Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake

There's a bit of buzz going around now about a newly discovered (i.e. they dug through her attic) manuscript from Beatrix Potter which is to be illustrated by Quentin Blake. Apart from my own feelings about attic books (not favorable) I don't understand why they picked an illustrator whose art is so dissimilar to Beatrix Potter's delicate drawings. I was happy to see that this subtly humorous tale of Potter's childhood did not make that mistake, being illustrated by Charlotte Voake who, although she has her own definite style, feels more evocative of Potter's taste and art to me.

The story begins with Beatrix Potter and her intense interest in drawing the natural world around her. However, during her childhood in the city, there was not much access to the natural world. Beatrix never let that stop her, however, and she and her brother collected a wide variety of pets. Unfortunately, they did not have a guinea pig and Beatrix dearly wanted to draw one. So, she borrowed one from the neighbor next door, a fine animal named Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, despite Beatrix's best intentions, Queen Elizabeth came to an...unfortunate end. Beatrix attempted to make up for the sad demise with a delicate portrait but if you were the bereaved Miss Paget, what would you have done?

The author continues with a note detailing Potter's later life and the later discovery of a portrait of a guinea pig, drawn about that time, which sold for an extensive sum. A detailed author's note, complete with photographs and primary documents, gives more information about Beatrix Potter's life and legacy along with sources of quotations and a brief bibliography.

Charlotte Voake's delicate watercolors are the perfect accompaniment to this delightfully Victorian tale, with tiny drawings of the various animals, reproductions of entries in Potter's journals, and elegant spreads of Beatrix Potter's world.

While I personally loved this story and the delicate art that accompanies it, it's unlikely to be a title that flies off your shelves on its own account. The tongue-in-cheek humor, while it will give a giggle to older readers "You can guess what happened next. That repast of paper, paste, and string took its toll. In the night the queen expired." will probably fly right over the heads of younger listeners. It's also a fairly lengthy text and would need a patient audience to sit still for the entire book while the more advanced vocabulary will need a good reader to wade through on their own.

Verdict: Although this doesn't have universal appeal, it's one that certain, specific children and their parents will love, especially if they are fans of Beatrix Potter. Occasionally I will purchase titles with limited appeal for certain segments of my audience and this is one that falls under that heading. If you have an audience for this type of book at your library, it's definitely the one to purchase this year in that category.

ISBN: 9780385373258; Published 2016 by Schwartz and Wade; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, February 8, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Moon Bears by Mark Newman

I love bears but had never really thought much about moon bears - I'm more of a grizzly fan. But this book not only gave me a fresh look at some very adorable bears, it also inspired me to think about doing an all-bears storytime for outreach next year....

The simple text, interspersed with photographs, explains the life cycle of a moon bear while introducing different bears from the sanctuary where the photos were taken. It talks about their abilities, their sense of smell and hearing, and their diet. The book explains how moon bears interact and how this is different in the wild and at the sanctuary. The back matter gives an additional list of facts about bears, more facts about moon bears, and an author's note explaining the inspiration for the story and the story of the moon bear sanctuary and the people who helped with the book.

This book features one of my favorite layouts in easy nonfiction - bold, simple captions that can be read aloud to the youngest audience and longer, more detailed text for older audiences. This book just might have the best combination ever, which each caption being a an active or informative sentence about bears that toddlers will be able to understand and even participate in "Ginny can run quickly on all four legs./Moon bears can stand on their back legs quite easily, too." The longer text is still simple and direct, perfect for an older preschool or kindergarten audience while younger elementary students will be able to begin reading the book on their own.

Verdict: Informative, accessible, and full of adorable photographs of moon bears! I will be strongly encouraging all my neighboring libraries to buy copies of this title so I have enough to use it in my beginning readers book club. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780805093445; Published 2015 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, February 7, 2016

RA RA Read: Easy Readers for the absolute beginner

With the advent of four year old kindergarten in our town a few years ago, there is now an emphasis on kids reading at a younger age. Regardless of whether or not this is developmentally appropriate (it's not imo) we are getting more and more parents asking for easier easy readers. I've written elsewhere about how we "level" easy readers, but it's not a perfect solution.

The most often asked-for easy readers are ones for the very beginning readers with just a few words. We're planning to add another sticker for that as well in the near future. This is a list of some of the simplest easy readers in this category, as well as some picture books that also fill this role.

