Monday, September 25, 2017

Gravity by Jason Chin

Jason Chin has written a number of picture books on nonfiction concepts. They are characterized by stunning visuals which take the reader into the story and concept and often show a second reader within the story being drawn into another place.

I'm working on expanding my book club choices for my younger readers to include more picture books and chose a title by Jason Chin that we haven't used before - Gravity.

Bold, simple text accompanies lush illustrations to explain the concept of gravity. A small boy, complete with superhero cape and toys, is shown playing on the beach. As gravity disappears, all the toys (including an astronaut figure with brown skin tones) float out to space. Illustrating the different properties of gravity, the toys float past the moon, closer to the sun, and eventually, as gravity is restored, plummet to earth and land in a surprised family's backyard lemonade stand.

Chin's full page illustrations are sometimes divided into panels, showing the different effects gravity has on earth and in space and how it affects everything around us. The final spread includes a variety of illustrated facts about gravity, from the different between mass and weight to how gravity is an attractive force and how it affects the solar system.

A final end page shows the original boy from the opening catching a lemonade pitcher from the sisters' backyard stand.

This would make a great read-aloud, but it also works well for beginning readers to tackle on their own, one of the reasons I chose it for book club. The simple, bold text includes only one or two words per page. My beginning readers can sound these out while following the concept through the picture. An older reader will be needed to read the information in the back, although it's clearly explained for younger children to understand. Chin's humorous take on gravity, showing things floating through the air and then falling to earth, will catch the attention of young listeners and readers and give them a laugh while they learn a new science concept.

Verdict: If you missed this when it was originally published, now is the time to fill in the hole in your collection and purchase it! I'm using it for book club in September 2017 and, once I get the kids past the stigma of picking up a picture book, I think it will be popular.

ISBN: 9781596437173; Published 2014 by Roaring Brook; Purchased for the library

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This week at the library; or, is September over yet?

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Garden to Kitchen with Kids
    • 1st grade field trip
  • Thursday
  • Friday - no programs. YS summer wrap-up meeting
I had a good turnout on Tuesday - about 30 people (even counting some teens who didn't stay long). I borrowed our teen ipad to show some of the instructional videos, which was helpful. The weather has gotten hot so I'm getting some field trips popping over. The first Book Explosion went pretty well - I expect more kids to come and add to the core group, although starting with all girls may make it difficult to get some boys into the mix. I didn't use my regular 1st grade field trip - it was too last-minute. I took one out in the garden with Ms. Pattie and they all got to pick vegetables and the other got a tour of the backroom. I read some funny books to both classes. Friday I hosted our consortium's summer wrap-up meeting (not everyone can make it because we have a lot of small libraries, but we had about 10 people which was pretty good) and I worked the info desk for the afternoon and closing for a colleague. It has been an exhausting week, so I'm thinking about some positive things that have happened:
  • I helped a patron with a difficult reader's advisory question for their struggling reader and got warm and heartfelt thanks.
  • When our computers went down I typed up a document for a patron. It's not something we'd normally do, but it was what they really needed and a service I could provide.
  • I heard a storytime dad raving over Ernest and Celestine and showed them my movie list of unusual and "different" family movies. They were thrilled and thanked me repeatedly.
  • I signed up several new kids for all three book clubs and most picked out books.
  • A storytime grandma said how much she loved all our new books - there were so many things they hadn't seen yet! (yay for weeding! there actually aren't that many new books lol)
Book choices for Book Explosion

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross

Fergus the mouse is the best class pet ever - and he loves it! He follows all the rules and does exactly what all the other kids do - so he's very upset when he finds out he won't be going on the school field trip!

Fergus decides this just isn't fair, so he dons his cap, his backpack, and slips aboard! The museum is amazing, but he runs into problems right away - like not having a field trip buddy. Fortunately, he meets museum mouse Zeke and the two have a marvelous time, exploring the museum exhibits of dinosaurs, a whale, a butterfly house, and more. When it's time to go home, Fergus and Zeke are fast friends and it looks like Miss Maxwell's classroom will have two class pets from now on!

Heather Ross' art is cute and colorful. Her mice are an adorable pair, with big ears and some different touches to tell them apart - Fergus has a hat and is more purple, Zeke has a scarf and is gray. The classroom and surroundings appear to be upper class urban - the class is diverse but very small, no more than 9 kids are ever pictured. Everyone is clean and happy and the classroom is bright and cheerful. There's nothing wrong with this, I just get frustrated sometimes at the absurdly small classroom sizes in children's books.

The book is an illustrated beginning chapter book with art on every page, ranging from spot art to full pages. The book has an easy reader layout, although the length and vocabulary put it firmly in beginning chapter territory. A fun side note - the artist, Heather Ross, designs fabric. I was just going to look but of course I had to buy some...

Verdict: If you're looking for cute animal stories to fill out your beginning chapter section this is a fun addition. I think I'll definitely use it in my book clubs if I can get enough copies together. A sweet story.

ISBN: 9780763678463; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini

Kelly's biggest problem has always been being invisible at school and not having the guts to speak up to her crush. Until now.

Now she's gotten stuck babysitting her mom's boss's kid Jacob...and he's just been kidnapped by a genuine, real MONSTER. Turns out, monsters are real, deadly, and the only thing standing between them and the kids are....the babysitters. Kelly sets off with experienced babysitter Liz to get Jacob back and defeat the Grand Guignol once and for all. But it's not that easy. Along the way they'll encounter monsters, deadly danger, and even *gasp* an after hours party and Kelly's crush!

Kelly's obsession with popularity, friends, and her crush even in the midst of monsters and deadly danger is realistic albeit a little frustrating. Throughout the story she grows as a friend, realizing that the other babysitters are good friends, even if they are weird, and overcoming her fear both of monsters and of the popular kids. At the end, Kelly isn't perfect - but neither are her new friends. She has found something she cares about though and she's willing to fight for the kids and through her own fears both big and small.

The story includes pages from the Babysitter's guide to monster hunting as well as descriptions of events happening outside of Kelly's narrative. The story has an open ending that's not quite a cliffhanger but leaves the possibility of future adventures of the babysitters.

This is a brisk action/adventure fantasy with just enough creepy/gross monsters to interest readers who like a little creepy without turning off more sensitive audiences. It's firmly in the middle school range - it hints at middle school crushes, frustrations and angst, has several moments of genuine scariness as well as missing children, deadly weapons, and killing monsters, but doesn't include more mature relationship issues and language.

Verdict: Strong female characters who are flawed but work through their flaws, nerdy kids who don't overcome their outcast status but accept it and move on, and lots of adventure and action make this a book that's sure to fly off your shelves, especially around Halloween. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062437839; Published 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Allie's Garden by Sabra Chebby, illustrated by Marla Osborn

This sweet little board book reminded me of Juana Medina's 1 Big Salad which mixes photographs of vegetables with pen and ink drawings. Osborn and Chebby, however, have created a cute story that is all their own.

