Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I have a bad feeling about this by Jeff Strand

I was really trepidatious about this - would it be as funny, as wacky, and snarkalicious as A Bad Day for Voodoo? Answer: Yes, yes it will.

Henry isn't a wuss. He takes reasonable precautions, like any sixteen-year-old who wants to live to see adulthood. Anybody knows jellyfish...ok, he's a wuss. Secretly, he'd like a little more self-confidence. Be able to talk to girls, that kind of thing. But he's pretty sure a week in survival wilderness camp isn't going to improve his life. Turns out, he's right. There's only five guys at camp, the food is disgusting and the only fun thing about the "games" is seeing who can be worse - probably Henry and his best friend Randy. Things look up a little when Henry meets a girl, Monica, from the music camp three miles away, but a second encounter ends in a disaster so that's out. But unbeknownst to anyone, trouble is brewing on the horizon and survival camp is about to become very, very real.

If you're hoping for some deep thoughts on manhood, the beauties of the wilderness, or some sensitive reflection on post-traumatic stress and violence in modern teens' lives, forget it. The closest you're going to get is Henry's vague "that's too bad" thoughts about the bloody death of one of the protagonists as he makes a run for the trees. There are no lessons learned (unless it's that you never can tell with girls), and no survival skills gained (even with the helpful wilderness tips included).

But, if you have a warped sense of humor, as I do, you will laugh hysterically through the entire book. So really, it's therapeutic.

Verdict: Great for teens looking for a quick, funny read, but be aware there's blood, death, and inappropriate humor.

ISBN: 978-1402284557; Published 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Little You by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett

This is what I call the "mommy love" genre. There's not really a plot, just a (often poetic) listing of the ways a mother (or more rarely a couple or father) loves their child. Parents eat this up, and kids love the comfort of familiarity at bedtime etc. but frankly they annoy me.

This one is a little different though. It has a gentle, if sometimes oddly pointless text "Little you little wonder/Little wish gentle thunder." However, it's more the reassuring sound of a parent's voice and the gentle rhythm of the words that matter.

The illustrations are simple with broad chunks of color. They show the little child of the cover with both parents and all three have the same lightly tan skin hue.

This is a typical board book - 7x7 inches with a sturdy spine that opens nicely and 13 pages, counting both covers. It's put out by a publisher that's not known for its board books - Orca - and is from Canada, both of which may account for the higher price of a little over $9 (with discount).

Verdict: If you're looking for basics, I wouldn't add this but if you're looking to expand your collection, especially with books featuring children of color, I would recommend it. Worth the slightly higher price.

ISBN: 9781459802483; Published 2013 by Orca Book Publishers; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to my library's order list

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

This stunningly photographed book is an unusual look at a butterfly's life. Instead of focusing on the life cycle of an individual butterfly, it focuses on the farming, raising, and packaging of pupas on butterfly farms.

The description of the caterpillars' life and transformation is woven into the narrative of their journey from Costa Rica to Boston. There's additional information on life cycles, the associated vocabulary, a glossary, and further reading. As I've come to expect from a Scientists in the Field author, the local/native workers are given equal, if not more, face time and their role in the process is emphasized.

The photographs are simply gorgeous from the intricate details in close up butterfly photos to rows of iridescent green pupae. Harasimowicz could definitely give Nic Bishop a run for his money.

My one reservation about this book, and why it's not sitting on my shelf right now, is that it's published by Milbrook. If you're not familiar with Milbrook, they do not offer a wide variety of bindings - library bound is often their only option. Is this book awesome? Yes. Is it $20 worth of awesome? Well...I am really trying to get away from expensive, library bound nonfiction. A hardcover usually suffices for our amount of circulation. Sure, it might fall apart in about five years - but that's about the shelf life of most nonfiction anyways.

Verdict: Clear, concise writing about an unusual aspect of butterflies; beautiful photography; excellent additional research information. But I still can't decide if I really need another butterfly book at this price. I expect I will go on taking it on and off the list for some time to come.