Easy Reader Series
  • Berenstain Bears
    • The Big Honey Hunt
    • Bears on Wheels
    • Big Bear, Small Bear
    • Old Hat, New Hat
  • Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Little Lizard by Melinda Crow
  • Clara and Clem by Ethan Long
  • Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
  • Cat the cat by Mo Willems
  • Silly Lilly by Agnes Rosenstiehl
  • Brownie and Pearl by Cynthia Rylant
  • Trucktown by Jon Sciesczka
Easy Reader Imprints
  • National Geographic Pre-Readers (Blue)
  • My First I Can Read
  • Bullfrog Books
  • I Like to Read (quality varies)
    • Little ducks go
    • Fix this mess
    • Me, Too
    • See me dig, See me run
    • Dinosaurs do, Dinosaurs don't
Picture Book Authors

  • Eric Carle
  • Donald Crews
  • Lois Ehlert
  • Denise Fleming
  • Jorey Hurley
  • Nancy Tafuri
  • Jan Thomas

Boxed Sets

  • BOB Books
    • Set 1, ISBN 0439845009
  • Learn to Read with Tug the Pup
    • Set 1, ISBN 9780062266897
  • Biscuit Phonics Fun
    • ISBN 9780061432040
  • Guided Science Readers
    • Level A, ISBN 9780545650922

Saturday, February 6, 2016

This week at the library; or, fakewinterblues

One of my Rock 'n' Read book club attendees created
a model London Eye, after we read Siobhan Dowd's
The London Eye Mystery
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl (cancelled)
    • Oy. Packing outreach baskets, sending out emails, meetings, meetings, planning, crazy. On top of all that it's not even snowing! And I can see the grass!
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Bookaneers
    • Everyone was expecting vast amounts of snow. It rained. It slushed. It iced. I am disappointed. A fairly large group came to book club anyways though.
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Dance Party
    • Lakeland outreach tour (Jess)
    • It snowed for, like, 5 minutes. While I was walking to the car OF COURSE. Vast amounts of paperwork were tackled today.
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Messy Art Club: Valentines
    • Tap to Play
    • Eh. Everything was just kind of meh. Kids had fun making Valentines and Pattie and I discussed the woes of the world while cutting up cardboard squares since nobody came to Tap to Play
  • Friday
    • No kids programs, but I came in late b/c I was supervising the knit-in until 10pm. Very busy last few hours of the day!
Projects in Progress or Completed
  • New Take Home Storytimes - ABC and Penguins
  • Jess made a new I Spy Aquarium
  • Updating and putting together new toy bags
  • Paperwork - evaluations, continuing education, and performers
  • CE and Meetings
    • Department heads staff meeting
    • Youth Services department staff meeting
What the kids are reading
  • Pulled over 200 books for remote collections
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • easy readers - Tinkerbell and My little pony (don't have any at that low a level)
  • Fake Mustache
  • long discussion with small child about what books she can and can't read
  • More Branches books
  • Amulet
  • Request for middle grade nonfiction! Yay! Hidden like Anne Frank and Boys who challenged Hitler

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Usually, I really don't care for these slice-of-life type of books and rarely buy them since the kids don't check them out often. But this one really grabbed me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cody is excited about the start of a wonderful summer. She's going to enjoy it with reading, watching ants, and hanging out with her family. But it's a little bumpier than expected with her teen brother Wyatt struggling at his science camp and in love and a maybe new friend named Spencer who has a lost cat. Not to mention her mom's new job that isn't going as well as she'd hoped. Fortunately, after some tears and struggles, all ends well.

I loved the depiction of a warm and loving family going through everyday problems. The characters are realistic and have fights and arguments, especially when Cody's ideas don't turn out as well as she'd hoped, but underneath they're basically kind and trying to do the right thing. Nobody dies, gets divorced, has life-threatening illnesses, etc. It's just a simple story of a happy summer with ups and downs.

Verdict: I really loved this - the writing was lovely, the characters realistic and people I'd want to meet, and whole story was just very happy. I liked that the main characters were diverse without it being the point of the story and that Springstubb didn't fall into the "diverse best friend" trap. On the other hand, I'm not sure how many kids would actually check this out. It's a little long for a beginning chapter book, but not quite long enough for the middle grade kids that will read this type of slice-of-life story. It would make a nice read-aloud for younger kids though. I'll have to think about it some more.

ISBN: 9780763658571; Published 2015 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Reindeer Girl by Holly Webb

Lotta is thrilled to take her first journey to Norway and meet her great-grandmother, her oldeforeldre. Even more, she can't wait to see real reindeer! Lotta slowly learns more about the reindeer and her Sami ancestors and their way of life. When she escapes a noisy party to hide with Oldeforeldre, she hears amazing stories and as she drifts off to sleep the stories become real...