Allie, a sweet little girl in pigtails and jumper, goes out to the garden to collect vegetables. But this is no ordinary garden! The corn towers over Allie, a tomato is bigger than her head, and she barely see over a lettuce. Not only that, there are creatures in the garden; a carrot fox, zucchini snake, and pink potato rabbit all want their share. Allie shoes them away, and returns home with her basket full of vegetables, just right for her mom to make her a salad.

I thought the illustrations were super cute, but they also really confused me. Allie is miniature, the creatures are all made out of vegetables but are also eating them? Somehow when Allie picks the vegetables they miniaturize into her basket. The rhyming text is fine, but not particularly outstanding, "I was pulling up lettuce/and happened to see/a floppy eared bunny/sniff, sniffing at me."

Verdict: I would have been interested in this as a picture book. The dimensions of the art will confuse babies and toddlers and older children will be just as confused by the lack of explanation for the changes in size and why the vegetable animals are...eating themselves? A cute idea and will probably circulate, but most of interest to places that have a lot of gardeners.

ISBN: 9781936669530; Published 2017 by blue manatee press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lily's cat mask by Julie Fortenberry

This story is a warm homage to every child who's ever had a beloved toy or piece of clothing that gave them confidence.

Lily is feeling a bit nervous about school and isn't really happy about shopping with her dad for new school things, but when she sees the cat mask she absolutely knows she must have it. It becomes her constant companion as she plays, imagines, hides, and stands out. But one day...it's gone. Her dad tries to make her a replacement, but it just isn't the same. Luckily, she finds her mask a few days later!

When Lily starts school her mask is there...but she's only allowed to wear it as recess. Lily has trouble adjusting to life without her mask but gradually adapts to her classroom. Best of all, her teacher has a costume party and she finally meets a friend who understands just how much her mask means to her!

The story is light and will be familiar to plenty of readers. What really stands out are the illustrations. Lily is not only one of the few brown-skinned characters who is the star of her own book, but her father and most of the adults in her world are also pictured with brown skin. The diversity shifts in her classroom - her teacher is Asian and the other pupils show what I've come to think of as the typical "diverse classroom" (a couple brown-skinned kids, at least one red-head, but still mostly white) - but the scenes of her family and her relationship with her father are powerful.

Verdict: A sweet story, made all the stronger by its depiction of the bond between father and daughter. Perfect for sharing with children going through transitions to school or other new experiences.

ISBN: 9780425287996; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 18, 2017

Crazy about cats by Owen Davey

Having explored sharks and monkeys, Davey turns his attention - and graphic art skills - to cats.

The book opens with a general explanation of some of the terms used like habitat, obligate carnivore, and a few simple notes on the general nature of cats. It shows the evolution of felids, including domesticated cats and sabre-toothed tigers. There are diagrams of cats showing how they are adapted to be hunters and to survive in their various harsh environments. Many of the illustrations have a seek-and-find aspect, none more so than the spread on camouflage where kids can search for five cats hidden in the images. The book then features interesting facts about a wide variety of cats from margays to tigers. There are comparisons of the biggest, smallest, and fastest, spreads of some rare and wonderful cats, some information on kittens, and cats in mythology. Back matter consists of a detailed index.

Owen Davey's stylized art is perfectly suited to this exploration of the world of big cats. The rich hues of orange, brown, and red are blended to create not only stunning portraits of cats and their unique patterned coats but also of their backgrounds, making every page a fun exercise in hide-and-seek. The text is really secondary to the illustrations, which will both charm and enthrall cat-lovers of all ages.

There are a few drawbacks to the text - some of it is light and placed against dark backgrounds does not show up well, making it easy to skip some of the words. The book is clearly British in origin, with metric measurements throughout and an odd use of the word "wee" for urine. The evolutionary tree is laid out a little oddly, making it look like all cats evolved from the modern tiger. There are no sources for the information included.

Verdict: While I wouldn't suggest this title for research purposes, it's a superb book for browsing and poring over with friends or alone, which is what it is designed for. I catalog this series in my picture book animal neighborhoods, where kids looking for cat books to read on their own or with an adult are sure to discover and enjoy it. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781911171164; Published 2017 by Flying Eye Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, September 16, 2017

This week at the library; or, I am feeling a little frantic

have a dahlia. the pictures of the epic battle of my window
spider vs. an ant are elsewhere.
What's happening
I'm still working on streamlining and making detailed instructions for the marketing, specifically flyers, in-house marketing, and school marketing. I had a small but enthusiastic group at Messy Art Club - but of course this is sparking off all my program anxieties. Realistically, I know that school has just started, that there was not much marketing going into September, that the change from Thursday to Tuesday was not heavily marketed, and that people pack as much outdoor sports into the beginning of the semester, before winter hits, as they can. But I still freak out. I only had 1 child at We Explore (I reopened the room about an hour and a half later and repeated the storytime with 2 families) and our circ is down as well. I don't expect this to improve; I'm not doing my regular outreach this fall and so will have lost those connections as well. At least book club started off well - several kids who couldn't make it came to get books (or were given books. same difference) and we had our first teen maker kit checkout on Friday.

Rock 'n' Read Choices

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ick and Crud: Ick's Bleh Day by Wiley Blevins, illustrated by Jim Paillot

This is a new beginning chapter series from Red Chair Press, a new acquisition by Lerner.

Ick is a small dog. Crud is a big dog. Together they have adventures. In this story, Ick is feeling "bleh." and Crud takes him to get ice cream to cheer him up. Along the way they have three adventures; a muddy adventure, a soggy adventure, and finally an ice cream adventure! Will Ick feel more like himself? Or will he still feel bleh?

The art is bright and cartoonish. Paillot uses the eyes of the characters to great effect, although Miss Puffy (the cat) has a more static face. Bob, their owner, is only pictured in the character sketches and is black (presumably he shows up more in later adventures). The children and other humans in the background show a range of diverse genders and skin colors.

This is a beginning chapter book divided into 3 chapters. I was working from an ARC, but assuming the final format is similar it's a slightly oversize easy reader size - about 8x6. They are available in both paperback and library binding. The text is large and bold and the titles have around 1,000-1,500 words and 32 pages.

They're more wordy than some other beginning chapters like the lower level Branches, but they have a good mix of art and words which should attract readers and their vocabulary is not too advanced. My only caveat is that some of my more sensitive parents won't like the one dog being named "Crud." However, that's always something you have to take into account when recommending titles, the individual needs and wants of families.

Verdict: If you have lots of fans of the Branches series and a need for more beginning chapters that are funny and cartoonish, this looks like a great series to invest in. I'm definitely interested in adding some to my collection and getting the kids' reactions at book club.

