Tuesday, September 1, 2015

That's (not) Mine by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Anna Kang's first book, You Are (Not) Small, was a fun look at perspectives. Now she has branched out into a classic sharing theme, but with her own fun twist.

The story begins with the big bear comfortably settled in its chair and knitting. Then along comes a short, blue interloper who declares "That's my chair." The argument escalates until the little fuzzy produces their own chair. It's a....really nice chair. It squeaks! It spins! Big fuzzy begs for a chance to try it out but it ends badly...and guess who gets the chair? Temporarily anyways. The fight is back on and gets more and more heated until a simple apology ends it all and they take off to play together - leaving the chair open for another claimant.

Christopher Weyant's ink and watercolor illustrations make me think of colored pencils and markers. They have that friendly, child-like feel while still being smooth and professional. His fuzzy creatures with their bulgy noses are cartoonish and yet relatable, with a wide variety of expressions and body language. The illustrations are simple, just the chair(s) and the fuzzy creatures against a plain white background, but the humor, feelings, and mischievous activities shine through.

If parents are looking for a book that will "teach" their kids to share, this probably won't be the one. I'm skeptical of bibliotherapy in general anyways. But if they're looking for a book that will make them stop and giggle the next time they yell "it's mine!" this is it.

Verdict: Fun, fresh, and thoroughly enjoyable. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781477826393; Published September 2015 by Two Lions/Amazon; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

[Side note] I couldn't resist putting up the adorable poster in my reading area. Granted, I have more problems with kids building, throwing, climbing, and jumping on and off the cushions, but maybe they'll get the hint!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Collared Lemming by Dee Phillips

This is an entry in one of Bearport's habitat series, "Arctic Animals: Life Outside the Igloo."

Lemmings are cute. Aside from that one fact (and the whole "jumping off cliffs" misconception) I didn't really know anything about these rodents. This simple nonfiction book takes the reader through their habitat, habits, appearance, predators, food, and more facts.

Back matter includes suggestions for projects, "Science Words" which is a glossary, a brief index, two suggested books, and a link to the publisher's website with more information.

This book is packed with photographs and information and is at an easy, intermediate reading level. I really like Bearport for filling in animal series fiction. They do a lot of high-interest titles with mostly helpful collection different types of animals or abilities. Their books are a little cheaper than the average library bound series nonfiction, but I feel like they offer more content that's still at a manageable level for intermediate readers. This series includes titles on the arctic fox, harp seal, polar bear, reindeer, and snowshoe hare.

Verdict: If you're updating your animal section, or if you need to support curriculum that covers habitats (I'm sorry, biomes) then this is a good series to select.

ISBN: 9781627245289; Published 2015 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Children's Area

As I was thinking about new posts on the library, I realized I don't think I've ever shown off my children's area. First of all, I would like to very clearly state that it is almost NEVER this tidy. There are blocks all over the floor, sometimes trains, the puzzles lose pieces, the tub books get messed up, etc. It doesn't really bother me. I figure the next family in will tidy up, or staff will clean up at night (this greatly annoys some staff, which I can understand since I'm not usually the person who cleans it up, but I still don't think it's a big deal).

Welcome to the children's area! The beginning of the picture book section is to your left, the movies to your right. You can see where I unsuccessfully stuck posters to the shelf end on one side. The children's area is remarkably free from children!

Our train table is definitely the most popular, followed closely by the Duplo table. The train table was purchased from Melissa and Doug and is badly in need of a paint job. The duplo table was bought....off Amazon? and probably needs to be cleaned too, but I'm not looking too closely.
The doors lead into our storyroom, which is one of the things I like about this space - that kids can hang out at the train table and listen to storytime or take a break if they're feeling overwhelmed (as happens somewhat frequently in our rather chaotic storytimes)

Here is part of the toy storage and the tub books. I put pictures on all the baskets and the shelves so they could be matched up. The kids are usually pretty good about using them. There is a tub of Duplos, a tub of links (in the shape of cars, trains, etc.) and three baskets of soft, squishy blocks.

Also, puzzles. On top of the shelf are our book bundles and the box for take home storytimes. Empty at the moment, alas.

Looking out of the play area, you can see the picture book shelves etc. Incidentally, we call it both the children's area (which may also refer to the ENTIRE children's area) and the play area.

On the other side are the board books. Usually we put some on display, tucked behind/under the backs of the CD cases.

Finally, in the corner is...this

Coupon holder (which is empty), tissues and hand sanitizer, and art to pick up, which will soon be weeded out.

This is our very ancient couch, which is badly in need of replacement. Also, the ancient trash can.

Recently I moved the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten over here and switched the couch and table to their current configuration. The table wobbles, which drives me insane. All four of the chairs belong to the table, but I usually stick a couple by the Duplo table.