ISBN: 9780761393429; Published 2014 by Milbrook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, April 20, 2014

RA RA READ: Interactive Picture Books

A lot of parents and teachers are really enthusiastic about all of the fun interactive books that are coming out for children. I use these a lot in storytime myself and they're great for kids who need a little movement in their storytime or who have trouble sitting still and listening. The activities range from running and screaming to joining in to repeat a refrain. These are some of my favorites:
  • Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
  • Open very carefully a book with bite by Nick Bromley
  • Clap your hands by Lorinda Cauley
  • Don't push the button by Bill Cotter
  • What happens next? Who's like me? What will I be? by Nicola Davies
  • If you're a monster and you know it by Ed Emberley
  • Oh no! by Candace Fleming
  • I spy (series) by Edward Gibbs
  • Eggs 1, 2, 3 by Janet Halfmann
  • Who has this tail, Who has these feet by Laura Hulbert
  • It's a tiger! by David LaRochelle
  • Warning: Do not open this book by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Tap the magic tree by Christie Matheson
  • Little mouse by Alison Murray
  • Monkey Ono by J. C. Phillips
  • Do you know which ones will grow by Susan Shea
  • What will hatch? by Jennifer Ward

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This week at the library; or, It's winter all over again

Programs
Random Commentary
  • COLD. It snowed again, although nothing like they got up north. Not very spring-ey if you ask me, although I normally like the rain.
  • Our director and head of circulation served dinner to about 25 people who came to Tiny Tots (I work the desk Monday night, or I would have helped!). Parents really appreciated it so I think we'll do it again next year for National Library Week.
  • Pattie had egg hunts, but someone else got to hide the eggs because I was at the kindergartens )-:
  • I had desk time, programs, outreach, and packed program planning for the rest of the spring and continuing to work on Neighborhoods into any spare moment.
  • Webinars
    • The Scoop on Series Nonfiction Spring 2014 from Booklist. There are some series I'm really interested in for promoting the Neighborhoods and DK is doing some new things that I want to try as well.
  • We were closed on Friday, but I managed to pack quite a lot into this week nonetheless.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club by Bertrand R. Brinley, illustrated by Charles Geer

Still going retro here! Now you know why I called my after school club the "Mad Scientists Club". Although it's really a pretty common name, it was actually this book that I had in the back of my mind.

I have a fairly large collection of what I call "small town adventures". Although they often seem to represent a stereotypical 1950s lifestyle, they're mostly written during the 1960s-70s. They show groups of kids (generally all white) roaming about a small town with almost complete freedom to solve mysteries, track down criminals, invent things (often involving explosions) and generally create havoc.

Now, I'm not in favor of going back to the "good old days" when kids "used their imagination and didn't play all these video games" (shakes cane and yells). For one thing, stories like these were as unrealistic when they were written as they are now. Most kids didn't build their own submarine, solve crimes, etc.

However, what I really love about these stories (and yes, I am going to actually talk about this one) is first of all that they're funny, but secondly that the kids are exploring, experimenting, and learning and they're having fun. That's what I think is missing in how kids are learning about science - they need to know it has practical applications and that it can be fun. This is the spirit I want to have in my after school clubs, that science is something everyone can do, that you don't need a teacher or a parent or a librarian, that you can try things out on our own. This is part of the reason I don't have a "lecture" portion to my club and why I constantly encourage the kids to "just try it!" and if they don't like the project "try something else!".

So, actual book time! This is the second collection of stories about the Mad Scientists Club. There are seven boys in the club (girls are totally peripheral characters in this series) and they work on various science projects together, led by their president Henry Mulligan. They're impeded in scientific progress by the occasional interference of adults, including the stereotypical Irish policemen, and their rival club, led by Harmon Muldoon, ex-scientist who was kicked out of the club. These are definitely of their time stories, with an all-white, all-male cast, and various references that will strike jarring notes for the modern reader, like the story "Big Chief Rainmaker".

Verdict: Would I recommend that you purchase these books for a modern library? Probably not. There are reprints available from Purple House Press, but they're pricey and, as I stated earlier, these are outdated in many ways. However, I've kept the copies our library previously owned on the shelf and they do circulate occasionally - parents with a lot of restrictions on what they want their kids to read will often prefer these older books, since they don't care about the stereotypes. I have my own copies and I enjoy the humor as well as the attitudes towards science. I recommend reading them to get some ideas for how to introduce your patrons to science and for a laugh, and if they're still circulating I'd keep them in your collection, but they're not a necessary addition that I would recommend purchasing if you don't already own them.