ISBN: 9781634401852; Published 2017 by Red Chair Press/Lerner; ARC provided at ALA 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The fearless travelers’ guide to wicked places by Pete Begler

Nell is used to being the odd one out; she sometimes has “episodes” where she sees animals instead of people and her only friend is in the hospital in a coma. When she sees a strange and horrible cloud drop a bloody shoe, she’s sure it would be better not to speak up, even though the village is getting more and more worried about the disappearances of mothers. But when her own mother, Rose, is transformed into a bird and stolen she will have to travel to dangerous and fantastical places she never imagined existed and find an inner strength she never knew she had to not only save her family but also to survive.

Accompanied by her younger brothers, George and Speedy, and the surly and mysterious Duke Badger, the small group ventures into The Dreamlands. There are dreamers who can create entire worlds in themselves, terrifying monsters, and undiscovered dangers. Even Badger and his cat Pinch are hiding some dramatic secrets. Will Nell find the courage and strength to not only save her mother but all of Dreamlands from the horrible witches of the Wicked Places?

At nearly 400 pages, this hefty fantasy is not for the faint of heart reader - especially once they encounter the terrible nightmares that haunt its pages. Yes, there are killer clowns. Literally. It’s an imaginative, fantastic trip into a strange world but I did think the trip was a little long. Some of the lengthy musings on inner strength and complicated descriptions of the weird dream world could have been edited down while some things like the origin and purpose of the Fearless Travelers isn’t really explained (or possibly I missed it - I kept getting interrupted while I was reading).

Verdict: Not for every reader, but kids who appreciate a complicated fantasy, like creepy/scary vibes, and don't require series will appreciate this. Fans of Books of Elsewhere and Diana Wynne Jones will enjoy this.

ISBN: 9781623707996; Published 2017 by Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Small Readers: Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

I've been looking forward to this new easy reader series, as much for Hughes' adorable illustrations as for my interest in seeing what the ever-creative Laurel Snyder comes up with next. We read several Snyder chapter books in book club last year (Bigger than a breadbox was a big favorite).

Charlie & Mouse combines both the classic feel of an easy reader, harkening back to the age of Arnold Lobel, and the modern sensitivity of a contemporary family.

In a green room, Charlie wakes up. There is a lump in his bed and he pokes it. The lump is Mouse! Together they wake up their parents and set out for the day's adventures - a neighborhood party! Dressed and ready for the day, Mouse in a tutu and bobbly headband, Charlie with a cape, party hat, and sparkly wand, the family sets out for the park. Along the way they collect friends and when they arrive at the park it's party time!

Further adventures include the complexities of money and rocks, and a silly bedtime ritual. The text is an intermediate level, difficult for a true emergent or beginning reader, but great for a 1st or 2nd grader who can read and focus on the more subtle humor at the same time.

I love Hughes' illustrations. While there are a lot of earth tones, the silly, happy family shines through with reds and purples, greens and blues in their clothes, quilts, and and the mysterious plants in the yards. Their neighbors encompass an array of diversity, both in skin color as well as a gay couple.

Verdict: This won't have the instant popularity of an Elephant & Piggie title, but its gentle humor will attract readers and make this a favorite choice of families.

ISBN: 9781452131535; Published 2017 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Windows by Julia Denos

I've always loved Julia Denos' art and I was delighted with her first venture into authorship, Swatch. Now she ventures into new territory, writing the text for a new illustrator, E. B. Goodale.

A dark-skinned child takes their dog for an evening walk, before curling up for a bedtime story with their mother. Simple? Yes, but the beauty of this story lies in the lovely art and the smoothly flowing words.

Denos describes in loving detail the beauty of the evening neighborhood, "little windows lit up like eyes in the dusk," as seen through the windows of the apartments and houses on the street. Parties, television, or just sitting and reading, the child quietly admires the peaceful scene, greeting neighbors and enjoying their neighborhood settling down for the night.

Goodale's illustrations range from the sharp details in the windows - a tiny sewing machine, bird cages, families settling down for the evening - to the glowing colors of the sunset. Brownstones, blurred cars along the streets, a startled raccoon searching for dinner, and the softly brushed colors of flowers in the evening all contribute to a scene of quiet community.

Verdict: A lovely bedtime or storytime tale, perfect for quieting down after a day of busy activities or just enjoying the reflection of the evening's beauties together. This is not only a lovely melding of words and pictures, it may also inspire families to take an evening walk and see what their neighborhood has to offer. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763690359; Published October 2017 by Candlewick; F&G provided by publisher

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cat tales by Aline Alexander Newman; 125 Pet Rescues

National Geographic children's books vary widely from popular factoid books to more in-depth research titles. Today I'm looking at two of the more factoid type books dealing with a popular subject - animals.

Cat Tales is a small, compact book filled with cute, funny, and interesting stories about cats. The stories are divided into sections like "Adventurous," "Caring," and "Curious." There are stories about cats like Dodger, who rode a bus in England every day, Bagel who has an eye condition that requires sunglasses and raises money for cats in need, and Monty who could detect when his owner had low blood sugar. Mixed in with the stories are photos of cats, facts about cats, historical information, and answers to cat questions from veterinarian Dr. Gary Weitzman. There is a forward by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, founder of a clinic for cat behavior, and a section at the end about taking photos of your cat. The final spread includes books, movies, and organizations to learn more about cats and help them.

The second animal book actually includes some of the same cat stories. 125 Pet Rescues tells stories of animals rescued, rehabilitated, adopted, or kept in sanctuaries. The book begins with a foreward by Gregory Castle, CEO of an animal shelter and an enconium for shelter staff and patrons. There are a handful of stories about various rescued animals then the stories are divided into roughly similar groups. Pit bulls, animals that are friends with other animals, animals involved in sports, friendly animals, animals from history and many more. Most of the stories are a few paragraphs long, paired with a photograph and occasionally some cute speech bubbles. The layout includes National Geographic's usual bright orange, yellow, and blue color scheme. The final pages include ways to get involved with helping animals, an interview with an educator who teaches about humane treatment of animals, and an index and photo credits. Generally, this book felt more like a lengthy magazine than a narrative.

Kids will love the sweet stories of animals and all the adorable photographs. I'm always a bit....doubtful about so many stories of animals with severe injuries or disabilities though. Somehow it just seems weird that people spend so much time, energy, and money on these animals and I'm a little skeptical about the quality of life they have. It's a sharp contrast to how humans with disabilities or special needs are often treated or viewed. I'm really not sentimental about animals though, so I know a lot of people feel differently. And kids really love animals so these books are sure to be hits.

Verdict: Not necessary purchases, but for reluctant readers and browsing these are a good addition to your animal sections. Sure to be popular with pet lovers and those who enjoy cute cat videos on the internet.