Lotta awakes at a very different time and place; she is with a whole clan of Sami, following the reindeer. She experiences adventure, heartbreak, and the warmth of family before awaking. But her adventure has left a special surprise for both her and her great-grandmother.

The simple line illustrations carry over the same sweet, cozy feel of the cover. Although darker points are touched on - Sami children being forced to abandon their heritage and go to school, reindeer dying, etc. there is a gentle, happy feel to the story overall.

Verdict: I really liked this. It introduces a culture and history new to most readers, has cute animals, and is just an overall happy, interesting read. Not available in the US unfortunately though. I don't know how accurate the representation of the Sami is, but it's a nice introduction.

ISBN: 9781847154460; Published 2013 by Little Tiger Press; Purchased with personal funds; Donated to the library

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Small Readers: The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer

Cheerful rhymes and silly pictures fill this book that pays homage to the classic Go, Dogs, Go easy reader.

One after another the dogs parade through the book - cold dogs, hot dogs, black dogs white dogs and a little bit more, every few pages, of that long, long dog. How long is that dog? The book ends with a picture of all the dogs holding up goodbye signs and one last silly sign from the long dog.

The pictures are cheerful, if a little out of focus and fuzzy in some cases, especially in the small details. I personally thought the giant pink bow and skateboard of the gal dog and guy dog was a little annoying - there was no need to stereotype what is supposed to just be silly dogs after all.

The text is bold and clear with short, simple sentences and repeated phrases "This is a high dog./This is a low dog." and is a good fit for kids who need just a few words on each page.

Verdict: Not a stand-out, but a perfectly serviceable filler, especially if you're looking for more level one, very easy easy readers.

ISBN: 9780545746328; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Donated to the library

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

I feel like there was a little initial buzz about this book and then it seemed to slip from everyone's minds. This is too bad, because it's a wonderful book on several levels.

Sonya, a sturdy girl with rich, dark skin and exuberant curls, is given three speckled chicks by her father. Under her care, they grow into plump, healthy chickens and begin to provide eggs. But one night, there is a disturbance in the coop and when Sonya runs out to check...one chicken is gone. Her father comforts her by telling a story about the hungry fox who wants to feed her family. Sonya makes a grave for her lost chicken, but thinks also of the fox kits in the woods, no longer hungry. She and her family repair the coop and one day one of the eggs begins to hatch!

The illustrations are a rich blend of watercolor, collage and colored pencil. The landscape feels almost like a fantasy forest with towering flowers and tall trees. One of my favorite spreads is a night scene with the trees, buildings, and skyline dimly shown in the dark landscape adn a glowing moon and stars overhead.

It's not a perfect book; in places the text is too lengthy to make a good read-aloud and it occasionally strays into didacticism. However, the rich, lovely illustrations and the simple descriptions of caring for a beloved pet and accepting that sometimes sad things happen are heartfelt and touching.

Verdict: This is a good title to enjoy together with a special listener or to read in an abridged format with a younger group.

ISBN: 9781770497894; Published 2015 by Tundra; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, January 31, 2016

RA RA Read: Pink and Fancy Picture Books

Glittery, frilly, pink and princessey books are hugely popular with children and parents alike. I personally favor a little "anti-princess" in my pink book recommendations, so you'll see that reflected in some fractured fairy tales and "you can be fancy and still have fun" books.