ISBN: 0590098535; Published 1968 by Scholastic (this edition is out of print); From my personal library

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Last of the dragons and some others by E. Nesbit, illustrated by Erik Blegvad

 I'm going a little retro today. I'm in the process of re-cataloging and arranging my entire library and am currently going through paperbacks. I have a lot of middle grade books I'm in the middle of, but nothing at review point yet, so...have something old!

Edith Nesbit's collection, A Book of Dragons, has been republished several times in different forms. This particular edition includes an extra dragon story - "The Last of the Dragons" and has an admittedly awful cover. These stories typify what I think of as "common magic" every day, ordinary children who suddenly encounter magic, usually with complete equanimity. I always think of E. Nesbit as the creator of this genre.

"The Last of the Dragons" is the story of....the last dragon. Of course, the princess must face him and be rescued by the prince. But the princess thinks this is a great shame and wouldn't it be better to give the dragon some kind words and maybe a few biscuits? The dragon has never faced such treatment before and it changes his whole attitude.

"The Book of Beasts" in which a little boy is made king and learns he oughtn't to open books that his nurse says should stay shut...in case horrid beasts come out! Fortunately, the little king remembers his duty, wipes away his tears, and finds the right creature to put right the wrongs he's done.

"Uncle James, or, The Purple Stranger" is a truly adorable story. A princess and a garden boy live on an island where everything is backwards - there's a chihuahua as big as an elephant and the elephant can fit in your pocket, for example. The princess has a horrid uncle who tries to take over the kingdom, but the clever gardener's boy saves her. I love that the princess tries her best to do her lessons, although she is not very good at them, and when Uncle James gets shrunk "the dragon took him because he wanted a birthday present."

"The deliverers of their country" is, perhaps my favorite story. There is a sudden plague of dragons on England. At first nobody believes the children who see them, then everyone thinks it's interesting, but as the dragons grow bigger and bigger and keep multiplying it becomes a major infestation and nobody knows how to deal with it. Fortunately for England, a naughty boy and his sister are prepared to be the Deliverers of Their Country, especially when St. George isn't able to help. A little plumbing, and the problem is solved!

"The ice dragon; or, do as you are told" in which two naughty children discover the truly awful things that can happen to children who sneak out of the house at night - like sliding all the way to the north pole and nearly getting eaten!

Hmm, no, I think "The Dragon Tamers" is my favorite. It tells the story of a blacksmith who accidentally discovers a dragon in his cellar. Catastrophe is averted by his clever children and there is bread and milk for everyone!

"The Fiery Dragon; or the Heart of Stone and the Heart of Gold" is the closest to a traditional fairy tale, complete with a captured princess and a rescuing prince. Except the prince turns out to be a really nasty piece of work an an usurper to boot and the real heroes are the princess herself and the brave pig-boy. He becomes a prince and marries the princess and "keeps no hippopotamuses and is consequently very popular."

"Kind little Edmund; or, the Caves and the Cockatrice" is probably the most outdated of these stories as it's a rather moralistic tale about not asking questions, respecting your betters, and the frontispiece for the story shows a boy being whipped by his schoolmaster.

Finally, we have another fairy tale, "The Island of the Nine Whirlpools". It takes a mathematically-inclined sailor boy and some help from the princess herself to get her rescued from all the fearsome guardians her nasty father has set about her.
Verdict: If I was replacing and adding classics, which I hope to do in a year or two, I'd definitely add this one to the list. The stories are fresh, funny, and clever. Although some of the language is outdated, the characters and plots are lively enough to overcome this. There's a nice, very affordable edition from the Looking Glass Library series by Random House that I have on a list to get sometime soon!

ISBN: 0140350691; Published 1972 by Puffin (this edition is out of print); From my personal library

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: I know a lot! by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham

This is the third in the "empowerment" series by Stephen Krensky, meant to encourage kids to celebrate their independence (at least until they realize that mommy won't let them out of her sight until they're 21. I'm feeling a bit grumpy at the moment, yes).

Each page features two opposing or related things the little girl on the cover knows, in rhyming couplets; "I know rocks are heavy/and flowers are light./I know bright means day/and dark means night." Some of the things are oddly phrased like "bright" for sunlight, contrasting wet water with glue that "will dry" (because doesn't water dry too?).

The colors have a blocky, modernistic feel, reminiscent of an older style of illustration. It's great to see a child of color featured in a board book, especially doing every day, ordinary things.