Cat Tales
ISBN: 9781426327346

125 Pet Rescues
ISBN: 9781426327360

Published 2017 by National Geographic Kids; Review copies provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Teen Area: Maker Kits

Last fall I received a $500 LSTA mini grant to add maker kits to my teen area upgrade. I focused on hands-on items, rather than technology, since our schools already have a lot of tech and labs. We ended up putting out various items (button maker, marble run, etc.) out on different days when the youth services desk was staffed. This ended in May - most of our teens mysteriously vanish in summer and there were a lot of other things going on (apart from summer reading) that needed to be dealt with. One of my projects in August was to revamp the teen maker space into a more accessible version and one of my new associates, Maria, helped a lot with this, especially in adding in more tech. She's going to focus on getting teen activities, marketing, and social media off the ground for the short time we're lucky enough to have her and the maker space was our first project.

You can see the current arrangement of the teen area here. I listed all the teen maker kits, with components, and Maria made sure everything was included and working in the tubs. I have a pdf of all the items here. Right now, the main components of the list are

  • Button maker
  • Osmo
  • Perler beads
  • Sticker machine
  • art kits
We ended up moving the marble run to the school-age area, as that was where it got the most use. I also replaced a number of missing items like our fidgets and nail art and added a lot of art supplies. There are some additional items Maria is working on - a stop-motion animation app on our spare ipad with clay for example. I also plan to borrow materials from our consortium's tech library to have available on a limited basis - I hope to have the ozobots available in October for example.

All of the items are in plastic sleeves in a binder. The front of the binder includes the instructions. Basically, the kids choose the sheet of an item, fill out a checkout card, and then they can use the item in the teen area for an hour (approximately. I probably won't really enforce that.)

The kids don't need a library card unless they are borrowing something that connects to the internet. I'll count the checkout cards to count participation. The only problem I anticipate is younger kids wanting to use the materials - I'm going to stay firm on not allowing that though. I expect the teens to be able to use all the maker space materials themselves with minimal instruction or assistance and that simply wouldn't work for younger kids. Also, the volume of younger kids who would want the materials would use them up so fast there would be nothing left for the teens! I'm fine with caregivers sitting down with teens with developmental disabilities to use the teen maker space though - that's absolutely ok. I'll be continuing work on our school-age/juvenile area (haven't figured out a good name for this yet) and the children's play area to make sure all our age groups have a space just for them as well.

We're using the rest of the teen budget to revive Middle School Madness for the rest of the fall and add a couple teen programs. Next year there are several things I'd like to add; as well as consumables and supplies, I'd like to add cardboard makedo kits, paper circuits, and Bloxels (although that last might or might not be in the budget).

Saturday, September 9, 2017

This week at the library; or The Fall Officially Begins

I'm feeling kind of like this dahlia. First thing in the summer
it got eaten by aphids, when it finally bloomed again,
months later, something ate it.
What's happening
  • Monday - closed for holiday
  • Tuesday - school begins
  • Wednesday
    • Garden to Kitchen
  • Thursday
  • Friday - no programs
We had pretty small turnouts for programs this week - partly the chaos of school starting and partly that I am currently training new staff so there is no one really in charge of/staying on top of publicity and it's gotten a bit piecemeal. Pattie's new program, Garden to Kitchen, had a small but enthusiastic group who all enjoyed picking tomatoes and other things in the garden and planting their own beans. I had 27 for Lego Club, which was good, especially for lack of publicity on the switch from Thursday to Tuesday. I decided not to do outreach visits this fall, to the 4K and kindergartens, only field trips as I'm going to need more time to train staff and handle several other large projects. I've already packed up and sent out 3 boxes and 3 baskets of books for schools so I'm thinking that was a wise choice...

I'm running a survey for parents and caregivers of kids with special needs - one of the things I'm working on, inspired by that, is getting our publicity to be more inclusive and make it clear that kids of all abilities are welcome at programs. Different libraries have different needs, but I talked to Pattie and we agreed that older kids (or even young adults) with developmental disabilities would be welcome at storytime as long as a caregiver was present.

Bookaneers Choices

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Curse of Einstein's pencil by Deborah Zemke

The first Bea Garcia book has been very popular in my library. I used it in a book club and the kids loved it.

I think they will be eager to read the sequel, but I'm not sure that I felt it was as strong as the first title. Bea is still struggling with the annoying Bert, who calls her bee names and her pesty little brother. She also still misses her best friend, Yvonne. But now she has hopes of a new friend - the amazing Judith Einstein who knows everything. When Bea gets paired up with Judith for a special assignment she's thrilled. But things don't go as planned - Judith wants to study instead of being friends, Bert is still bugging Bea, and her little brother ruins everything!

Bea may have the magic touch, but she needs a little more magic to fix things. Like, maybe Einstein's magic pencil. If she just had that she'd have all the answers, right?

The book is full of Bea's hand-drawn illustrations, from her brother as a frog to an "artist's conception" of a black hole. It's the perfect amount of illustrations for this age of readers, making this a notebook novel for the younger set. Bea is relatable and the other characters are fleshed out, from hints of Judith's personality quirks to Bert's sometimes over the top enthusiasm.

Some things that bothered me - I felt that Bea stealing Einstein's pencil and her feelings that it would make her smart were never really resolved. It turns out that Judith Einstein picked her as a partner so she could cover the imagination/drawing aspect of the test and they win fairly easily but for this age group I think there needs to be a little more clear explanation of the events and mistakes Bea made. I'm also a little skeptical that Bert's harassment of Bea is allowed to continue. Our schools here are pretty zero-tolerance on name-calling in the younger grades and I'm surprised nobody puts a stop to it.

However, these are really minor quirks. I love the diversity of characters included, Bea's ability to figure things out on her own and ask for help when needed, and how much this feels like a modernized Ramona book for 2nd and 3rd graders.

Verdict: Definitely add, especially if you have the first book. Fans will be eager to find out what happens next and see more of Bea's art!

ISBN: 9780803741553; Published 2017 by Dial; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Brownstone's Mythical Collection: Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Brownstone family vault is full of mysterious, magical artifacts and Professor Brownstone is here to introduce readers to his family's history, starting with the very first Brownstone adventure.

Arthur is an odd child living in a small, isolated town in the mountains of Iceland. To the amusement and annoyance of his family and the townspeople, he befriends the strange and magical folk he finds and collects magical artifacts from his new friends. But one day a giant black wolf attacks the town. The fire is put out and the bravest warriors of the town are injured. Despite the anger and disparagement of the townspeople, Arthur decides to set off on his own and follow the hints of their wise woman, seeking Thor to relight their fire. But the journey is long and dangerous and his adventures don't end when he finally finds Thor.