Series and authors
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
    • I really like Fancy Nancy because it combines lots of glitz with a down-to-earth family and everyday events and concerns for a child. There's also lots of fun vocabulary!
    • ISBN: 9780060542092
    • Multiple picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and 8x8 tie-ins are available.
  • Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
    • I have to admit that I, personally, detest these books and some parents agree. The art is flat and lifeless and the stories are poorly written and overly preachy. However, that's definitely a minority opinion - these are extremely popular with most people.
    • ISBN: 9780060776398
    • Additional picture books and easy readers are available
  • Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews
    • These stories are similar to Fancy Nancy but with more emphasis on the pink and pretty-pretty than general fanciness. Most of them deal with some event at school or a friendship.
    • ISBN: 9780316040501
    • Sequels, easy readers, and some additional paperback 8x8s are available.
  • Jellybeans and the big dance by Laura Numeroff
    • These are everyday school stories, but there is a lot of glitter, some dancing, and Munsinger's illustrations of plump and fuzzy animals.
    • ISBN: 9780810993525
    • There are several sequels as well as a few board books, although I don't think they make good board book editions.
  • Sarah Gibb's fairy tales
    • While some reviewers find her retellings to be a little flat and blah, it doesn't really matter because her pictures are gorgeous and most small children can't sit still for a long fairy tale anyways.
    • ISBN: 9780807568040 (Rapunzel)
    • ISBN: 9780807506004 (Beauty and the Beast)
    • ISBN: 9780807566305 (The Princess Who Had No Kingdom)
    • ISBN: 9780007526291 (Sleeping Beauty)
Fancy Clothes
  • I had a favorite dress by Boni Ashburn
    • Delicate watercolors by Julia Denos.
    • ISBN: 9781419700163
    • Also a companion, I had a favorite hat
  • Princess Bess gets dressed by Margery Cuyler
    • Features extremely frilly underwear
    • ISBN: 9781416938330
  • Princess Gown by Linda Strauss
    • From the perspective of the family of tailors making the princess' fancy ballgown. The youngest daughter makes a mistake and then tries to fix it.
    • ISBN: 9780618862597 (out of print)
You can be fancy and still have fun (anti-princess books)
  • Princess and the pig by Jonathan Emmett
    • Older kids love this wacky fairy tale about a princess and a pig who change places
    • ISBN: 9780802723345
  • Olivia and the fairy princesses by Ian Falconer
    • Olivia doesn't get why all the other girls want to play is princesses.
    • ISBN: 9781442450271
  • April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham
    • Adorable little tooth fairies on their first mission.
    • ISBN: 9780763646837
  • Pink by Nan Gregory
    • A little girl dreams of having the fancy pink things her friends have, but her family can't afford it.
    • ISBN: 9780888997814 (out of print)
  • Paper princess by Elisa Kleven
    • Delicate, beautiful illustrations and a strong story.
    • ISBN: 9780525452317 (out of print)
  • Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis
    • You can be a princess and a superhero!
    • ISBN: 9780061827259
  • Tea for Ruby by Sarah York
    • Robin Preiss Glasser, who does the illustrations for Fancy Nancy, illustrated this. A little girl tries to remember her manners when she has tea with the queen (aka grandma).
    • ISBN: 9781416954194
Other Titles
  • Princess says goodnight by Naomi Howland
    • ISBN: 9780061455254
  • Penny loves pink by Cori Doerrfeld
    • ISBN: 9780316054584
  • Dollhouse fairy by Jane Ray
    • ISBN: 9780763644116
  • Come to the fairies' ball by Jane Yolen
    • ISBN: 9781590784648

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This week at the library; or, We Melt All The Crayons

My girls, the M-Team. When they were posing with
the fruits of their labors, our first patron saw the new
kitchen and gravitated to it immediately!
What's happening in my head and at the library
  • Monday
    • Playgroup with Pattie
    • Read with Pearl (Jess)
    • Tiny Tots (sub for Pattie)
    • Emergency storytime in the evening - I basically just grabbed random books from the new ones I was checking in. Pearl came and was very white and fluffy. Felt vaguely disorganized but did plan department staff meeting and got through a bunch of misc. small stuff.
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
    • Middle School Madness: Dangerous Art
    • I worked on putting together toy bags whilst greeting toddlers in the morning, then I helped our charter school group create a Facebook group, then I went out to Sophos for middle school outreach. I'm only supposed to stay an hour, but the kids were so engrossed in melting crayons with my embossing tool that I stayed an extra 45 minutes!
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
    • Lakeland Tour/Storytime (Jess)
    • Lego Club
    • Sent a short order for more Valentine's books. Trying to get together all the materials for the remote circulation bags next week and writing complicated emails about outreach and school performances in my head. Next, I will actually write them down and send them.
  • Friday
    • No programs. No school either. I went to a SRP workshop in the morning, had lunch with friends, and then came back and worked on reports, weeding, and toy bags in the afternoon. There may or may not have been an interval of cheese shopping in there.
  • Saturday
    • Pre-work breakfast involved tasty food and much discussion of book catalogs. Work was crazy busy, between people wanting in-depth reference and technology help (not on a Saturday!) tax appointments (next year adult services has promised we won't be doing this) and the local art association picking up their current pictures (I'm the only one tall enough to get the top row!) Phew.
Projects in Progress or Completed
  • Weeding 500s
  • Putting together toy bags
  • CE and Meetings
    • SRP Workshop
What the kids are reading
  • Request for Minecraft games on PS3 and XBOX360
  • Picture books on Washington and Lincoln (teacher saving me time!)
  • Kindergartener who wanted to read a chapter book - Sophia Martinez
  • Lego books, Star Wars
  • Courageous Princess - checked out, ordered the third one
  • Teen Titans Go - second time they've asked, encouraged them to place a hold
  • Tinker Bell
  • Dragonball Z
  • Wall-E
  • Tangled
  • Descendants Isle of the Lost (glad I bought 3 copies)