And, again, the big door to our storyroom with flyers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This week at the library; or, Get thee behind me procrastination

have some more gladiolas
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • I was really going to get all the reports and paperwork finished on Monday. But we had a staff meeting, and then the school brought all the kids and we had to hang out, and then kids needed help finding things and then a kid got lost (only not really)...I did manage to finish nearly everything though!
  • Tuesday I was covering the evening shift for a colleague and had all sorts of plans for the morning at home. I slept most of it. Then I worked on lexiles and made myself so sleepy that I had to shelve movies to wake up.
  • Wednesday I worked on movies and then lexiles. I've finished reformatting and updating the lists that were done and now I'm figuring out how to do the rest that have to start from scratch...I've decided instead of downloaded the massive Excel files, to use the Pinterest boards of recent purchases and work backwards from there. I spent about 20 minutes trying to fix a stupid thing in Word and.....the big news of the day.....I'M GETTING A SINK!!! I have wanting a portable sink for my program room for pretty much seven years and the Friends are giving me one! It's the best present ever *sniff*.
  • and then of course Scholastic Reading Counts crashed and I couldn't work on the Lexiles project. CURSE YOU SCHOLASTIC READING COUNTS AND LEXILES!!
Some projects completed/in progress this week
  • wishlist/request for funding sent to Friends
  • summer/august report
  • drafted yearly report
  • 900 Lexiles reformatted and updated
  • overhauled the movie noodle project and shifted and shelved the movies
Stealth Programs and Displays
What the kids are reading; A Selection
  • I survived (multiple requests)
  • vampire and zombie books
  • Gumball (movies)
  • skateboarding games (wii)
  • wanted Boys are Dogs (recommended last time and she fell in love with them) but the ones she hadn't read were checked out so I recommended Small Persons with Wings, Heartbreak Messenger, Calli be gold, and Battle of Darcy Lane
  • long coaxing RA with a reluctant reader. Finally got her to take Smith's Stormrunner, Drama and Sisters and an audiobook to try. Maybe.
  • Batman 66
  • Recommendations for a 5th grader with a super high reading level and interest in engineering and robotics - Macaulay's Building books and MAKE magazine.
  • Wings of Fire stumper
  • books and movies for a 3 and 5 year old - ballet section and peg+cat
  • Sisters Grimm
  • Little house on the prairie
  • graphic novels

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, illustrated by Peter Chan and Kei Acedera

I've had this on my to read list for a long time but I finally picked it up for a book club which needed a Wisconsin author (and then didn't finish it and didn't go to book club anyways. Ahem.) anyways, I admit that I bogged down a bit but managed to finish it, which makes me wonder if I've lost my taste for middle grade fantasy or if this just....wasn't very good.

Aldwyn is a clever alley cat, able to avoid any dangers in the medieval town he lives in. But he can't survive being chased by the most dangerous of the bounty hunters, especially when the hunter uses magic. A series of lucky occurrences and Aldwyn finds himself mistaken for a magic-working familiar and going home to a new family, which includes his "loyal" Jack, know-it-all blue jay Skylar, who has some secrets of her own, and the friendly but dim frog Gilbert. Aldwyn barely has time to settle in to his new life when there's a catastrophe of epic (and magical) proportions and he finds himself on a dangerous journey with the other two familiars to save their loyals.

There are black and white sketches, some of them full-page, throughout the book, but they don't add much to the story and are mostly forgettable. The story...well, forgettable is a kind word. Chaotic, random, cliched....it clearly was not for me. It appears to be the typical quasi-feudal/medieval fantasy world with added magic, weird creatures, etc. The history sounds interesting, but it was revealed randomly and in bits and pieces that were irrelevant to the main story. The plot is vague and wandering, heavy on the foreshadowing and there are no surprises in the ending; the familiars save their loyals, Aldwyn turns out to have magic, the queen is innocent, etc. Even the building of the characters is cliched and doesn't add up. At one point Aldwyn is thinking about how he doesn't have any loyalty to his new "family" and could just leave and only a few paragraphs later he's thinking about the tight bond he's formed with Jack (in the space of....less than a week?)

It's no surprise that the authors are screenwriters since this book reads a lot like the screenplay for an animated movie - lots of quirky magical creatures and descriptions of scenery, some simple twists and turns, and a cliched ending with a soppy moral. The series itself has been optioned for a film, but is listed simply as in development, no actual release date is planned.

Verdict: Even with a movie planned, this doesn't strike me as the type of project that increases demand for the book when the movie is released; more the type of thing where people are surprised to learn it's based on a book. It's predictable, poorly plotted, and rather boring overall. However, plenty of kids have enjoyed the series and it's no worse than, say, the Warriors series or any of the gazillion and one medieval-fantasy-with-animals books out there. There are, however, quite a few of those and this is nothing particularly new. So, an additional purchase if you have a plentiful budget, demand for this type of book, or fans of this series in particular.