This isn't a typical graphic novel, more of an illustrated story. The story is told with rectangular panels of art and chunks of text. The panel edges are loosely defined and while the layout is clear it doesn't have the traditional progression of a story told in panels. The illustrations are finely detailed; runes, tiny goblins, sea serpents, and more dot the pages. There isn't a lot of emotion or movement in the faces of the characters, but the story is more of a legend than a novel. One can see finding this in an ancient scroll or the walls of a cave and watching the story unfold.

Verdict: While this won't have the broad appeal of the more cinematic titles like Bone or Amulet, fans of Flying Eye's other publications and readers who like rich, detailed stories will devour it eagerly and be impatient for the next chapter in the story of the Brownstone's adventures.

ISBN: 9781911171034; Published 2016 by Flying Eye; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Small Readers: See them grow: Turtle by Debby Freeman

This title is from a new mini-series in Bearport's Little Bits! nonfiction easy readers line. "See them grow" uses simple text and photographs to show young readers the life cycles of a variety of creatures.

The book opens with a basic description of a painted turtle. It mates with a female, who lays eggs. There is a spread showing the embryo growing inside the egg, then a description of hatching. The turtle's first days and weeks of life, including predators and other dangers, are described. Finally, it is an adult.

Additional turtle facts are included at the back. There is also a glossary, index, a couple additional titles, and a link to the publisher's website with more information.

There are several questions and additional facts sprinkled throughout the book to encourage readers to think about the narrative.

I'm always a little reluctant to purchase series nonfiction for easy readers. It's not the standard size and it's twice as expensive as the average hardcover. This is quite a decent title, although I wouldn't have bothered to include "mate" in the glossary, especially when the definition is "to come together to have young". However, I have been getting a lot more requests for nonfiction at various levels due to new school curriculum. I think this series will probably be very useful for those units on nonfiction at a lower reading level.

Verdict: If you have the budget to purchase more expensive easy readers and a need for more nonfiction at this level, this is a good addition.

ISBN: 9781684020416; Published 2017 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Splotch by Gianna Merino

You never know what Marino is going to do next! Here she tells a funny and ironic story...about a dead fish.

A child of indeterminate gender has a goldfish named Splotch. Whilst at school, the fish goes belly-up. Mom, frantic and panicked, hastily disposes of the fish and when the child laments that Splotch has "run away" promises he'll be back soon. Sure enough, a quick trip to the fish store the next day and Splotch is back! The child is satisfied with the replacement...until she wakes up in the middle of the night with a sudden realization... "MOM! Splotch has been CHANGED BY ALIENS!!" A few more substitutions and the right "Splotch" is back, with no one the wiser...maybe?

End papers show Splotch nervously avoiding the net at the store at the beginning and miraculously reviving after a trip through the plumbing in the end, adding another hilarious aspect to the story.

Verdict: Don't read this to sensitive kids and be prepared for some parents to be a little shocked, especially if they are among those who choose not to introduce their children to death in any form, but for those snarky kids and their adults this is a hilarious fish tale.

ISBN: 9780451469571; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 4, 2017

Margaret and the moon by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Lucy Knisley

This is a picture book biography I can get behind and cheer for!

A young Margaret sees inequality in the world from girls not playing baseball to no mommy longlegs! She determines to follow her own dreams and studies everything she's interested in - but especially math. Eventually, Margaret discovered computers and began writing code. With all her hard work, she was ready to help NASA send a rocket to the moon, eventually being put in charge of software programming. Margaret's hard work paid off and got the astronauts safely to the moon.

An author's note gives more information about Margaret's life, historical context, and Margaret's continued career in mathematics and computers. There is also a brief bibliography and additional reading as well as a spread of photographs from Margaret Hamilton's life.

The text is brisk and simple, giving enough context for readers and listeners to follow the story without overwhelming with text or making the story confusing. I often feel the problem with picture book biographies is that the audience is too young to understand the ideas and context presented or there is an assumption of a lot of historical knowledge readers don't have. This book hits the right note, creating a relatable story with simple explanations of math and science and Hamilton's work.

Lucy Knisley was a great choice for illustrator; her work in comic memoirs and readable, bold style combines nicely with the text. Margaret Hamilton is shown as an ordinary girl who's interested in the world around her and works hard to explore, learn, and dream. Incidentally, I think Knisley would do well with a middle grade title similar to Telgemeier...

Verdict: I very rarely recommend picture book biographies, but this one could actually be used in storytime and will be quickly checked out without additional urging by the librarian! Promote to kids interested in science, comics, astronomy, and space as well as girls doing interesting things.

ISBN: 9780399551857; Published 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It's Cybils Season! I suggest you consider applying to be a judge, preferably in my category.


Once the excitement of summer reading is over, it's Cybils season! If you have been living in a hole without internet, you may not be familiar with Cybils. It's the twelfth year of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award (I think - I am not good at time math) and it's awesome.

There are a lot of children's book awards out there. They recognize literary quality, contribution to the genre and canon, and much more. Cybils is different. It's the only award that recognizes both child appeal and literary quality and the process is very transparent. You, the public, nominate books. Parents, teachers, librarians, and authors with public review platforms (aka bloggers) choose the best. Along the way, we review, discuss, and promote children's literature.

How can you get involved? At the least, you can nominate! Nominations will open October 1. However, if you'd like to dip your toes into the water of judging, now is the time to apply to be a judge! You can see the call for judges here. How to decide what category to apply in? As a general rule of thumb:

  • The most time-intensive categories are those with high numbers of nominations, first-round panelists. You'll be reading and discussing a LOT of books. Middle Grade Fiction, Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade, Speculative Fiction YA, and YA Fiction tend to have the highest number of nominations.
  • Categories for younger genres and more specific fields tend to have fewer nominations, but can require different approaches; fact-checking for nonfiction, early literacy for easy readers, discussing both art and text for graphic novels, etc. Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction, Poetry, Junior/Senior High Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, and Easy Readers/Early Chapters. It helps to know about the genre and audience for these categories but they also tend to have about 100 or fewer nominations.
  • Finally, there are a couple categories that defy categorization - Picture Books/Board Books has a ton of nominations and you'd think you could zip through them, but no! We are an award with professionalism! Think of all the careful consideration of art, text, and audience! And our newest category, Audio Books, will be looking at performance and production in addition to narrative.
If you don't have the time to read through a ton of books, second-round judge may be for you. These people take our finalists, announced at the end of the year, and choose the best of the best. There's less reading - but more intensive discussion.