The book is a tall rectangle, 9x6, and has 7 pages, counting the covers. It's the type of sturdy board book binding that will get worn at the edges but will stand up to a lot of use.

Verdict: The text isn't exactly perfect, but the bright art is very attractive and it's great to see a child of color in a board book. It would be a good starting point for conversations with a toddler about what they can do. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781419709388; Published 2013 by Abrams Appleseed; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to my library order list

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Constance Bergum

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Melissa Stewart's latest seasonal/habitat book in the series that includes When Rain Falls and Under the Snow. Somehow I've never gotten around to reviewing either of those titles, although I use them regularly in storytime and they are everything I want in a nonfiction picture book. Happily, Beneath the Sun is equally delightful.

The book opens with a look at what kids do on a hot day - but what do animals do? The rest of the book covers a wide range of habitats and creatures from earthworms and golden eagles to frogs and sea stars. The simple text not only describes what they do in the heat, "A golden eagle soars through the cool air high above the desert." but also adds facts about the animals "Its thick feathers shield its skin from the sun's hot rays.

Bergum's watercolors have muted colors and softened lines and backgrounds, but keep the focus firmly on the various animals featured in each illustrations. Many of the spreads are divided into a smaller side panel with a second animal or text or a continuation of the illustration in the larger panel. I'm often not a fan of watercolors for nonfiction books because they all tend to blur together, but as you can see even in the cover illustration, the animals are clearly identifiable.

When I'm looking for nonfiction for storytime (both in-house and outreach) I'm often looking less for nonfiction narratives and more for books that will spark off a dialogue. That's what makes Stewart's books so versatile. You can read them straight through as a story, or you can use them to engage the audience. I always ask the kids to try to identify the animals and offer guesses on their behavior and adaptations; how do they think they're keeping cool? for example. Then, after reading the text we'll repeat and explain the unfamiliar words.

Verdict: If you're trying to add more nonfiction to your storytimes, or planning your summer storytimes, this is the perfect addition. Kids love identifying the animals and learning about their different behaviors and the tie-in to their own behavior in the summer is a great early literacy connection. A must for your library connection and highly recommended for use in storytimes.

ISBN: 978156145335; Published April 2014 by Peachtree; Review copy provided by the publisher and donated to the library

For more information about Melissa Stewart, her books, and lots of helpful science information, check out Melissa Stewart's Science Clubhouse

Next stops on the blog tour
Monday - Blue Owl
Tuesday – Geo Librarian
Wednesday- Kid Lit Reviews
Thursday- Tolivers to Texas and Chat with Vera
Friday- Sally’s Bookshelf

And for more on Peachtree's great nonfiction offerings, check out The World of Peachtree Publishers

Sunday, April 13, 2014

RA RA READ: Zombies and other gross and scary stuff

There's a subset of scary stories that quite a few kids also like - if you think of traditional scary stories as "help a monster is chasing me!" these are more "help a slime monster is oozing on me!" So be warned, these are some icky reads! Most of them are zombies, but there are a few other monsters thrown in.


  • Weenies by David Lubar
    • This is a series of collections of "warped and creepy" tales. They range from the quick and silly to the "freak out your friends around the campfire".
  • Zombiekins by Kevin Bolger
    • Stanley Nudelman accidentally turns his stuffed toy into a zombie and releases it on the fourth grade. He's also the author of Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger, so that gives you an idea of the humor. There was supposed to be a sequel and kids asked for it hopefully for a long time, but it never materialized.
  • Zombie Chasers by John Kloepfer
    • Wimpy Kid meets zombies. There are five of these out now, but the fifth is not in the our library system. A sixth is coming out next fall.
  • My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara
    • The title pretty much says it all - golfish is zombiefied and sets out for REVENGE. The Seaquel is on order.
  • Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie by David Lubar
    • There are five books in this series about a kid and an experiment gone wrong. We have the first four and the fifth is available in the system.
  • Something Wickedly Weird by Chris Mould
    • These are sort of ghoulish mysteries. They're quite British and feature a boy who goes to live in a house with all sorts of supernatural, ghostly, and weird happenings. There are six books in the series and we have the first three.
  • Ghosthunters by Cornelia Funke
    • The first book features an "incredibly revolting ghost" and the rest follow suit. There are five, but we only have four.