ISBN: 9780061961083; Published 2011 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Small Readers: Mr. Ball: An Egg-cellent adventure by Michael Townsend

A lot of publishers are jumping onto the "easy readers in comic format" with varying degrees of success. I've been skeptical about some of them, but they've turned out to be quite popular, and even more important, I've been finding parents slowly starting to be more willing to let their kids read them, so I'm looking for more in this genre.

This is from a new series, Jump-Into-Chapters that I thought I'd take a look at. The main character, Mr. Ball, is...a ball. He rather reminds me of the Mr. Happy etc. characters. In the introduction, we meet Mr. Ball and his cat, Ms. Kitty Cow, who goes crazy when she eats hot dogs. In the first chapter (part 1) Mr. Ball and his friends go to a circus and love it so much they decide to have their own circus - and Mr. Ball volunteers to tame a wild and scary animal! In part 2, he is trying to decide upon a big, fierce animal. His friends tell stories to dissuade him, but he chooses to take a Giant, Fire-Breathing Tweety Blob! The next two chapters involve Mr. Ball's attempts to tame and capture a Tweety Blob, his ignominious failure, and his friends' rescue. He thanks them all and decides to tame Ms. Kitty Cow to start with. A brief epilogue hints at more adventures of Mr. Ball to come.

The art has a light, cartoon touch. There are squiggly arrows showing where to begin each chapter and the movements and speech bubbles are large and exaggerated, helping beginning readers follow the story in both words and pictures. Lots of visual cues keep readers abreast of the story. The book itself is a slightly oversized, hardcover easy reader shape. It will stand out on the shelf, being a little larger and thicker, but not too noticeably.

Verdict: This was personally a little too silly for my tastes, but kids will gobble it up. It will be especially attractive to struggling readers who want a little more humor and action but aren't quite ready for chapters yet. A fun and popular addition to any easy reader section.

ISBN: 9781609054588; Published 2014 by Blue Apple Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Maple & Willow apart by Lori Nichols

Some series never reach the heights of the first book, or they start out weakly and improve as they go along. But Maple and Willow's stories keep the same simple, high quality storytelling and art in every new addition. I first fell in love with this series when Maple was a little girl, waiting for a new sister and a new tree to join her in MapleMaple & Willow Together features the sisters learning to get along and, despite occasional squabbles, having a close friendship.

But now Maple is growing up and going to school and the sisters have to renegotiate their relationship. Willow is lonely and jealous of Maple's new adventures and Maple seems to have forgotten the little sister she left behind. Can Willow make everything better again?

Nichols' simple prose and delicate illustrations bring to life the sisters who are growing up and changing, but are still so much alike. The glorious fall colors are echoed in the rainbow hues of Willow's imaginative adventures. The spreads of Maple and Willow interacting are spot illustrations on a white background while Willow's adventures with her new friend Pip explode into full-page color. Subtle details, like the endpages changing from green to orange, catch the eye and make this one to reread again and again.

Verdict: Parents will be sniffing at the bittersweet story of two sisters growing up and even children who don't have siblings will understand what it's like to struggle with changing as you grow older. Another pitch-perfect story from Lori Nichols about two sweet sisters. Highly Recommended.

ISBN: 9780399167539; Published 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Curious About Fishes by Elizabeth Bennett

This is an awesome book with one serious flaw. However, more on that later...

This is the first in a new series called Curious About... and features a unique method of teaching kids; x-rays! Each spread talks about a different aspect of fishes, illustrated by both a live fish and a x-ray that clearly demonstrates the trait under discussion. So a spread talking about gills shows, on the left, a brilliantly-colored school of snappers and on the right, against a black background, the text and an x-ray of a red dory illustrating the skeletal plate protecting the gills.

Additional facts are sprinkled throughout the book and at the back there's a key to the specimens that provided the x-rays and a glossary. The text is intermediate, simple enough to read aloud to a class of children, but complex enough to challenge a 1st or 2nd grader. It's a fascinating look at the anatomy of various fishes with lots of attractive photographs, excellent text, and a nice layout.

So, what's wrong with it? Well....this series is only available in paperback. Now, I will buy some nonfiction in paperback (and I'm pretty lonely in that decision - my director still looks askance at me about it) but I absolutely won't buy popular, i.e. animal, books in paperback. They'd disintegrate at the first little sticky hand or disappear the minute they're put onto the shelf, sliding back between the bigger books. Hopefully, when more of the series is released it will be available in a prebound edition.

Verdict: This would make a great addition to a homeschool curriculum or to add to your prize books (you DO offer nonfiction prize books, yes?) but until a hardcover version is available I couldn't recommend it to a library with any kind of decent circulation. It's too bad because it's a really great idea and I loved the book.