Finally, I suggest you consider my category - Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction. We create  a finalist list for both age groups and then choose the best for each category in the second round. Nonfiction is on the rise with a ton of amazing books coming out, an emphasis on nonfiction in schools and libraries, and recognition that nonfiction is an amazing reading experience that goes beyond just learning facts. Join me in my quest for world domination through nonfiction...er, ahem, I mean, it's really awesome to discuss nonfiction with a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I guarantee you (and the children you teach, parent, or write for) will be all the better for the experience.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

This week at the library; or, Goodbye summer

Last week before summer officially ends and fall, school, and fall programs begin. My new staff started this week, I had all my summer reports (including grants) due, ordered fall supplies, working on planning (I never get all the planning done) and many, many other things. See you in the fall!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay

I accidentally started this series with the second book, Monsters and Mold, but then I went to ALA and got a signed copy of the first book! Of course I had to read it and fall in love all over again.

Zoey is watching her mom work one day when she sees a picture...that shines! Zoey's mom is delighted when she finds out that Zoey can see magical creatures and she tells her the story of how she first came to be friends with and help magical creatures. When Zoey's mom goes out of town, Zoey gets her chance to help some magical creatures on her own and the first one she meets is a sick dragon! With some scientific experiments and the support of her cat, Sassafrass, Zoey figures out what's wrong with the baby dragon. Until it all goes wrong! Can she help the baby dragon or will she have to call her mom back home?

Sigh. So perfect. Zoey is bright, curious, and ready to experiment. She makes mistakes and knows when it's time to ask for help, but she's also an independent girl with plenty of determination and scientific smarts. The magical creatures are delightful and the cute drawings are an additional bonus.

Readers and teachers who love science will enjoy the mix of experiments, scientific method, and the helpful glossary of scientific terms.

Verdict: Still in love with this series! I can't wait to use them in book club and I strongly recommend that every library add them.

ISBN: 9781943147090; Published 2016 by Innovation; Review copy provided by author at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy

This is an...odd book. I finished it, and it was quite lengthy, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

Twenty-five campers have been invited to summer camp. They are divided into five cabins. Each cabin has an adventure. Cabin 1 is participating in the All-Camp Sports and Follies. This is their chance to beat the posh campers across the lake and Kadie is determined that this will be the year they win. But is she really a returning camper? And are the rival campers even human? Cabin 2 is being stalked by a murderer...or are they? They're a disparate group but they can come together to survive anything - they hope. Cabin 3 is on a quest, united in their goal of discovering a secret treasure. But perhaps they should have thought about it a little more before taking off into the woods... Cabin 4 has 4 best friends and one lonely girl who meet their soulmates, but they're not quite what they seem... and Cabin 5 is in serious trouble right from the start.

SPOILERS

So, the story is told jumping back and forth from cabin to cabin. People "die" (although none of the campers actually gets killed) and various chapters end on cliffhangers. Some of the campers are just focused on survival, some are working through personal problems and issues, some have realized that Something is Going On. Throughout the story, the theme of a popular series of girls' adventure stories is woven and readers also hear from a narrator, with more and more hints that everything is stage-managed. We never really discover the exact nature of the beings that are running the camp, but the implication is that they're some kind of faery since iron injures them. There is a conclusion of types; the narrator is freed, both from the creatures and her own mental prison, the girls are rescued more or less intact, and no mention is made of the fate of previous campers and personnel who didn't survive their summer adventure.

This is certainly intriguing, and I continued reading to the end of all 413 pages to see what happened, but I found myself fervently wishing that the story would get on with it at several points. It's not really a horror story, although people are attacked frequently, not really a fantasy although magic does exist, and not a love story although kisses are exchanged. One story line follows a girl who is panicked that her cabin mates will discover her soulmate is a girl, but it's not the focus of their plot thread. Several descriptions imply racial diversity, but it's rarely specified. Ultimately it's a weird and unique blend that I think would have done better if it had been about 100 pages shorter.

Verdict: A good story, but I can't think of an audience - it would have to be one that is comfortable both with first kisses, spider monsters, and narrow escapes from death as well as soul-searching. That's kind of a limited field. Also, it's over 400 pages long. I enjoyed it, but can't quite recommend it. I'd say it's an additional purchase for a specific type of middle school reader.

ISBN: 9781512415971; Published 2017 by Carolrhoda Lab; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Small Readers: My kite is stuck and other stories by Salina Yoon

Salina Yoon returns with the second title in the Duck, Duck, Porcupine! series. Purple Porcupine, chatty Big Duck, and silent Little Duck play out a series of hilarious encounters in three short chapters.

In the titular story, "My kite is stuck!" Big Duck's kite get stuck in the tree. She and Porcupine throw up other things, which all stick too. However, Little Duck keeps the story from falling into a cliche as she brings some helpful things - a step stool and ladder. Unfortunately, Big Duck and Porcupine don't quite get it! The story ends with the two up in the tree, happily playing with their toys, and Little Duck's blank but somehow exasperated expression looking at the reader.

In the second story, Porcupine makes a new friend - a bee! But Big Duck isn't so sure that counts until she finds her own buggy friend. Next to find a bug is Little Duck - but she's not so excited! The third and final story finds Porcupine and Big Duck setting up a lemonade stand. But they've forgotten one key item! Fortunately, Little Duck has them covered, as usual.

Yoon's boldly colored illustrations are presented in full or half-page panels with thick, black lines delineating separating each panel. The text is all dialogue, contained in speech bubbles, but in a bold, large font. It's an easy reading level with simple text but the need to follow the action through both the dialogue and art gives an added dimension to the simple stories. I thought this one was even funnier than the first and I look forward to new additions to the series.

Verdict: I've had a very positive response for this new series in book club. While it's not as raucously funny (or well-known) as some of the other comic easy readers like Elephant & Piggie, it's a strong addition to any easy reader section and both children and adults enjoy reading them together. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781619638877; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

Kenard Pak, illustrator for several lovely books, branches out on his own and creates the first in what I hope will be a truly lovely series.

A girl walks out into the summer day - but as she walks through the forest, into the town, and back home, there are signs of changes everywhere. She greets the trees, the wind, the sun, and others and each replies with a simple explanation of how they are changing for the coming season.

"Hello, thunder. Hello! You can hear my low rumble from far away. My clouds loom over the open fields and quiet hills."

Even more so than the text, Pak's unique art catches the mood of the cusp of the season. Quick splashes of color and shapes flutter across the pages like the first falling leaves. A diverse cast of characters lives peacefully in a small, rural town, enjoying the last sunny days before winter. The simple text is enhanced by seamlessly integrated facts - how beavers prepare for winter, the sun setting earlier, etc.

Verdict: A perfect choice for seasonal storytimes, this one has delighted toddlers and preschoolers in our library. I look forward to the sequel coming fall 2017. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781627794152; Published 2016 by Henry Holt; Purchased for the library

Monday, August 28, 2017

Moto and me: My year as a wildcat's foster mom by Suzi Eszterhas

Suzi Eszterhas, photographer and author of several books for kids featuring wildlife, tells the story of caring for an orphaned wildcat while she worked as a photographer.

