instead of an author. However, I didn't feel that there was enough interest from my patrons in the previous titles to justify the cost - even with my vendor discount they come in at around $20, which is very high for a hardcover with regular binding that might not last through multiple uses.

However, when I heard a dinosaur title was coming out, I knew I had found the perfect fit - I was even more delighted to receive a review copy!

I read the WHOLE THING. I am not particularly a fan of dinosaurs to be honest; it's just not an aspect of science that has ever interested me. However, I made it through and it was really quite fascinating. The book is divided up into "galleries" and each one discusses a different classification of dinosaurs, like theropoda or ornithopoda. There is a final collection of non-dinosaurs, like pterosaurs, marine reptiles, and early mammals, and sections on extinction and survival. The final part of the book is the library, which includes the index, "curators" and bibliography.

The book is oversized and each giant spread includes carefully drawn illustrations of dinosaurs, an introduction to their group, and careful footnotes that are attached to each plate, or illustration. The text is detailed and challenging, so readers who want to not just examine the pictures and general information but read all the details will need to be either really motivated or very strong readers.

Verdict: This book will garner readers at a number of levels; younger readers and those who do not have the ability to read the full text will still enjoy poring over the illustrations and carefully examining each "exhibit." Older, more fluent readers will learn much from the information included (and probably drive their family crazy by repeating it to everyone, but that's life if you have a dinosaur fan!). Well worth the extra money and special shelving needed for the large size, I strongly recommend this title.

ISBN: 9780763699000; Published April 2018 by Big Picture Press; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library