ISBN: 9780448484624; Published 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin); Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to summer prize books

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It's Cybils Season!!

The call for judges is live and you have until September 9 to throw your hat in the ring (make sure it's a party hat, since it is our tenth anniversary!) There are lots of great reasons to apply to be a Cybils panelist or judge - reading tons of great new books, the wonderful discussions, the excitement of the award process, new perspectives, etc. but why should you apply for MY category in particular? Nonfiction can sometimes be an afterthought but it's really a vitally important area and one that's growing and becoming more amazing all the time!

  • Fewer books. Do you really have time to read through a couple hundred chapter books or ya fiction? Nah, didn't think so.
  • Variety. Don't think you like nonfiction? Can't stand biographies or creepy-crawlies or....in the nonfiction category there's something for everyone! You'll read amazing books you might never have picked up before Cybils and discover whole new subjects you'll want to learn more about.
  • Improved professional skills. Are you a teacher or librarian? Nonfiction is a hugely popular genre for kids. Wouldn't you like to see the best new books in the field to recommend to your readers?
  • Learn new things. Did you know about Angel Island, how butterfly hatcheries work, the latest research in saving cheetahs, that Hispanic and Latino Americans suffered from segregation, or that black mustard plants have a defense system? Neither did I, until I read last year's Cybils finalists!
  • Start small. If you're not sure you're ready to jump in the deep end with hundreds of books, or have the responsibility of picking the ultimate winner, try applying to be a first round panelist on one of the smaller categories like Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction, Easy Readers/Chapters, or Book Apps. You have a better chance to be chosen in those categories as well, since there tend to be fewer applicants.
So, join us for Cybils this year and get your read on!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

This week at the library; or, Paperwork Blurgh

Testing the queen of summer reading crown before
taking it to the winning school librarian. I hope Ms. S.
likes glitter...
What's going on; in my head and at the library
  • When did I become a supervisor and get stuck with all this PAPERWORK? Sigh. 
  • Monday I powered through paperwork, newsletter, and website and the evening on the desk. 
  • Tuesday I shifted and weeded juvenile fiction, discovering just before I left that I was one shelf short and had to reshift practically from the beginning. ARGH. 
  • Wednesday I finished juvenile fiction, processed new materials, refilled all the displays, and worked on the missing list. Inventory did not go as I had wanted. Note to self - do not have volunteers inventory, no matter how helpful they long to be. And maybe August is not the best time to inventory when things are in a mess. Do inventory right next time. Ended up shifting and shelf-reading all the holiday books as well. Made handouts for take home storytime.
  • Thursday I fiddled with the budget and trying to figure out where we're moving the wifi thingy. I also started updating the 1000+ lexiles list, a necessary evil, filled displays, put out take home bags and coloring sheets, and answered lots of questions. The main project was getting all the marketing for September-October in place. Most of it was done, but I had to figure out what still needed to be done. I managed to finish almost everything! And still had time to process a few more new books.
  • Friday (half-day) I finished the last bits of marketing through October. Processed the last of the new books. Finished reformatting the 1000+ lexile list and almost through updating.
  • Saturday (half-day) Finished updating the 1000+ lexile list and sent it out to the schools, reprinted for the notebook, and sent to update the website. Staff evaluations finished (for the moment). Started work on 
Ongoing and New Stealth Programs and Displays
  • Dork Diaries
  • RA - Lost Trail, Rex Fangbone, Little Green Men, Dragonbreath
  • Secrets of Droon #8 is apparently the only one we don't have
  • Solved a stumper for a staff member - Here where the sunbeams are green
  • Struck out on a request for a medieval/high fantasy titled "dwarf" or another fantasy series we don't own.
  • Suggested Happy Happy Clover to Chi's Sweet Home fan.
  • Margolis' Boys are Dogs series for How to Survive Middle School fan.
  • Craft books, Lego books, Doc McStuffins, Notebook of doom
  • minecraft
  • Wonder - where did it go? Finally discovered on the staff picks
  • Bone (second request this week)
  • Overheard a little girl lamenting the lack of horse books - I showed her the farm section and picked out Doyle Malachy's Horse and the Krista Ruepp books and she found My Chincoteague Pony
  • Peg Kehret - threw me b/c I thought she was saying "peg carrot" and totally blanked for a minute.
  • Books about feeling and character - neighborhoods for the win!
  • graphic novels
  • Dick and Jane
  • Dork Diaries
  • Wicked by Sara Shepard (put on hold)
  • Box Christmas special (put on request list)
  • Recommended Roller Girl to disgruntled tween checking out Zita, Babysitters Club, and others
  • Then recommended Summer Camp Science mysteries and CSI Club and Amulet