Moto, a tiny serval kitten, is given to Eszterhas to raise as she goes about her daily business of photography. She talks about her life as an animal photographer, how Moto came to be abandoned, and how she cared for him and helped me grow and become independent.

The book is a mixture of factual explanations of a serval's life and some of the other animals in the area combined with anecdotes of Moto's life both funny and educational. Eventually, Moto learns to hunt and takes off into the savannah; he's later glimpsed living successfully on his own by park rangers.

The book ends with a collection of facts about servals, including a warning against purchasing exotic pets or mixed breeds like Savanna cats.

The book is longer than a picture book, although that's its format. And, of course, it's absolutely full of gorgeous photographs of Moto growing from a delightfully fluffy kitten to a graceful, sleek serval.

Verdict: A great title for beginning chapter and intermediate readers or to share with a classroom. Kids will love the friendly, simple text and all the adorable photographs. There are even a few gentle reminders about not interfering with wildlife along the way. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781771472425; Published 2017 by Owlkids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, August 26, 2017

This week at the library

What's happening
  • Monday was the final eclipse madness. I took the day off (totally coincidentally - I had forgotten at the time that there was an eclipse) and my associate got stuck with the activities and madness. She's leaving in a week so won't have the opportunity for revenge for this...
  • I no longer have words for the rest of this week. It's all gone crazy. We now only have one hamster.
  • I spent the rest of the week
    • Planning book clubs
    • Cleaning stuff off my desk
    • Getting ready for the new staff
    • Planning other programs
Reading Explorer

I'm also working today and I haven't had a moment to breathe. Computer problems, plugged toilets, reader's advisory, never-ending stream of people. We're busy! A partial list of Saturday...

  • At least an hour or more spent dealing with the printer
  • Microfilm and local history resources
  • Reader's advisory for teachers - middle school, 4K
  • Searching for a missing video game that's gotten screwed up in the catalog
  • Men's bathroom issues
  • Dealing with fines and other issues as the Librarian in Charge
  • Helping patrons with the copier
  • Helping a patron with a reference question
  • Is the new Gifted movie based on a book? After some search, the answer is no
Also still working on book clubs, filling displays, tidying the children's area, reviewing schedules and work for next week, and more.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tiptoe into scary places: Spooky Libraries by Jessica Rudolph

Bearport does quite a good line of scary/ghost nonfiction titles. This is a sample from a new series, but I was honestly a little disappointed.

After an introduction that attempts to set a spooky tone "You stand frozen in fear. What unearthly being is making that noise?" the book describes four supposedly haunted libraries.

The Millicent Library in MA is said to be haunted by the daughter of the founder, Millicent, and other members of the family. The Sweetwater County Library was built on a disturbed cemetery. The Peoria Public Library was built on land that was cursed by the evicted owner, a curse that was proven by the tragic deaths of the first three library directors. Finally, the Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library in Nevada was built on the site of a hospital that housed victims of a fire, many of whom died. There is also supposedly the ghost of a previous teacher at the college who committed suicide.

The last pages of the book show a map with the locations of the four haunted libraries, a glossary, index, two additional titles about haunted libraries, and a link to the publisher's website online.

I'm a little confused about the audience for this title. Bearport's haunted places series are usually directed towards middle grade readers, but this one has the format of their easy reader line, Little Bits! being a smaller square. It's only 24 pages and the text is brief, but more complex than an easy reader. While I certainly have younger readers who would like to read creepy stories, I have yet to meet any parents or caregivers who will allow them to do so, which limits the audience for this book. I was also disappointed that there was very little information given about the hauntings, just vague rumors and historical events without context.

Verdict: If you have the audience for very low-level spooky titles, this is probably a really good choice. Unfortunately, it just doesn't fit in with my library's needs.

ISBN: 9781684020492; Published 2017 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter

This debut novel was odd but intriguing. Warning - here be SPOILERS.

Sophie Seacove is a self-proclaimed storyteller. But her own story isn't one she really wants to tell. Having caught the terrible Sea Fever, her parents have abandoned her - well, sold her to be more accurate - and she's on her way across the monster-ridden sea to the terrifying and mysterious mansion on Catacomb Hill. Deep inside, Sophie wonders if her parents didn't just want to be rid of her, with her strange white hair, extra goes, and odd behavior, but she's determined to get her hands on a ticket to the New Continent and rejoin her parents in a new life.

Meanwhile, she's the new bone snatcher, helping old Mister Scree feed the monsters and keep them from destroying the island, avoiding the nasty twins whose violent games are both frightening and disgusting, and staying out of the way of their mother. Then, riding out of the sea, comes Cartwright, the twins' cousin. Sophie is plunged even deeper into a web of lies, secrets, and mysteries until the adventure comes to a climactic finish.

The ending is both gruesome and hopeful; Sophie discovers the New Continent, that thousands of people have set off in search of, is only a cruel dream created by a dead scientist and her parents, along with everyone else, are dead. The insane twins meet a gruesome and violent end and Sophie discovers the secret cure for the monsters and Sea Fever is just a dream. But even dreams have a basis in reality and with Cartwright at her side and the encouragement of Mr. Scree she sets out to tell new stories and show people the monsters are just creatures like them.

This is an odd story, both gruesome and violent in parts, but definitely mesmerizing. It clicks for me as a read-alike for Joan Aiken, but she doesn't get read much anymore. Possibly Series of Unfortunate Events, although it's much more serious and fantastical. In the end, it's its own creation and best for readers who like dark and dramatic stories with an extra dose of scary.

ISBN: 9780399186349; Published 2017 by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Pairs! In the garden by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie

This lift-the-flap board book is adorable, but not as sturdy as I need a board book to be.

Each spread features a rhyming couplet, for example "Grasshoppers are often seen/playing on the grassy green./With jumps and leaps they spring along,/chirruping a merry song." The creature introduced is in bold type.

Each spread has bright, colorful illustrations and 7 flaps. The flaps lift from the top down. They are easy to find, featuring the same plant or other image. Beneath the flaps are 7 of a creature with 3 pairs and 1 odd creature. They are colorful and bright and readers are encouraged to match up the creatures. There is also a seek and find counting challenge; 5 acorns, 10 ants, etc.

The book is a 7x7 square with thin but fairly sturdy cardboard. The flaps, however, are only made of thick cardstock and since they bend down and the pages are very crowded, would be almost impossible to reinforce.

The cartoon illustrations are colorful but very busy. I prefer simpler illustrations for very young children whose eyes are still developing.

Verdict: While I wouldn't add this to a board book collection, it would make a great addition to a storytime kit or toy bag and I'm planning on adding this one to a garden kit or possibly my existing seasons kit.

ISBN: 9781847808837; Published 2017 by Frances Lincoln; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found by Jonathan London, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Only a few months ago I reviewed the first Duck and Hippo title and now there's already a sweet sequel!

Duck and Hippo are planning to meet their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig, for a picnic. But when they arrive, Hippo realizes that he forgot to bring something to share! The celebration is put on hold while he goes off on his own to find some berries... and doesn't come back! Soon all the animals are lost in the woods, searching for each other. Will they ever find Hippo? Will Hippo find the berries? Is it too late for their picnic?

This sweet tale of friendship has the repeated phrases that will keep small children interested and make for a fun storytime read. There's enough tension in the story to interest a preschooler but not enough scary moments to really scare them. Most of all, the story is just fun!

This is best seen in the illustrations, which I admit are my favorite part of this series. I love Joyner's bold colors, dark lines, and friendly-looking animals. This book has many evening and night scenes, which Joyner executes delightfully with rich turquoise, dark blue, and black images. The bright pops of color in the animals' clothes, comforting curved lines of their faces and bodies, and the rich greens of the forest are all just right for this old-fashioned tale of friendship and fun.

Verdict: Just as adults may have their comfort reads, children have them too - and this is exactly what I'd look for as a child. A simple, predictable story, humorous and engaging illustrations, and memorable characters. This is a great addition to a storytime on friendship or even bedtime fears and a fun read for any kind of celebration.

ISBN: 9781542045629; Published 2017 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: This book stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn

I've been looking for more books for kids on getting involved with science to make a difference, for my library as well as for a forthcoming article. I had hoped to use this title, but was disappointed in the end.

It's a collection of factoids about garbage, trash, pollution and how it's destroying the planet. It also talks about recycling and how kids can get involved in working toward a world with less trash.

It's a very typical National Geographic book with lots of eye-popping bright colors, short, quick facts, and crazy layouts. It includes quizzes, activities, and short biographies of activists and scientists who are involved in trying to deal with trash and recycling.

So, ultimately it's just fine for something to breeze through for quick ideas, to get kids started on researching trash and pollution, or for browsing. But there were a couple reasons this didn't really click with what I needed. It's very surface - there's no in-depth exploration of the varying types of recycling and the arguments about how they work and which is better. All of the tips and suggestions are heavily tilted towards a suburban, middle class audience. The activities also didn't encourage readers to think below the surface. The section that suggests kids have a clean up day...suggests printing and hanging flyers. There's no mention of picking them up afterwards either! Kind of defeats the purpose there... It assumes every kid lives in a house with a backyard and the ability to start a compost pile - what about all the kids in apartments or urban areas? The book is heavy on suggesting cutting back on paper and using reusable bags, washrags, and napkins but there's no discussion of the environmental impact of washing machines (heavy). The section on upcycling suggests decorating a container with wrapping paper, which is not recyclable.

Is this a bad book? No. It doesn't suggest or do anything very different from any other kids' recycling book. It's a perfectly good surface introduction and kids will enjoy the bite-sized facts. I was just looking for more and this book did not provide it.

Verdict: If you're looking to bulk out your recycling/environmental section this is an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781426327308; Published March 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 19, 2017

This week at the library

What's going on
  • staff meeting (budgets, plans for next year, staffing)
  • Craft-o-rama
  • Open Lego Build
  • The eclipse (I worked Thursday night for extra coverage and then am taking Friday - Monday off, so my assistant is doing the crafty things on Monday...) Suffice it to say, this has occupied a lot of our time and attention.
  • Hamster drama. The hamster ran away last week. We bought another one several days later. He was rediscovered this week. Now we have two hamsters.
  • endless computer problems with both staff and patron computers. gah.
Projects
  • Weeding 900s - I've started into the 970s!
  • Revising and planning book clubs for the fall
  • THE BASEMENT IS FINISHED

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hilde cracks the case: Hero Dog by Hilde and Matthew Lysiak, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Branches series have proved to be one of the most popular new series at my library in years. Not all of them have clicked with my readers (and a few I didn't purchase) but enough that they have their own section and plenty of fans!

I'm always excited to see and review a new addition to the series and I was very interested in this one. On the one hand, there are a lot of beginning chapter mysteries. On the other hand, Branches is pretty good at adding something new to their series. This one turned out to be no exception.

Hilde Lysiak is a real-life kid reporter who runs her own newspaper. The stories in this new series are inspired by her real experiences, although they're fictionalized. The first installment introduces us to Hilde and her nose for news. She's sniffed out a mystery - and a story - in the recent spate of mysterious break-ins. But only baked goods are being stolen or destroyed!

With the help of her family and friends and her own mystery-solving skills, Hilde interviews, investigates, and finally discovers the real culprits! The story includes tips on writing, interviewing, and sleuthing as well as vocabulary and a note about Hilde herself.

The finished and earlier sketches in the arc look attractive and fun. The final art will be black and white. This is one of the higher-level Branches titles, similar to Notebook of Doom and Dragon Masters. Readers will be eager to try a new mystery series with the additional nonfiction facts and interactive suggestions.

Verdict: If you don't already have Branches series, you need to get some right away! The most popular for us have been Notebook of Doom, Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, and Boris. I think this one will definitely be added to the list of "must-haves" and I'm looking forward to using it in a book club when there are enough copies available.

ISBN: 9781338141566; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Mia is visiting China with her mother, older brother Jake, and Aunt Lin. Mia feels left out and awkward - she's shy and quiet, prefers to read and dream while her mother and brother are outgoing, ambitious, and successful. Both Mia and Jake are uncomfortable around their unfamiliar relatives and don't really understand their mother's urge to visit her childhood home. Mia feels like the only person who understands her is her historian Aunt Lin.

When Lin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note behind, the rest of the family says it's "just Aunt Lin." But Mia is sure that's not true. Aunt Lin promised her she'd never go away without telling Mia, not after their father left and never came back. Mia is sure there's something going on - and it's all connected to the emperor's treasure that she and her aunt have talked about so often. But they're not the only ones searching for it and danger is getting ever closer...

This is as much a nuanced portrait and a family and the way history and culture affects people as it is an exciting adventure and mystery. Mia is frustrated that Jake seems to fit in better in China - even though she's the one who speaks better Mandarin - because he can blend effortlessly in with the local boys and play sports. The after effects of the Cultural Revolution are referenced in a way that's both relevant and understandable. Mia vaguely knows that this is something that had a huge effect on her family, but she can't really grasp the full concept.

The mystery is equally intriguing, blending clues and history together as Mia and Jake travel to different spots to solve the riddles and clues, explore the map, and eventually discover the treasure - and Aunt Lin.

Verdict: This is an exciting adventure that is sure to grab the attention of mystery fans but it will also resonate with children whose parents immigrated from another country and those readers who want to look into a different experience or culture. Recommend to fans of Thanhha Lai, Blue Balliett, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

ISBN: 9781481478625; Published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium